Conventionally, a film’s story concludes as soon as the end credits roll in. For 32-year-old Marathi filmmaker Bhaurao Karhade, Baban — his second film after the National award winning debut, Khwada, (2015) — it is here where even more stories can be found. For instance, the story behind the name of two “producers” — Mohan Mungi and Joshi Kaka, who have been credited for their contribution to the film. “Both gentlemen, film buffs, are in their 70s and have a good knowledge of cinema and theatre. After seeing Khwada, they showered me with praise and when they met me, they took a Rs 100-note and put it into my pocket. I was embarrassed and told them it is not necessary. They said, ‘This money is not for you. Use it for the making of your next film. Keep giving us such cinema’. Somehow, that built my conviction and my storytelling skills. I saved the note and when I started work on my next film, it was the first money I used,” he recalls.
A farmer’s son from a village named Gavhanewadi, 80 km from Pune, Karhade dropped out of Class XII to help his father, now deceased, with farming the family land. But films, from Sooraj Barjatya’s Maine Pyaar Kiya (1989) to Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay (1975), fuelled his love for cinema. Karhade would frequently travel to Pune — he had to visit the wholesale market there to sell vegetables — and it was here he learnt of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), and decided to do a filmmaking course. It was 2004. Unfortunately, he wasn’t selected, and, subsequently, he enrolled at the New Arts, Commerce and Science College in Ahmednagar in 2008, for a mass communication course, where the National award-winning filmmaker Nagraj Manjule was his senior. Here, he got introduced to Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali, a film he claims to have seen 32 times. This is also where he saw the work of filmmakers such as Vittorio de Sica, Akira Kurosawa and Federico Fellini, whose aesthetic influenced him.
By this time, he had also completed two scripts — Khwada and Baban — but had no money or investor to support him. It was then that he persuaded his family to sell off their farm land, in parts, to fund Khwada. His decision to make Khwada first was simply because the film’s budget was smaller. The film, based on the migration of villagers to cities in search of work, first won an award at the Pune International Film Festival in 2015 and then the National Award that year.
Karhade became an overnight celebrity, giving interviews and posing for selfies with fans. “Little did they know I did not even have Rs 100 in my pocket. I was staying with my friends in a rented house. Even after winning the National Award, the film had no presenter for six months. When we got one, the deal was they would recover their money first. In reality, I didn’t make any money from the film. The fact is I ran a canteen for one and a half years from mid-2015 to 2016 in New Sanghavi, working as a cook and waiter, after winning the National Award,” says Karhade.
For Baban, the budget was bigger (it cost him Rs 3.5 crore) and Karhade wasn’t sure where the money would come from. A few close friends decided to bail him out by leasing parcels of their farmlands — including the film’s lead actor Bhausaheb Shinde, and Abhay Chavan, who plays the anti-hero. The film has 110 characters, many of whom are friends and acquaintances. Each one’s casting has a story to it, but arguably the most interesting is that of female lead, debutante Gayatri Jadhav, which he has recounted in his book The Making of Baban, released at National Film Archives of India, recently. “Usually people cast an actor and release her look later. I started backwards. I had an image of an actress in my mind and got a sketch artist to prepare it for me. We released the sketch on social media and people presumed the casting was done but the fact was, for six months, my entire crew was looking for that girl. Six months after releasing the sketch, by which time people were losing patience, I was at a vada pav stall, when I spotted a girl with her mother. Within minutes, I decided to cast her,” say Karhade. “She was taken aback and refused to even share her number with us. She didn’t know me or the film I made.”
When asked why he decided to develop a book on the side, Karhade says, “When I started to make a film, I didn’t even know how many technicians were needed, what equipments were needed and what problems could come up. Maybe this book will help a novice like me someday. Filmmaking is a democratic process but also extremely daunting. We need to break down the barriers to let people in, make it simpler for them.”
Baban’s story is also set in rural India, but it isn’t one of despair. The director, who wants to make more films on the youth of rural India, says that films often fail to project a realistic image of rural India: “Today the gap between youth in rural and urban areas is reducing. Even villages aren’t the same anymore. My story is about a young man, Baban, who lives in one such village. He is not an exceptional character. Every village has hundreds of them — often he becomes ‘Babnya’ for most. But this story is about what happens when Baban wants to be called Baban-rao, an epithet used in Maharashtra to denote respect. It is about his aspirations. At the heart of the film is a love story,” says Karhade.
Speaking of ambition, the director has pinned his hopes on the success of Baban to fulfill his dreams, especially for his family who have now gone back to the village to resume farming but continue to live in a rented house. Karhade lives in a rented flat in Pune, shared with a few of his co-producers. Two years ago, he bought a Scorpio car, on installment — he paid Rs 4.5 lakh from the reward he received from Maharashtra government in 2015 after the success of his first film. “It is the first car my family has owned. But we still don’t own a house. Like Baban, my ambitions are also very high. Hopefully, like he achieves his dreams, so will I. In his case, I made the decision but in my case, the box office will,” says Karhade.