ON the red carpet, before entering the auditorium for the Vinod Kapri-directed Pihu, which opened the features section of Indian Panorama earlier this week, several cameras are trained on Myra Vishwakarma. The five-year-old is repeatedly asked if she is excited about her movie’s screening. She refuses to look up. Instead, she focusses on the chocolate wafers that she is holding. Nearly two years ago, Myra had shot for this edge-of-the-seat thriller in which she plays the titular role.
Pihu is the second feature film of Kapri, who made his debut with Miss Tanakpur Hazir Ho (2015). When Kapri first met Myra at a gathering, she was three months shy of two. The journalist-turned-filmmaker was moved by a real-life incident and wanted to show the perils of modern living through the story of a small child. “For me, it was love at first sight. I knew this is the kid I was looking for to play my protagonist. Next day, I discussed the plan with her parents, Prerna Sharma and Rohit Vishwakarma, who gave their consent,” says Kapri. The film took another six months to start rolling as Kapri had production-related issues, such as budget and sets, to sort out.
He would visit Myra, who is fondly called Pihu, every other days to spend time with her. Although he had a ready script, he started to tweak it, based on her behavioural patterns. He approached a number of production houses but no one was convinced. “Most of them questioned me how am I going to hold the attention of the audience for 100 minutes with only one actor, who is a child? I was worried over the delay as the girl was growing up. I wanted to make the film with her before she turned three,” he says.
Finally, Kapri’s friend Kishen Kumar came on board as a producer. Myra was two-year-six-month-old at the time. With a budget of Rs 45 lakh, they started shooting the film. When Kumar succumbed to a cardiac arrest later, Kapri had to again seek help for the film’s post-production. Pihu’s selection as the Indian Panorama 2017’s opening film has been surrounded by controversies. Ravi Jadhav-directed Nude, which was the Jury’s choice for the opening film, was dropped from the section by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting without any communication. Kapri doesn’t want to comment on that and, instead, wants to “enjoy” his moment with Pihu.
The biggest challenge of making Pihu was to create the right kind of environment for Myra to enact the scenes. The team rented a flat for the filming. For over two months, Myra with her parents moved there. “We gave her time to acquaint herself with the space as well as the crew. We would shoot for two hours a day. There were three cameras placed on the set because you can’t ask a two-year-old to give another take. The toys that you see in the film all belong to Myra,” says the writer-director.
The film is likely to release early next year. “People assume that Pihu will be a sweet movie since there is a child as protagonist. It is a dark and disturbing story,” he says. Kapri is already working on his next, Frock, a film that talks about child abuse and will be produced by Manish Mundra.