Friday was a day of mixed emotions for Paresh Mokashi whose Elizabeth Ekadashi opened the Indian Panorama section at IFFI 2014 in Goa. Even as he basked in the honour, he could not attend the screening he says, caught as he was in the flurry of media attention outside the theatre. The Hindu Janjagruti Samiti (HJS) and Warkaris sect have allegedly accused the film of hurting religious sentiments and misusing the word Ekadashi. There were protests across Goa and Mumbai against the film, however, there were no disruptions during the morning screening. Mokashi had taken a fairly relaxed view of the protests by evening. “I don’t know what exactly their issues are with the film. It’s only when I landed in Goa that I heard of it. Once I know the objections, I will address them. As for the title, it justifies itself 10 minutes into the film,” says the director, whose debut film in 2009— Harishchandrachi Factory — was selected as India’s official entry to 82nd Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category.
“The film is about a group of kids who go on a little adventure in Pandharpur — that’s it,” says Mokashi, who has no training in filmmaking but a sizeable repertoire in theatre. Has the lack of training worked to his advantage or disadvantage? “Whatever it may be, once a film is made, the audience decides how good you are at your art. One day, while reading Dadasaheb Phalke’s biography, something struck me and I decided that my first film will be based on his story. I started writing every idea that came to my mind. It was this spontaneous reaction to his story that carried the film. I knew that the biography deserved a film, not a play. Until then, theatre was my forte. That spurt of insanity decided that I should become a filmmaker,” says the 44-year-old Pune-born director who has produced Elizabeth Ekadashi with his wife Madhugandha Kulkarni.
To Elizabeth Ekadashi, he attributes a more studied approach with his primary passion — ancient Indian history. “I conduct objective studies of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and prepare notes — something I have been doing for 20 years. After completing Harishchandrachi Factory, I started compiling this data. Last year, my wife mentioned a few childhood incidents in Pandharpur, and that sparked off the Elizabeth story. We started work on the script that was completed last year in September and then we went to Pandharpur and shot the film in two to three months,” says Mokashi of the film that was released on November 14 and is running to packed houses.
Happy with the money being put into the Marathi film industry by new producers who are willing to finance big projects, Mokashi now plans to foray into Hindi films with his next two projects. “Language is secondary — the narrative or chitrapat is the main motivator for any filmmaker. Which is why Harishchandrachi Factory went beyond being merely a Marathi film. I have a couple of subjects in mind that lend themselves to the Hindi film industry because of the sheer grandeur they demand in terms of treatment. I am waiting for some of my friends — about to venture into Hindi films — to succeed, then I will take the plunge, too. Until then, I am comfortable with my work in Marathi cinema,” says Mokashi, who is also set to experiment with a different genre for a Hindi film project, set to go on the floors early next year.
He is also encouraged by today’s new-age audience who watch all kinds of films. “Many a time we tend to stereotype the audience. Today, the same set that watches Dhoom also relishes Harishchandrachi Factory, which is why there is a place for a Sholay and an Elizabeth Ekadashi in the same domain. It is really up to us to choose the kind of cinema we want to make and how convincing we are in it. That is all that matters,” he says.