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Interview Marathi

Added humour to underline the father's dilemma, says Kiran Yadnyopavit – 10 years of Taryanche Bait (2011)

On the tenth anniversary of the release of the Marathi film whose title translates to Island Of Stars, director Yadnyopavit recounts how he came to make the film.

Suyog Zore

Exactly 10 years ago today, Kiran Yadnyopavit's simple human drama, Taryanche Bait (2011), was released. The film, which came when Marathi cinema was still in the initial stage of its revival in the new millennium, received much critical appreciation and is still considered one of the best Marathi films of the past decade.

The film's simple story of a father's struggle to fulfil his son's wish and the extent to which he is pushed by the harsh reality of his life not only reminds us of the importance of our moral values, but also gives us a peek into the simpler lives of villagers.

On its 10th anniversary, director Kiran Yadnyopavit explained why he decided to make the film and the challenges he faced while making it. Excerpts:

Can you tell us what compelled you to make this film? And why did you choose this very simple subject for your first film?

Actually, I didn't choose this film, the film chose me. I was not the director initially. I was just associated with the project as a script doctor. It was conceptualized by Saurabh Bhave, and I was asked to work as a script doctor on this film. My responsibility was to make the script more apt for the visual medium, but because of some date issues and creative differences, the director left the project and I was asked to take over the direction at the last moment. This happened literally a week before the film was supposed to go on the floors. That's why I say I didn't choose this film, the film chose me.

Since you were brought on to direct the film at literally the last moment, what kind of challenges did you face while making the movie?

There were many challenges. First of all, I was not prepared. Though I was involved in the scripting process, my mindset was that of a scriptwriter, not a director. So I had to change my mindset and look at the film as a director.

As you know, when the director changes, the whole set-up of the film changes. We had very little time on our hands and were committed to start shooting because the actors' dates and other preparations were already done. So we didn't have any other choice but to go ahead with the decided schedule with whatever little preparation we had.

Executing and completing that film within the stipulated time was the first big hurdle for me because I didn't have any time for preparation. When I was brought on as the director, the actress who was chosen by the previous director was not comfortable with the last-minute change and decided to quit the film. So we had to think of the other actors and persuade them [to stay]. Finally, Ashwini Giri agreed to play that role, which, I believe, was a blessing in disguise for us.

One has to understand that directing is not just about directing actors. Of course, when you are on the set and start shooting, your creative brain takes over, but before that you have to take many management decisions regarding the film. From logistics, like how many days it would take to shoot a particular sequence, to division of labour to checking up whether all other departments like the camera team, lighting team, art department, costume team are following the deadlines, you have to constantly check up on all the departments so you don't face any problem during the shoot. You also have to make certain changes [in the pre-production] to your liking and make sure the thought processes [of various departments] match your thought process and everyone is on the same page. Overseeing all these managerial aspects was a Herculean task for me, especially since we hardly had a week to do these preparations. But I'm glad we could do that in the stipulated time.

Was child artiste Ishaan Tambe also a last-minute addition?

No, no, he was selected by the previous director. He had to go through a proper screen test. I got a sound affirmation from [filmmaker] Satish Rajwade that this boy is a really good actor and you can go ahead with him. Also, I just didn't have much time, so I relied on Rajwade's word and went ahead with Ishaan. And, honestly, he did a good job.

Despite the seriousness of the subject, you decided to make it light-hearted. Was this a conscious decision while writing?

It was a conscious decision from the start. The basic story by Saurabh was such that we wanted to capture the simple routines of rural people. We wanted to show the naivety in their day-to-day lives. They are not as cunning as people from the cities. They live simple lives. I wanted to put that father to task, to see how a simple person would react in such an adverse situation. But we didn't want to make it preachy, so we decided to add humour to underline his dilemma. And after some time we realized that it was working.

The film's theme and subject are quite timeless, but if you were given a chance to make this film again, would you change anything? Would you approach it differently?

Not really. First of all, I won't do such a subject now. The main theme of this film is the aspirations of rural people and how they want to be part of urban life, and that is evident from the 1970s when the industrial revolution in metro cities began at a rapid pace. There is a word in Marathi called chaakarmani. These are the people who have moved to the cities to earn some money. They come to Mumbai and stay here for years, but still they don't become Mumbaikar. Their every sense of belonging is connected to their villages. They go back to celebrate festivals like Ganpati, Holi and Diwali. For them, Mumbai is just an earning pot, so the aspirations of these guys to become part of this five-star life have always been there.

But the new generation which is born in Mumbai has no such roots in their hometowns. For them Mumbai is everything. So this aspiration value of five-star life has reduced among common citizens. So I'm not sure if the new generation can relate to this story any more.

Your second film Salaam (2014) also revolved around a father-son relationship. Is this something you gravitate towards?

Not really. I wrote Salaam when I was working with the National Defence Academy in 2002. In those days, the memories of the Kargil war were still fresh among the people. I also made many friends there who had won gallantry awards, so I always used to hear their war stories, visit their homes, and wonder what their families must be feeling when these soldiers are away on the borders risking their lives. It looks romantic when you are sitting comfortably in your home and no one from your family is in the defence services, but the ones who are suffering are the families of these soldiers.

So I had written the basic story back in 2002 but kept it aside. After Taryanche Bait, I narrated this story to Gaurav Somani, Salaam's producer, and he loved it. I had actually narrated three or four stories to him and Salaam was one of them, but he decided to go ahead with Salaam. It just happened to be around the same theme of a father-son relationship, but that's not the thing I was intentionally working on.

After Salaam, you haven't directed any other film. When are we going to see you don the director's hat again? Or are you focused on writing?

I had many writing assignments after Salaam, so I got busy with those. I was working on a couple of big international projects which have got stalled because of this COVID scenario. So I couldn't focus on directing. There is a web-series which I had written that I will be directing. It's not like I have given up direction, but I couldn't focus on it because of my writing commitments.

What was the thought behind narrating the story through a child's grandmother?

We know that generally grandparents tell stories to their grandchildren. I think this is the kind of story that can be termed a modern-day fable. What is it that we are missing in our lives right now? If you ask me, I would say from a simplistic lifestyle we have moved to more a modern, urban life and left our casual, easy living far behind. But people in villages still live this kind of simple life. I call it rural naivety.

I wanted to show that you still have families in rural India who live this simple life. This is a story of those people who haven't yet lost their naivety. So, because it is like a fable, who better than a grandmother to narrate the story? That's why I decided to narrate the film through the kid's grandmother.