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Chasing the Mirage

The minute the lights went out,the projector rolled,and the screen came alive with a vast expanse of parched land — cracked and baked — desperate for a drop of elixir.

Written by Jaskiran Kapoor | Published: January 1, 2012 12:56:51 am

The minute the lights went out,the projector rolled,and the screen came alive with a vast expanse of parched land — cracked and baked — desperate for a drop of elixir. The desert shot was followed by a series of frames,dramatic and captivating,replete with dance,drama,colours and emotions. At every turn,the rushes of the film Jal teased,tormented and tore right through the soul.

Girish Malik’s debut feature chases the thirst — the fight between man and nature,between the villagers and fleets of flamingos that migrate each year from Siberia to the marshlands of the Rann of Kutch to lay eggs. “Water is a necessity and the future will witness wars over it,” said Malik,after the half-hour promo was screened for a select gathering at the Taj Chandigarh,last week.

Starring Purab Kohli,Tannishtha Chatterjee,Kirti Kulhari,Mukul Dev and first-timer Saidah Jules,among others,the film is produced by National Film Development Corporation in association with Malik’s One World

Films. The promos were also screened at the Cannes Film Festival last year.

A keen bird watcher and an avid traveller,Malik first wanted to make a documentary on flamingos. But after investing four years in the project,he proceeded instead to pen a feature film,along with Rakesh Mishra. “I was moved by how mystical this place is — how charismatic and colourful — and how it strives to progress while staying loyal to its roots,” said Malik. While the casting was easy,shooting was a challenge,for Malik wanted it to be as real as it gets. “That meant shooting in 50 degree celsius,under the burning sun and in the middle of 3000 sq km of nothing,” he added.

Malik’s protagonist,Kohli,grabs eyeballs as Bakka — the flamboyant ‘water god’ who can find water. With his wild mane of hair,handle-bar moustache and intense eyes,Kohli manages to impress instantly. All is well in this small hamlet but things change when villagers have a dry year,and then an ornithologist,Kim (Jules),comes to save flamingo chicks,for which she seeks Bakka’s help. The underlying question is: whose life is more important? The film’s music by Sonu Nigaam,Bickram Ghosh and Shubha Mudgal,especially the Jal De track,is powerful yet haunting.

The fluidity of shots reveals depth in movement,showing the rich experience the director brings with him — his years of travel,his theatre experience and his tryst with the classical Indian dance and drama. Malik has worked with Prakash Jha,made serials such as Rishtey and Mission Fateh,and has also acted in films such as Krantiveer and Shola Aur Shabnam.

Forever scouting for ideas,Malik archives his concepts in his little black diary,waiting for the right moment to translate them into films. He is already working on two more projects: the first being Call me Johnny Depp,a film that will capture India through the eyes of a traveller; and Band of Maharajas,which will document the music of Punjab.

But right now,the promotional campaign for Jal is keeping him busy. “The next poster is of Bakka,smeared in the black waters of the marsh,coming face to face with a flamingo,” explains Malik.

Jal will release in the latter half of the year.

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