`Chandni Bar` writer turns director, sends film to Cannes
New Delhi: Little money, bare minimum equipment and no crew, but Mohan Azaad still pulled off his uniquely titled directorial debut `Bhagwaan... Tera Bhala Ho`. He has sent the Rs.20-lakh film - the story of a lower caste boy - to Cannes and thanks friends for making his dream come true.
"People`s help is difficult to explain in words. The film is all about goodwill and people`s belief in me," said Azaad, an engineering graduate, better known as the writer of the critically acclaimed "Chandni Bar".
Born to a Punjabi father and a Malayali mom, the 45-year-old grew up in Patna and calls himself "a proud Bihari".
"We have sent the film for pre-selection to the Cannes Directors` Fortnight and also to the Cannes International Film Festival because we believe in the film. Only two people have seen it - Yogesh, a veteran in the film festival circuit, and director Shashilal Nair.
"I want to send it to other film festivals also. But whatever the outcome, we are already a winner," he added.
After working as a writer with TV shows like "Itihaas", "Tamanna House", and for the critically acclaimed movie "Chandni Bar" and as the creative head for Reliance Big Pictures, Azaad`s journey to the director`s chair was an uphill task.
"After `Chandni Bar`, I was offered the same kind of work, but I didn`t find them intelligent. I also had offers from Subhash Ghai and Jhamu Sugandh as a writer, but it didn`t happen.
"When my film with Vidya Balan and Madhavan didn`t happen, it was a setback and I decided I will make my own film, come what may," Azaad told IANS in an interview.
But Dec 24, 2010, was a turning point in his career when a producer messaged him saying he won`t be able to do the film.
"I went into depression because I was responsible for people in my team who were supposed to work on the project."
Hell bent on making a movie, Azaad decided to launch "Bhagwaan...", a story suggested by his assistant Manish Kumar, who read about it in a newspaper.
"Bhagwaan...", a satire on the social system, is the story of a lower caste boy who is identified by fanatics as god. Then he falls ill and his father wants to take him away for treatment, but villagers do not let him go.
"I wanted to shoot it in a remote village; so I got in touch with a Delhi-based relative for the location. He took me to Isari Salempur, a village in Baliya district in Uttar Pradesh.
"I liked the location, made travel arrangements for my team. A friend, who runs a travel agency, made the arrangements," he said, adding another friend came handy in providing equipment.
"I needed a 5D camera with all other equipment at the cheapest possible price. I called a friend and he happily lent it to me saying, `whenever you have money, pay me`," said Azaad who gives credit to his wife for turning him into a writer.
"We arranged for the lights and other equipment from Patna. They were not of good quality, but we managed."
Azaad shot the 105-minute film with artists from Nadira Babbar`s theatre group as well as others in biting cold.
"We stayed in a municipal school with no fancy facilities. We were given two rooms. We used handpumps for daily chores. Villagers played the perfect host; they kept our female members in their homes," he said, adding the film has four child artists - two locals, and the other two from Delhi and Chandigarh.
"We shot the film in 28 days. We faced a lot of technical problems, especially while focussing the camera.
"Post-production was tougher. I waited for three months for a friend to edit the film and when he didn`t turn up, I decided to do it myself. First, I learnt editing through online tutorials and then edited it," he said.
What about payments to artists?
"All artists are under contract - if the film does good business, they will get an X amount from it," he said.
As far as release plans go, Azaad said, "It depends on the response that the film gets at festivals. But I am not expecting a big commercial release."