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Indians hungry for good documentaries: Filmmaker Pan Nalin

By Haricharan Pudipeddi, Chennai, Dec 20 : Indian audiences are "hungry for good documentaries" and an increasing number of filmmakers here are showing a keen interest towards the genre. But a cohesive network to produce and promote documentaries is missing in the country, says filmmaker Pan Nalin.


"Indian filmmakers are waking up to documentary filmmaking, but we don't have network to produce and promote documentaries. Making documentaries is a thriving business and more successful than fiction filmmaking abroad," Nalin told IANS in an email interview.

"In the US and Europe, documentaries are often major theatrical releases. TV often broadcasts them at prime time," added the Gujarat-born filmmaker, whose movies "Samsara" and "Valley of Flowers" have been showcased at various foreign film festivals.

Currently busy promoting his latest documentary "Faith Connections", about five moving stories set against the backdrop of Kumbh Mela, Nalin said: "I'm very optimistic that the change will happen as I can see that the Indian spectators are beginning to get hungry for good documentaries".

"Faith Connections" was conceived from Nalin's trip to the Kumbh on the request of his father. At that place, he was curious to find the status of faith.

"It all started with a simple wish from my father; he wanted me to travel to Kumbh and fetch a bottle of holy Gangajal (water from the Ganges) for him. I myself was curious about status of faith in the 21st century.

"With all the modernity, science and technology that surround us - where does the belief in supreme force stand today? And above all, what is it like to be in the middle of a crowd of 60 million people?" he asked.

Nalin shot for a little over a month in the Kumbh Mela, knowing that this religious festival occurs only every 12 years.

"The film took about 40 days of shoot within the Kumbh Mela. We had about 80 hours of audio-visual footage. However, the real film was constructed while editing and it was not about hours or footage, but all about emotions and flow of information," said the filmmaker, who was born and raised in Umbreli, Gujarat.

Since funding models available for documentaries are "non-existent" in India, Nalin self-produced "Faith Connections".

"Even abroad, if you do not make a documentary within the norms of TV formats, it is nearly impossible to finance it. So, we started all on our own through our company Jungle Book Entertainment. Soon, Raphael Berdugo of Cite Films from France joined us," Nalin told IANS.

"Raphael really liked our approach and cinematic vision with which we wanted to show the Kumbh Mela. Thus, it became an India-France co-production," he added.

Even though the film, which is slated for theatrical release in 2014, received a thumbs up from critics and audiences alike at the Toronto International Film Festival, Nalin's dream is to see the film release in India.

"At the Toronto film festival, our film played to packed houses. People and press started loving it. But the real proof came when we started selling it to important international territories like France, Germany and Australia. We are now talking to the US.

"However, our dream will really be fulfilled when we will have a proper release date in India," he wished.

Nalin also finds the online space conducive.

"It is so encouraging to see people willing to pay and watch our film online. People are writing to us through social media across India. We are trying for a theatrical release and I face the same challenges, as any non-star movies would face - be it fiction or non-fiction," he said.

He is currently working on a Hindi-English bilingual titled "Angry Indian Goddesses", about modern-day Indian women.

(Haricharan Pudipeddi can be contacted at haricharanpudipeddi@gmail.com)

--IANS (Posted on 20-12-2013)

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