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Interview Konkani

For me, making films is a basic joy: Indie producer Rajesh Pednekar on persisting despite the hurdles

Director Nitin Bhaskar and producer Rajesh R Pednekar speak about their Konkani film Kaajro (Bitter Tree) that was screened at the Bengaluru International Film Festival (BIFFES).

Nitin Bhaskar and Rajesh R Pednekar

Sukhpreet Kahlon

The Konkani film Kaajro (Bitter Tree) takes an incisive look at the subject of untouchability through an incident that takes place in the life of Tilgya (Vitthal Kale). The film was shot in a single take and shows us the way in which Tilgya's life is turned upside down in a short span of time.

Kaajro was premiered at the 21st MAMI Mumbai Film Festival in 2019 and was screened as part of the Bengaluru International Film Festival 2020. Director Nitin Bhaskar and producer Rajesh R Pednekar spoke to Cinestaan.com about the film and the journey in developing it. Excerpts:

How was the film conceptualized?

RP: We wanted to make a film and were talking to Dr Prakash Paryekar and discussing certain social issues and he mentioned a story. I wanted a topic that could shed some light on society and would make a difference and have some human emotions. There was an incident that happened in Bihar, where one person had to carry his wife’s dead body. He was a Dalit. That was the germ. He told us that something like this happens in Goa also, so the story started developing.

We want to take this issue international, so it’s not just about untouchability but also about caste, economic disparity, colour of the skin. Then we brought in the writer, Bhushan Patil. The topic is very sensitive, so we wanted to tell it a sensitive manner and not in a sensational way.

The film was shot in one take and the cinematographer, Sameer Bhaskar, had shot another film in a single take earlier. Do you think this form was the best way to capture the story?

NB: It’s not like when the producer came to me with the story, we thought we should make it in one take. When he brought this story, I thought it was excellent and we thought how to make it. That was a challenge for us because there was so much travel in it, emotions, sentiments as well, so when we started working with the writer, he felt that each character is representative of a certain milieu and system, so we started working on it like that.

But what about the decision to make it in a single take?

NB: We wanted to show the way in which the situation changes for an ordinary man in the space of two hours. So, if we wanted to shoot that, we should use the single take so it looks as real as possible.

RP: We were looking at different ways to shoot, but when the story was developed, we thought of going for an uncut film because we wanted to show how his life changes in two hours and wanted to capture every minute of the transformation that he undergoes. Everything turns for him and how he faces that situation and how society reacts towards him, we wanted to capture it minute to minute.

What were the challenges in choosing this form?

NB: There were lots of challenges. We practised for 20 days for it. The first problem was that of navigating space — how to follow the character but also show what is taking place in other spaces, with other characters. The other thing was to do away with all sound off-camera, which we could not do without. Also, the dialogues needed to be completed by a certain point while the characters were on the move. The main character also has to carry the woman on his back for quite a distance. So these were some of the challenges that we faced.

RP: The actors had to act and also listen to the instructions while acting.

Where was the film shot?

RP: In a small village in the interiors of Goa, it’s almost at the end of Goa. We were lucky to find it and we wanted the least developed area. There was no network in that area, so we used walkie-talkies to communicate.

Caste is the main issue in the film, but you are also looking at machines replacing the livelihood of people who are on the margins of society.

NB: I thought of that a bit differently. Our traditions are ingrained in our lives, but some leaders or people in power customize the traditions to serve their own purpose. In the film, too, the people in power have decided that they want to kick Tilgya out of the village and so find ways to do that. They are only working in their self-interest.

The film also comments on religion, though that is quite understated, and Tilgya's being kicked out of the village is obviously a culmination of factors that go beyond caste.

NB: I wanted to address the social classification of people. Towards the end of the film, there is a point where Tilgya says nature does not discriminate but humans do. That was the most important thing. Through casteism, we have shown the social classification.

As the producer of the film, how difficult is it to promote films in Konkani to the audience because, of course, everyone wants their films to be seen by the maximum number of people.

RP: For me, making films is a basic joy. Being an actor, the sensitivity in the subject matter always attracts me. The first film we did, K Sera Sera (2016), was similar and dealt with human emotions. Here, I was very happy with the subject and did not think about much beyond that. I want to make that which people will love and watch, so when people start talking about the film, that will help us take it to the masses. It’s definitely difficult to make independent films and I was involved in every aspect of the film. We hope more and more people watch it.

Related topics

Bengaluru International Film Festival