Updated: March 20, 2015 12:00:19 am
After his coming-of-age film, Rockford (1999), filmmaker Nagesh Kukunoor swore he would never work with children again. Almost 15 years later, Kukunoor found himself working with two kids and an idea that was originally suggested by a friend for an advertisement. It materialised into his latest feature film — Dhanak. This enchantingly heartwarming film is the journey of an eight-year-old visually impaired boy, Chhotu, and his elder sister Pari, across Rajasthan, in the hope of restoring his eyesight with the help of Shah Rukh Khan. Dhanak (which translates to “rainbow”) went on to win The Grand Prix award of the Generation Kplus International Jury for Best Feature-length Film and received a special mention at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival.
Overwhelmed by this response, Kukunoor confesses that “when one gets to make a film like Dhanak, one forgets the pain endured while shooting with children.” Speaking over the phone from Mumbai, he says a recognition at Berlinale instills immense faith in him as a filmmaker.
Kukunoor celebrates the triumphs of the underdog and weaves his films around hope, “barring Lakshmi (2014), which was something he felt strongly about”. He finds glamourous faces and urban lifestyles “horrifically boring”, and is instinctively drawn to cinematically stimulating rural landscapes. He also never repeats himself, although he may revisit a genre. For instance, Dhanak has glimpses of Iqbal. “Filmmaking is a painfully long journey, and one has to enjoy it to complete it. I am an extremely selfish filmmaker who picks stories that excite me and directs because it is a serious addiction. It is my cocaine,” he says.
While there is a gripping thriller in the pipeline, Kukunoor’s current occupation, which started airing on March 19, is hosting Prime Talkies with Pocket Films on NDTV Prime. A weekly show, it will screen award-winning short films, and see him indulge in an hour of storytelling, showcasing different genres. “ The short-film format, thanks to the digital revolution, is gaining ground, and although it is a serious art form, India has a long way to go,” he says.
Interestingly, it was his short film, One Culture at a Time (1995), which he made in Atlanta that gave him the confidence to make full-length feature films. Short films, he adds, are an excellent training ground with no rules that restrict feature films in general. “In fact, Iqbal was written as a short film first,” he says.
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