Indian film Boond delivers strong message and story wins filmmaker IndieFEST Award- By Debbie L. Sklar
Water is something we all need to survive but often take for granted.
Indian filmmaker, Abhishek Pathak knows this all too well and delivers a powerful message in his short film titled Boond, which means A Drop. He is the creative director for a production house called Big Screen Entertainment that produces between three and four films a year. Pathak, no stranger to the world of film, recently spoke with IndieFEST Film Awards about the film and where he gets his inspiration and why people should see Boond.
Shot along the Pakistan border in Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, India, the story follows a female villager and her son who dispenses and holds the key to the village well. It’s only a mater of time before the chief wants to take over and sets his sights on the prize. There is a twist that will surprise the audience in the end.
The moral of the short film that cost about $62,000 to make is simple: In the characters of the film we see the reflection of the vast mass of humanity that survives on hope that someday they will be powerful enough to avenge the injustice done to them; but, in doing so they become the oppressors themselves. The story is a powerful rendition of our own secret fantasy of possessing power and being the harbinger of divine justice, says Pathak.
Q: Did you always want to be a filmmaker? Is this your first film?
A: Well I think whoever is born in the film industry wants to become an actor. I think whoever is working at the moment must have given a thought to become an actor. I am one of them. But later when I started understanding cinema I was convinced by cinema itself that the most challenging and exciting thing to do is direct a film. I can say it’s my first film with a big scale. I have done films before as college projects and other shorts.
Q: How did you get started?
A: My father, Mr. Kumar Mangat, is one of the foremost producers working in the Bombay Film Industry today. Having seen him working in this industry for about 33 years now, there is no way I can think of working in any other industry. I started my carrier at the age of 17. I was studying for my Bachelor’s in Commerce when my father was shooting a film. So, I went there for the weekend and never returned back to my studies. I started working there on set in production. My parents were a little unhappy and there were also discussions about me quitting my studies, but later everything was fine and now they are happy about my decision.
Q: Why did you decide to write this particular script?
A: I don’t believe in sticking to any particular genre of stories. Whatever makes me happy and convinces me, I go with that. I think all my films will be powerful enough to make a change at the way you look at world and the way you think, and I think that’s how it should be. Filmmakers, as artists, get an opportunity to show their work to much wider audiences and they should definitely make use of it to convey something important and interesting.
Q: What was the chemistry between you as the director/writer and your actors?
A: The chemistry between an actor and the director can always be seen by the performance of the actors on screen. My actors have performed superb. All of them were very professional and hard working. We had a week of workshops before we started shooting.
Q: Did you have any unusual difficulties during filming?
A: When you talk about short films the major issue is the budget. That was the first issue for my film, as it required a scale. The second and major problem while shooting the film was the location. The entire movie is shot at a stretch of three in the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat – India, where the temperature was 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit). We had to drive down two hours every day in the morning to reach the location, so in total, it was four hour journey going and coming back. Then, there were huge sand storms hitting the location every five minutes, which delayed my shoot majorly.
The village set was ripped off a day before the shoot because of the storm. My actors were not able to perform, as they couldn’t open their eyes because of the sand storm. The entire crew was just waiting for the storm to settle down but that never happened. On the last day of the shoot, fire broke out on the sets creating complete panic and chaos. It took the entire unit including actors, as well as the locals, four hours to put the fire out. Interestingly, there was hardly any water or other aid to put the fire out. The crew had to use drinking water to douse the fire.
Q: What lessons did you learn while making this film, and what advice do you have for first-time filmmakers?
A: I learned that we should always keep a little space for improvisation and be always ready for the worst case scenario which could be anything. For example, death of the director on set, I think nothing can be worse than this, so if you are ready for this, you can be ready for anything. Same goes for the first-time filmmaker. Try to understand every aspect of filmmaking before you start off. And be flexible for every possible thing that would really help you to become a better filmmaker and make a better film.
Q: What’s your next project?
A: I am producing a film in India. Next year, I will start my film as a director.
Q: Were the actors personal friends?
A: None of the actors were personal friends. All of them were trained actors from theatre and films.
Q: How long did it take to make the film?
A: Two months of pre-production, three and half days of shooting and two and half months of post-production.
Q: What was the best part of making it?
A: Best part of making this film was the two road journey to the hotel after pack up. That was the time the crew used to take a rest. Because we almost shot for about 18 hours a day and I think that was the best part of making this film.
Q: Did it turn out the way you envisioned it?
A: Yes, this is what I had envisioned.
Q: Where did you get your inspiration?
A: It’s very interesting the way this concept came to me and the way this project started. I was watching a news channel and there was this little story about a village where this 45-year-old man who is a teacher by profession teaches his students in a very unique way. He has a 303 gun on his shoulder while he is teaching. Students instead of looking at him while learning are looking at his gun. That really excited me to know the back-story. The back-story was that there was a fight between him and his brother for a little hand pump for which they had already killed each other’s families. And yeah, from there I got the concept of Boond. To make this story more dramatic I made my protagonist a widow mother with her nine year old son who throughout the film carries a 303 on his shoulder.
Q: Is there a main message or a lesson to be learned from this film that watchers should take with them?
A: For so many years, we’ve been conquering nature. Now, we’re beating it to death. I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. So, when it comes to defense, resources are just as important as defense of the country. In the end of the film, there’s a statement that says “The last great war will not be fought for land or oil but for water.” I think this might be true if we don’t take any action right away.
Q: Who should see this film?
A: I think everyone should watch this film as it has very important thing to say.
Q: Parts are a little vulgar, why did you have so much swearing and vulgarities?
A: The kind of world I am showing in the film is in the future. They have reached the stage where the environment is in trouble and there is no water left. Everyone has become so crude and arrogant because of the frustration of resources. I am showing the world where 40-year-old men are scared a nine year old kid because he has a 303 rifle on his shoulder all the time and he doesn’t even give a second thought before pulling the trigger. The story is set in a remote and parched village in India, (for reference Bihar) that has a particular dialect in which they use lots of swearing while talking to each other generally. So, to get that flavor of language I used this kind of tone to the language. About vulgarities, I don’t think my film has any vulgar scenes.
Q: If you had to do it over again, would you change anything?
A: Yes, I would shoot one more day of my schedule that was cancelled because of the delay due to sandstorm. But we did fix it on the edit so no one comes to know about the missing portion.
Q: In the end, do the mother and boy get what they deserve, being shot, for fooling the chief and the villagers about the water well?
A: I don’t think I have killed my protagonists because they fooled the chief and villagers about the well. I just wanted to show how power could shift from one hand to another with a blink of an eye. For example, in a war, a soldier thinks he is doing a fantastic job of defending his country by killing a number of other soldiers on the war front but it will just take a single bullet to put an end to this point of view when this soldier will be shot to death. And then, the same point of view is seen from the other soldier who shot him. The story is a moving description of our helplessness in the face of awareness of the illusion of power.