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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Room with a View

Manoj K Nitharwal on his FTII diploma film Seek and Hide,featuring Mohan Agashe and Seema Biswas.

Written by Prajakta Hebbar | Published: December 19, 2013 5:30:40 am

Any view changes once you look at it through a peephole. A mere observer is transformed into a voyeur and those glimpses of mundane day-to-day activities,take on the form of something hidden and exciting. A lonely and demented old man and his teenage grandson peek into the life of two women in an affectionate relationship. The journeys and lives of these vivid and varied characters has been explored by filmmaker Manoj K Nitharwal.

A student of Film Direction at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII),Nitharwal talks about his upcoming diploma film,tentatively titled Seek and Hide,and his experience of working with noted actors Seema Biswas and Mohan Agashe.

“If you stay long enough with the darkness,you become the darkness,” says Nitharwal,flicking the ash off his cigarette and taking a sip of masala chai. Dressed in a safari waistcoat and cargo pants,he exudes the serenity of a monk. “The grandfather and the teenage boy look through a spy glass across the building into a slum,trying to make some sort of connection with life. As they look,they are drawn into the lives of two women — a young woman and her mother-in-law,” he explains. Nitharwal,who is originally from Rajasthan,completed his MBBS at Maulana Azad Medical College,Delhi,and went on to do his post-graduation at Imperial College,London. Working as a forensic psychiatrist in London before joining FTII,Nitharwal says he was always interested in human psychology. His earlier project Mukhbir was screened at IFFI,Goa,last year.

In the 30-minute-long film,the character of the vulnerable yet ferocious old woman — Amma — is portrayed by Biswas. Noted Marathi actor Agashe will be seen in the role of a grandfather with dementia. “In psychology,there is a concept called projective testing. It is a personality test designed to let a person respond to ambiguous stimuli,which reveals hidden emotions and internal conflicts. The film comprises chunks of their reactions and situations,” says Nitharwal.

Talking about his experience with the actors,Nitharwal says,“Most of us are under the impression that big stars are not approachable. But I faced no such problem. As soon as they heard the script,they were on board,” he says,adding,“One of the advantages of working with great actors is that they get the point of the scene immediately.”

One of the most touching moments in the film,says Nitahrwal,was when they were shooting a scene with Biswas. The scene was slated to be around 35-40 seconds long,when Amma walks into her house to find a police inspector walking out arrogantly,after having sex with her daughter-in-law. “The scene was very powerful,as there is a series of emotions on Amma’s face. Seema ji portrayed the range of emotions perfectly — from anger and hurt to jealousy. We were so engrossed in the scene that it ran for over a minute and 40 seconds,” says the 40-year-old.

The film,shot entirely in Pune,is not specific to any region or city,says Nitharwal. While the cinematography is by Eeshit Narain,editing has been done by Anadi Athaley and the sound designing is by Ankur Chaudhary. Nitharwal hopes to complete the film by March and take it to film festivals and screenings in India and abroad.

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