Pahuna: Talks About Displacement and Identity

by December 13, 2018 0 comments

PahunaWhat are you telling children when they see Bollywood? You go, fall in love and that is the end of life. Or that you should go find a villain and beat the crap out of him. We are constantly reiterating that either you are a hero or a cricketer or you are no one,” says Paakhi A Tyrewala, director, Pahuna, The Little Visitors, a film that looks at displacement from the point of view of two young children and an infant. She feels that her upbringing in Delhi’s Press Enclave, where “Bollywood was never a part of the conversation, rather we heard about Nelson Mandela and Africa, academics and theatre music, which made for a rich experience while growing up,” has influenced the subject as well as the sensibilities of the films that she prefers to make.

“The whole reason for creating content for children is to put forth that it does not matter whether you are a hero or a superhero but if you are yourself, you are special. This inculcates self-worth and also gives them good values. My film is about peace,” she says. The idea of displacement is enmeshed with that of identity as well as communal disharmony. “The fear of the other — that of Muslims, Hindus or Christians —  gets transferred to children.” The film tackles all these issues — communal fear, displacement or different language, discord in society and how children suffer on account of it. It was the opening film at the Smile International Film Festival for Children and Youth (SIFFCY) 2018.

The film is shot in Sikkim, which makes for a gorgeous backdrop. Paakhi says, “Like every beautiful woman, it is difficult. The oxygen level is low, the weather is inhospitable and every location is at least one to two hours away. It wasn’t easy but was worth it.”

The film courted controversy on account of its location as its producer Priyanka Chopra inadvertently said that Sikkim was a disturbed state while it is one of the most peaceful ones in the country. Paakhi says that she is glad that the issue came up because it helped to bring the state on the national TV and map. “Do you know that the average footfall of Sikkim tourism off season was the highest this year? So we are not complaining, neither is Sikkim. It was a mistake she made and sometimes that is a good thing,” she says.

Paakhi has been a child actor who went on to star opposite actor John Abraham in Jhootha Hi Sahi (2010). She was an assistant director. She believes that each of her profiles added to her craft. “I did not go to a film school. Each of my job was my schooling. When I directed my first song in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, it gave me confidence to direct my first short film, Kajal. Acting made me more sensitive to actors. It is not easy to be natural in front of the camera. Costumes, lighting, everything takes time and since I have worked in each of these, I understand what goes into every department. This has given me not only patience but also taught me how to manage people which is the primary job of a director. One has to get the best out of people and every department,” says Paakhi.

While she has worked in different aspects of filmmaking, her family was far-removed from it. “My mother was a theatre actor in Delhi with a group called Abhyant. Then she became a lecturer at NSD. My father was a journalist and my brother went to FTII. So I had always been surrounded by a creative atmosphere. Plus I was a child actor in Doordarshan serials and advertisements,” says the director who acted in a movie called Dance of the Wind with Rajan Khosla.

Paakhi is also keen to explore the digital format. “The format is longer and it is much more satisfying. For both the writer and the director, it is amazing to develop a story over seasons while the film is two and a half hours long. It also gives you a platform to tell stories where you can play with the shades of the characters,” she says.

However, many of the digital formats have been garnering negative publicity for the lack of censorship and explicit content. “Initially when they were making content, they were only focussing on delivering sex and it did not do well. Indians do not like their women naked. They will watch porn if they want to. Now, everybody is making edgy content with alcohol, cigarettes and violence but not sex,” she says.

So does she see content finally having its place in the sun as opposed to the intense focus on superstars? “I hope the story will in the spotlight one day. Even actors like Rajkummar Rao, Sushant Singh Rajput or Vicky Kaushal have now become stars. The producer says that if you can’t get the Khans, you can at least cast them. No one is ready to take first timers. Once that happens, I’ll believe content is king. So that way things haven’t really changed,” she says as she signs off to further expand her horizons.

Writer: Saimi Sattar

Courtesy: The Pioneer

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