Pawan K Shrivastava’s lingering memory from early childhood was of sugar mills shutting down. This was in the late ’80s, in Marhowrah, Saran district, Bihar, which until then had seen the mills flourishing. Many years later, this precise memory would become the context for his directorial debut Naya Pata. “Somewhere the idea of belongingness and the changes in my town were playing in my head. By the early ’90s, there were hardly four or five sugar mills operational and nobody talked about it any more,” says Delhi-based Shrivastava, as he eagerly awaits the theatrical release of his debut movie, on June 27, which is crowdfunded and will release in 12 cities.
The bilingual film (Hindi and Bhojpuri), with English subtitles, is about migration of people from Bihar in search of work and better opportunities. Ram Sarath Dubey, the lead character, loses his job after a sugar mill in his district shuts down. He migrates to Delhi to work as a clerk in a law firm. The film shows his anxiety of adjusting to a new place, its people and the workplace and one sees Ram’s angst. “Rather than look at the political or managerial issues surrounding migration such as brain drain and stealing of local jobs, I wanted to look at the psychological impact of moving towns. The film is more about the struggle of the self and identity,” says 30-year-old Shrivastava, who insists the film has nothing to do with his own experiences.
A former executive with a private bank in Delhi, Shrivastava quit his job in 2005 to pursue filmmaking. After making a couple of documentaries in Bihar about floods and social issues, arranging nukkad nataks, writing scripts for plays, he moved to Mumbai in 2009 to assist a friend in filmmaking.
He narrated the script to this friend, who helped him get the crew for the film. Shrivastava began with a loan of Rs 50,000 from his elder brother. Through social media, he raised Rs 8.5 lakh with 70 per cent contributions coming from Indians settled abroad. After the funds dried up, he received an additional funding of Rs 2 lakh for post-production work. The cast comprises many theatre actors from Bihar, only a handful were paid, while others worked for free.
The shooting lasted six months, with locations in parts of Chhapra and Rohtas in Bihar, and Delhi. His next film is on the Dalit community in India for which he starts shooting in August.