Rahul Bose on directing, producing, and acting in an inspirational film, titled Poorna. Rahul has returned to direction with Poorna, a biopic about Malavath Poorna — a tribal girl from Telangana.
What is the film about?
It a biopic of the youngest girl in history to climb Mount Everest, Poorna Malavath. It is an astonishing tale, even Bollywood could not have written it more improbably. Poorna was 13 when she climbed the Everest two years ago. This film takes you from her small hut in Telengana to Bhongir Fort outside Hyderabad, to Darjeeling and Sikkim, to Nepal, and then to the top of Everest. We have, unarguably, some of the best footage from the summit of Everest you’ve ever seen. I won’t reveal yet how we did it.
What drew you to Poorna?
To be poor is one setback. To be a girl is another. Then to be adivasi is a third challenge. A 13-year-old adivasi girl might be able to climb the Everest if she were from the Northeast and grown up in a gritty, mountainous region. But Telengana is as flat as my forehead. Poorna is astonishing, single-minded and determined. She thought of only two things when she reached the summit- “Sir”, her mentor, RS Praveen Kumar, and all the tribal girls who could now hope to reach great heights. In the film, she is being played by Aditi Inamdar, also from Telengana.
You are playing RS Praveen Kumar. What makes him an important character?
RS Praveen Kumar, a schedule caste person, is a remarkable, charismatic man. An IPS officer today, he also went through the tribal school system in Andhra Pradesh. After becoming Secretary of Social Welfare in 2013, he cleaned up the schools, where the food was bad, education system broken and teachers complacent. He started, as part of his new deal, extracurricular activities in school. One of them was rock-climbing, which Poorna ended up choosing. Her instructor, who was an Everest Summiteer himself, and Praveen, decided to send a few children to Darjeeling to further their skills. Then Praveen had an audacious idea. He thought, what can I do that is talismanic? So that every tribal parent can say, that girl did this, so we should keep our child in school? The idea grew into summiting Everest.
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This is the first film you have directed after 15 years. Why this story, and why now?
It checks all three boxes. One, it is a film that is straightforward and inspirational, and I love that. Second, I love anything about sports and adventure. I played rugby for 11 years for India. Third, it’s a film about gender equality, which was the first thing I got involved with in the social sphere. Moreover, most people haven’t even heard of this story. I only heard about it when the writers of the film showed it to me.
How important was the authenticity of each scene to you?
The most important thing. Each scene, I ask myself: Is the moment true or fake? Is there something deeply authentic about the human experience in that moment?
Did you have to go through harsh conditions while shooting?
Hell yes. We were shooting on a 600 ft rock — that’s 60 stories. You shoot from below, then you go 600 ft up and shoot from above, then go 300 ft down and shoot from the side. And that’s just the same shot at three angles.