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I am always at making films or trying to make one: Manish Tiwary



Director Manish Tiwary’s third feature  film Chidiakhana  is ready for release  this Friday. He  tells  Subhash  K Jha  why he is  nervous anxious yet confident.

CHIDIAKHANA  comes after a long hiatus since your last film.How difficult was it for you to put this project together?

Personally speaking, I am always at making films or trying to make one. But I realize that I am  often pushing at a wall that does not budge for the longest, and then presents a small door or window. When I get going!After Issaq, the general counsel from Industry was to try my hand at another star vehicle. But my heart was with this smaller story about an outsider, a teenager boy from Bihar who comes to Mumbai with a singular passion, football. This film called Chidiakhana had CFSI/ NFDC interested, and so I got working on that.  Of course, there was back-breaking work, a tight budget, tighter schedules, and then throw-in some institutional red tape!

But then you expect this kind of hard work in a film and I personally find it acceptable. Once the film was ready, it was another story – including the COVID hiatus – to get it out on a decent release platforms. While the making of this film was most satisfactory, the process to get it out to it audience often left me exhausted, but way wiser!

Why an entire film revolving around football when sports films dont work?

Foremost, Chidiakhana is not all about football. It is a coming-of-age story but with larger themes about an Outsider from the fringes of the society trying to find a foothold in a metropolis like Mumbai. It is about importance of green space in cities and an artful, warm answer to the old Marathi-Bhaiya question raised every now and then in Mumbai.Chidiakhana is layered with multiple themes and several character arcs are at work in the story. We are also exploring the themes of young boy’s (Sooraj played by Ritvik Sahore) yearning for his father, the vulnerability of the displaced working class, the difficult situation of an outsider, a young boy’s view of the world and so on. And here, we see Football that is Sooraj’s way out of the darkness that he sometimes finds around him. Football is the tool, or the ladder, or the vehicle he has. And I think sports is one of the best vehicles.

Do you think it will work at  the boxoffice?

I first look within when developing a story for a film, but more importantly, I don’t think there is any formula that would work for sure. If the film comes out well, if it connects with an audience because of how coherent, sophisticated the story and the treatmen are, the film has worked!

Please tell me about your cast and how and why you chose these bright youngsters?

I was lucky to call upon the older set of actors in Ravi Kishan, Prashant Narayanan and Rajeshwari Sachdev because of my association  with them  in my  film Issaq. I had written them in the script without knowing who would be the producer and the budget for the film and the actors. Their consent for the project was especially gratifying because they did the film for peanuts realizing it was a NFDC film with a much smaller budget. This allowed me carry out some large set ups for the shoot and a very expensive and time consuming VFX that was much needed for the film. I was happy that many other actors like Govind Namdev, Anjan Srivastav, Nagesh Bhosale kept joining this beautiful ensemble of actors.Equally delightful was casting of the younger lot – where after an audition process, I found Ritvik Sahore (as Sooraj), Avneet Kaur and Jayesh Kardak through a casting process. All of them are very apt, but it was a revelation how well they match up with the senior actors, not a scale down.

Your film also has a massive backup  cast?

Scores of other actors who make up for the football teams and school environment  are also a highlight for me. Many of these younger set not only needed to play decent football but also had their small story arcs so had to  be delivered on dramatic frontsChidiakhana a is a delightful, cohesive whole because the casting of the film came about just right.

Are you a football enthusiast?Did you select a footballer for the lead?

I am actually not good in any ground sports! I went to a Military boarding school (Sainik School in Hazaribagh), where I was an academic topper throughout and hated sports, which was mainly football (with some sprinkling of Basketball and Hockey). But they made you sit on the sidelines of these football games from where I championed my house and perhaps envied the best shots played on the field. So in writing the script I have put all these fantastic shots I wanted to play for my house but did not.

This is not a favourable time for films in movie theatres.What makes you confident that audiences will come for CHIDIAKHANA?

The fact is even the bigger films are not doing so well in theatres. With a deluge of material on the OTT platforms, it has become difficult for the audience to choose which films to actually step out for. Having said that, Chidiakhana was shot foremost to be enjoyed in theatres on the big screen, and one hopes that we are able to convey this through our campaign, and also that the audience returns satisfied with the theatrical experience.  I must add, with a plethora of subjects on OTT and other digital platforms, this is the right time for the film industry to realise that we need to diversify – allow all kinds of cinema,  mainstream masala but also other subjects without big stars, to come to theatres. Otherwise theatrical experience itself will be side lined.

Finally, an outsider how difficult is it for you to get funds to make your films?

I admit it has been as a difficult for me as it must for any outsider anywhere. People may find resonance of a slice of my story in Chidiakhana, where just like Sooraj I came after living abroad for 8 years, to Mumbai to make films which is my calling! It is difficult to fit in in an industry that has set their comfort zones and where you need to conform to existing standards; especially difficult if you are trying to make your kind of cinema that does not neatly fit into brackets and camps. But I am hoping I am getting there.

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