Be it the realistic depiction of a victim in the faulty judicial system in Aakrosh (1980),or highlighting the travails of a Hindu family during the P artition in Tamas (1988) or the burning Naxal issue in Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa (1998),filmmaker Govind Nihalani’s cinema contributed hugely to the parallel films movement in Hindi cinema.
It therefore comes as a surprise that the veteran filmmaker’s next outing is a cheery animation film,Kamlu Happy Happy. The film also marks his comeback after eight years his last was Dev,with Amitabh Bachchan in the lead role. Nihalani then disappeared from the ambit and was rumoured to have put an end to his illustrious career. He laughs it off,”Once a filmmaker,always a filmmaker,” says the 71-year-old filmmaker.
His experiment with animation is a world away from the stark themes that he often opted for in the past and the choice of this new genre,he explains,is due to various factors. “I have always been interested in animation and graphic novels. Ram Mohan,the father of animation in India,was somewhere instrumental for my interest in it,” says Nihalani. However,since animation films were very expensive to make,attempting one earlier was a big risk.
Nihalani then decided to wait it out. It was immediately after Dev that he took up the sole responsibilty of conceptualising,writing and executing this animation film. “The success of Bal Hanuman in the animation genre changed the rules for animation in India. This got me thinking,” admits the filmmaker who spent a large part of the last few years bringing this film to life. “Animation is a long and slow process. Many people thought I was doing nothing,but I was involved deeply in this project. In my spare time,I also developed three scripts,” he confirms.
With animation still in its nascent stages in India,Nihalani was unsure about developing his movie here. “However,Krayon Pictures in Pune did a fantastic job of animating it.”
Kamlu Happy Happy is a story of a baby camel who wants to fly. The film is in 3D and will release this summer in both English and Hindi. “The crux of the story is dreaming the impossible and making it happen.” This pretty much sums up the Padma Shri awardee’s journey as a filmmaker as well.
Nihalani may be in the mood to experiment with a different genre right now,but he hasn’t left his niche behind. In his next few films a Marathi movie based on playwright Vijay Tendulkar’s play (the name of which he refuses to divulge yet) and a Hindi film written by him Nihalani will confirm to the realistic themes.
The success of offbeat films in the recent past is also an indication that his comeback is timed well. “After every ten years,the mindset of people changes and core audience change and vis-a-vis the industry evolves. Tigmanshu (Dhulia),Vishal (Bhardwaj),Dibakar (Bannerjee) and Anurag (Kashyap) have set the pace for a different kind of cinema in Bollywood. But only those films that tackle the contemporary society will be accepted. That has been a norm,and will continue to be,” he says.