In 2015, Ganesh Shelar, 27, attended a short film workshop conducted by Marathi filmmaker and Film and Television Institute of India’s alumnus Umesh Kulkarni. Next year, the Pune-based director and filmmaker went on to make his first short film, Jokhad — a Marathi word for the plank on the ox pulling a plough, synonymous with ‘burden’. The eight-minute film, set in rural Maharashtra, revolves around a single mother who makes her living by seeking alms. Her young daughter is aware of her plight, and not sure what the future holds for them. Kulkarni’s second film, Ghadul (Turbid), is a crowdfunded project, where members from his gym, among others, pitched in. Completed in 2018, it showcases a mother-son relationship and how an incident that takes place on the death anniversary of the boy’s father takes a sinister turn to change his relationship with his mother. The film recently bagged the Best Short Film award at the 24th Kolkata International Film Festival. It was also nominated under the non-feature category for International Film Festival of India 2019. Excerpts from an interview with Shelar:
How did you come up with the story of Gadhul?
After making Jokhad, I wrote several scripts and none of the stories resonated with my emotions. The story idea came from a 10-year-old boy who stays close to us with his parents. There were rumours in the neighbourhood that the mother was in a relation with another man. So whenever the man visited their house, this boy gazed at him with anger. This happened long back, but somehow stayed with me. I realised that this story had multiple perspectives — the boy’s point of view, the mother’s and the society’s. I started penning the plot of Gadhul. The idea was to share how people often judge others with a filter of preconceived notions, prejudices and stereotypes. Gadhul is a Marathi word, which means turbidity. In a glass of water, when a speck of dirt falls, the water becomes unclear or turbid. Similarly, the episodes that transpired between the mother and her son made their relation unclear. The elements in the film are from my own experiences, and that is the society I have explored.
Could you talk about the shooting of Gadhul? Were there any doubts that posed challenges?
A film starts with its budget and Gadhul had a budget of around Rs 3 lakh. Some came from my savings, and more through crowdfunding. One of our shoot days clashed with the Bhima Koregaon stone pelting and we had to cancel shooting. When it came to casting, we approached Marathi actor Smita Tambe for the lead role, after consulting renowned Marathi director Umesh Kulkarni. We had taken Avishkar Chabukswar’s audition in Mumbai. I understood his capabilities, and we had to work little on him. We also took him around the neighbourhood and made him meet children around his age, so that he understood their tone of narration, way of living and so on.
Several people who read the script for Gadhul said that it needed more work, but I was very clear about the film, despite the doubts posed by others.
How was the response of the audience after watching the film? What was it that you wanted to convey through the film as its director and writer?
I have received mixed reactions on the film. Some men who watched the film felt that the mother’s affair in light of the situation at home was unjustified. The situation, which was the father’s death anniversary, made these people question the morality of the mother. However, most women who viewed the film said that the actions of both the mother and her son are justified. My agenda was to go beyond morals, make it impactful and have people look into themselves, and see the film as per how they want.
With this film, I wanted people to realise how they perceive others, and the judgements they come up with. I believe that no one is right or wrong, an individual moulds himself or herself according to circumstances.
What are you working on now?
Bhet will be my third short film. The story is written by my wife, Monika. We have written the screenplay together. This story is also inspired by real experiences. She lost her grandmother, whom she was very close to. The film is about the relationship between a granddaughter and her grandmother. I am doing what is coming organically to me, and have several ideas. For now, I am exploring world cinema.