From starting his life from a chawl in Mumbai to a filmmaker, Rohan Kanawade has come a long way. Read on to know more about this interior designer turned filmmaker.
Tell us about your life journey in brief?
I was born and brought up in a chawl of Mumbai. I don’t remember the age though, but I remember asking my father how people appear on that giant wall (I didn’t know it was called a Screen). And he told me to look up. I did. I saw rays of light coming out of the small window. “Through the projector,” he said. I instantly fell in love with it, yet I didn’t understand it. I never cared about the story or acting or anything else at that age except for the screen and the projector. That is when the love for the screen started.
My father, being a film lover, took us to the theatres every month. And after watching a film in the theatre, I cherished it for weeks.
As I grew up I started understanding the storyline, direction, acting and many other aspects of filmmaking. What made me start writing my stories was a lesson in our tenth standard’s Marathi text book. It was written so powerfully that while reading it, every sentence appeared before my eyes like a scene from a film. That is when I started writing short stories. Which were quite bad at that time, but I loved what I was doing.
After my schooling, I was confused about what stream to choose—just like the other kids. Upon a suggestion of my father’s boss, I decided to go for Interior Designing (as I was pretty good at drawing). After I finished my diploma, I started working as an interior designer, which I am still doing; now as a freelancer.
What prompted you to become a filmmaker?
I had never thought that I wanted to make films. But as I said before, I loved films. I love to see world cinema. And I am very fond of Indian Cinema—that doesn’t mean dancing in abroad in every song—Cinema that is offbeat.
By the time I was working I had started writing stories about real lives. Stories of real people and their lives intrigued me. And I wrote about them through my words. It was at that same time when my friend came up to me and said that there is a short film competition and suggested making a film on one of my stories! I loved the idea, though I didn’t know how to do it. That is when a few of my friends came on board. One knew how to edit and the other knew how to shoot. And I asked the others to act. We shot on a mobile camera and edited on Windows Movie Maker. We couldn’t submit the film to the festival as by the time we finished it, the deadline was long gone. But that is when I decided to learn more and more to be good at what we were making. I bought a China made camera for two thousand rupees which served the purpose. And I guess after three years I bought a Sony handycam and made ‘Feelings At Death’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFEJ5RkmFYk) which I submitted to the local film festival for the first time and received my first award. That is when my film festival journey started.
Tell us about your team, if you have any?
Except for a few people, my team is never the same, as when you work with new people you learn new things from them. And you get an opportunity to know different artists and their work, which eventually shapes your project. But one of the key team members is Abhay Kulkarni, who is an actor in the Marathi film and TV industry. Whenever I write a short story I read it out to him and then we discuss it. And then after reworking on several drafts of the story we decide the team for the project.
How many/ What kind of movies you have made?
I have made many short films, but they were more like my homework, which eventually resulted in a better work. But to name a few, the first film that went to the festivals was ‘Feelings At Death’ which was the real story of a boy from Gujarat, who was keen to know what people feel when they are hanged or why do they hang prisoners. Then I made ‘Colours of Love’ which never came out as my producer was unsure of the response of the audience so he asked me to delete few scenes which I refused to. Hence we did not send that film to any festival. So after that, twisting the story a bit, I made a new version of ‘Colours of Love’ and named it ‘Ektya Bhinti’ (Lonely Walls) (trailer link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFsfQq7PB30) (Links for newspaper and other coverage: http://www.dnaindia.com/entertainment/interview-if-youre-honest-with-emotion-audience-gets-it-rohan-kanawade-1842997 , http://www.firstpost.com/bollywood/why-kashish-isnt-another-run-of-the-mill-film-festival-804937.html ). Though it was totally different from ‘Colours of Love’ the basic concept was same. The story revolves around a father who has lost his wife and his son comes out to him as gay. As the story progresses we find out that the father, too, is a closeted gay. I had written this film after knowing the incidents of real people’s lives. When the film went to festivals, it did create a buzz in LGBTQ community, yet I won ‘Riyad Wadia award for best emerging filmmaker’ at 4th Kashish MQFF, 2013(http://pink-pages.co.in/news-digest/morgan-is-best-film-at-kashish-crystal-arnette-best-actor/ ). The film was also screened at Bangalore Queer Film Festival the same year. And also at Rice University, USA (http://chaocenter.rice.edu/Titles/Content.aspx?id=1199 ). The film was later screened at Humsafar Trust, Mumbai by Yaariya group just for discussion purpose (https://email@example.com/msg22260.html).
My upcoming film is ‘Sundar’ which we recently completed and were working on for the past one year. We also ran a crowd-funding campaign for it (campaign link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKhIkzVpV5g) . The film is now ready to submit to the festivals. (Trailer of Sundar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWJOUGcr55A) (Sundar’s media coverage: http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/dress-code-5/ , http://www.mid-day.com/articles/in-the-mind-of-a-cross-dresser/15556182 , http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/stoi/Drop-the-shirt-drap-a-sari/articleshow/44788440.cms ). ‘Sundar’ is also inspired from real people. It’s a story that unfolds on the last night of Navaratri. Jayu, the protagonist wants to play dandiya but his mother doesn’t allow him to go, as the previous year he played dandiya wearing a sari. The film is inspired from the lives of cross-dressers whom the society mocks; hence most of them stifles their happiness and lives the closeted life.
Some of my other work would be making videos. I had made a video of Mumbai Gay pride, 2013 and received a great response (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKqCSCLc6Jo). Then I also covered a wedding of a friend with a friend, as they had loved my work and asked me to come on board (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgsphzNbf_0).
What is your dream/ vision?
My dream is to go mainstream with the stories that make the audience feel like it was worth watching.
What difficulties you face as an independent filmmaker?
For this question the only answer is ‘Funding.’ But when I say this, I have also seen many films that had enough funding yet they were bad. For me, I always faced a problem of funding. I have made films with no budget. But one can’t keep on making no budget films for all his/her life. If one has to progress one also needs the right support, and many aspects of filmmaking aren’t for free every time!
Any fun/ memorable incident?
The entire process of filmmaking is memorable to the entire film.
One of the recent incidents was when we were shooting Sundar during Navaratri. Our actor Yogendra Mule had to dance in actual dandiya event wearing a sari. Apparently, the society where we were shooting had a fancy dress competition that night. As the dandiya started, residents of the society came in their fancy dresses to play. We, too, started shooting in Guerilla style. At the end of the night people knew that a shoot was going on. The jury of the event presented ‘best dress’ award to Yogendra and also praised his performance. That’s when we knew that we were on the right path.
What advice you’d like to give someone who is interested/ newbie?
I think one should always make what pleases him/her in the first place, not what the others want to see. Because, the audience comes to see the film maker’s vision, and this applies to those who wants to make cinema not business. When cinema appeals to the audience, it automatically makes the business. So think like a filmmaker and come out to the world like a film maker.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I feel very bad when I see that nowadays most of the Bollywood films don’t make any sense. They spend huge amounts of money and time and talent to make crap. Some of those filmmakers should actually sit in the local theatres and see people’s reaction when the film is over. I think now it’s the audience’s and film maker’s responsibilities to take the Indian cinema to a higher level. Film makers should stop making brainless pieces, and then the audience will make the offbeat cinema a house-full show.
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