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Interview Marathi

Karkhanisanchi Waari depicts last joint family in Pune, says director Mangesh Joshi

The filmmaker looks back at his journey from engineering to filmmaking and the various challenges of shooting a road film.

Keyur Seta

Director Mangesh Joshi made a remarkable debut with the acclaimed Marathi film Lathe Joshi (2018). He is back with his next feature, Karkhanisanchi Waari, which has an ensemble cast that includes Amey Wagh, Mrunmayee Deshpande, Mohan Agashe, Geetanjali Kulkarni, Pradeep Joshi, Vandana Gupte, Shubhangi Gokhale and Ajit Abhyankar. The film is produced by Archana Borhade's Nine Archers Picture Company and co-produced by ABP Studios.

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However, while Lathe Joshi explored the loneliness of a man trapped in an ever-changing world, Karkhanisanchi Waari is a light-hearted road movie about a family’s quest to immerse the ashes of an elderly member.

The film will have its national premiere at the 51st edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa today, 23 January. In an exclusive conversation with Cinestaan.com, Joshi looked back at his journey so far and the challenges of shooting Karkhanisanchi Waari. Excerpts:

What is Karkhanisanchi Waari about? It looks very different from your first film.

It is a completely different film from Lathe Joshi. This is a comedy about a family. It has a different type of humour. The idea of the joint family is slowly diminishing. It has diminished from cities. We have shown the last joint family in Pune, and the person because of whom they were united passes away. His last wish was that his ashes be deposited at their ancestral house, their field and at Pandharpur.

He passes away a day before the Pandharpur waari [pilgrimage] begins on Ashadhi Ekadashi. So the family leaves for Pandharpur on the day of the waari. The film is about this family’s journey, their interpersonal conflicts and what happens with them. 

How did this idea come about?

An incident had taken place in our family. We had an uncle who was diabetic and had a pacemaker. He used to get admitted to the ICU [intensive-care unit] many times and everyone used to feel it was the end for him, but each time he would return home. When he passed away, it was also a day before Ashadhi Ekadashi. When his family was ready to take his ashes to a holy place, I was sitting there thinking about what could happen on such a trip.

Then I thought about the characters. This is how each character started coming to my mind. I thought what kind of situations would take place and how each one would react. So, the story is fictional, but the characters are based on people I know.

Archana Borhade, my co-writer and also the producer and DoP [director of photography], added her ideas regarding female characters. She also produced the film. It was her determination that made the project possible.

The film has an ensemble cast. How challenging was it to get everyone on board without creating date issues?

Luckily, there were no date issues. All of them said they liked the story and came on board. I only narrated the basic storyline to Agashe and he said, ‘Let’s do it.’ Amey also liked the script. He himself was part of one of Pune’s biggest families with 64 or 68 people! So the story was relatable for him. Mrunmayee, Pradeep Joshi and others also came on board similarly. 

Our first shooting schedule in August 2019 happened smoothly. But to get people on board for the second schedule got us to November. Everyone was busy acting in some other project.

The film had its world premiere at the 33rd Tokyo International Film Festival. It was the only entry from India. It got an excellent response. Both our shows were houseful and everyone in the audience was Japanese. To see its premiere happening in Akira Kurosawa’s country was a very big thing. I am a huge fan of his.

What were the challenges of shooting a film based on a journey?

There were a lot of challenges. There were floods at the time. The location manager used to send us pictures, saying the place where we had to shoot was under water. We decided to take the call the next day and wherever we had to shoot, the water started receding, making us feel it was specially for us.

For example, one village was 99% underwater. We were shooting in the area which wasn’t flooded. It was raining in between and we used to sincerely pray that it should stop and it would stop. Then it would rain when we had finished our shoot. We had to reach Dehu. There were four routes to go there and three of them were blocked by the rains. We took the one route that was open and somehow reached there.

There were steps on the river in Dehu on which Vandana Gupte and Shubhangi Gokhale had to stand. The water level somehow went down and we did the scene. It’s a beautiful river. People in Japan commented that they enjoyed looking at a flowing river in the film because there are hardly any left there.

How do you feel when you look back at the making of the film?

Now we look at it and laugh. But at that time, there was so much stress. But our team was good and their sense of humour used to lighten things. Today, we feel satisfied that we were able to make the film despite such challenges. We had started the sound mixing process when the [pandemic-induced] lockdown started, so we did it on a work-from-home basis.

Are you looking forward to the film's screening at IFFI?

We are absolutely excited about the screening. There is always this curiosity as to how an audience will find the film. And watching it with the audience is another experience. We couldn’t go to Tokyo as there were restrictions because of the pandemic, although they were keen to have us there.

Will the film be released in theatres this year?

We plan to release the film in theatres. But when it will happen depends on the pandemic and when the seating capacity of theatres is back to 100%. There will also be a wave of Hindi cinema that will arrive once that happens. There are various such parameters and variables that we need to look at. We have the desire to release it in theatres and we will do that. Let’s see what happens. Right now, it would be too early to comment on it.

Your previous film Lathe Joshi was well appreciated. It didn’t appear as if it was your first film. How did you manage this?

We don’t know how it happens. It’s not like mathematics. Art is a complex thing. It just happens. For example, a person might not be a spokesperson but he or she still manages to speak well and people like it because he or she has something to narrate. I also didn’t do any course. I used to work as an assistant with [filmmaker] Sumitra Bhave. But when I started making short films, I realized merely assisting someone doesn’t help. You actually need to go through the entire process of filmmaking.

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It’s a very difficult medium. You don’t get the hang of it soon. So, I saw a lot of films and read a lot to understand the medium. As I am an engineer myself and had worked on a lathe machine, it helped. My cameraman Satyajeet Shobha Shriram is also a mechanical engineer. I am a chemical engineer. So, he knew exactly where to keep the focus. I didn’t have to tell him.

We achieved the whole thing by meeting people who shared their stories. A few things happened in front of me. They were present somewhere in my subconscious mind. There is a scene where Mr and Mrs Joshi visit an elite household to deliver puran polis [a sweetened Maharashrian pancake]. Mr Joshi is asked what he does. Mrs Joshi says he is currently on a break and working with her. This exact scene had taken place at my house. We just changed gud polis to puran polis.

How did you get into filmmaking?

I wanted to be a filmmaker since childhood. At that time, Doordarshan used to show movies on Saturday and Sunday at 5 pm. They also used to show South Indian films at 1 pm with subtitles. My father also watches films regularly. Maybe because of that I also developed a liking. In our entire wada [old-world apartment block typical of Maharashtrian towns], only our house had a TV because of my dad’s interest. Even our landlord didn’t have one. So everyone used to come to our house to watch films and serials like Ramayan and Mahabharat.

While studying engineering, we used to perform plays and win prizes. I was the writer, director and student representative; everything. In our first attempt, we won the award for best play, which was handed over by Rishi Kapoor. I realized I was able to do this and people also understood it.

But then I joined a research organization as an engineer. I realized I couldn’t live that life for long. So I quit in six months and decided to enter this field. There was some opposition at home, obviously. But I went ahead. I did TV initially. I then did a workshop with Sumitra Bhave and urged her to let me work with her. I did that for one year.

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