DNA Sunday (Mumbai) - - FRONT PAGE - P_ yogesh@ dnain­dia. net, @ powero­fyo­gesh

Imust have been in Class VIII or IX, and I have been nurs­ing this de­sire to make film since then,” says di­rec­tor Pawan K Shri­vas­tava whose Naya Pata re­leased on De­cem­ber 27. There is lit­tle of the airy glam or af­fected ac­cent in the film maker, writer, blog­ger and ac­tivist, born at Marhowrah, Ch­hapra in Bi­har which used to be a ma­jor in­dus­trial town of Bi­har.

Naya Pata is about a man’s strug­gle to re- es­tab­lish his lost iden­tity. Set in the late 1980s, the film fol­lows the tra­vails of pro­tag­o­nist Ram Swarath Dubey, who has been ren­dered job­less when the su­gar fac­tory he has been work­ing at shuts down fol­low­ing tur­moil in the su­gar in­dus­try in Bi­har due to ob­so­lete equip­ment, in­ad­e­quate skills and the in­clement po­lit­i­cal cli­mate.

Shri­vas­tava ex­plains, “This is not some­thing I have heard or read but based on my own ex­pe­ri­ences grow­ing up in a small vil­lage in Ch­hapra district of Bi­har. I have per­son­ally seen en­tire fam­i­lies dev­as­tated by the un­em­ploy­ment and re­sul­tant loss of in­come. It all hap­pened so swiftly that they couldn’t cope with the blow.”

He should know. Af­ter com­plet­ing high school, Shri­vas­tava went to Al­la­habad for fur­ther stud­ies and then moved to Delhi and com­pleted his grad­u­a­tion in com­puter sci­ence. He has worked in var­i­ous sec­tors like telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions, bank­ing and fi­nances in Delhi and Mum­bai. This reg­u­lar at Mum­bai’s Prithvi theatre and Delhi’s Na­tional School of Drama felt he was in the wrong place, left his job, and went to Bi­har to make doc­u­men­taries and di­rect plays on so­cial is­sues.

Like many of the hap­less work­ers ren­dered job­less, Ram mi­grates to New Delhi in search of a liveli­hood, leav­ing be­hind his fam­ily and young wife. As the years pass by, Ram senses the alien­ation from both the worlds that he in­hab­its. While the city makes him feel like the out­sider who is un­wel­come, even re­turn­ing to his na­tive Bi­har does not al­le­vi­ate this feel­ing as his roots in the place have been shaken badly.

The film­maker points out how this dou­ble whammy can dent the in­di­vid­ual’s self- worth, leav­ing him de­pressed and yet un­able to do any­thing about it. “Dhobi ke kutte jaisi zindagi ho jaati hai,” he says re­sort­ing to the pop­u­lar Hindi proverb. Af­ter 30 years of liv­ing with this in­ner tur­moil, Ram de­cides to re­turn to his roots, once and for all; with the hope that go­ing back home will be an an­swer to his lone­li­ness and anx­i­ety. “Only when he re­turns for good does the ac­tual weight of his iden­tity cri­sis grip him.”

When asked why he wanted to make a fea­ture film on a sub­ject which seem­ingly lends it­self bet­ter to the doc­u­men­tary or docu- fic­tion genre, Shri­vas­tava brushes this off. “With a doc­u­men­tary you have to have real set­tings, case stud­ies and the like. While that is fine, the genre doesn’t al­low you to have any sub­text, at least not to the ex­tent that one can do in a fea­ture film.” Ac­cord­ing to him, “When you watch the film you will re­alise, that the clothes the char­ac­ter is wear­ing, the back­drop and even the tenor of voice of the char­ac­ters are all try­ing to tell the story.”

He ad­mits that find­ing funds for a film with a “real” sub­ject and no star power can be a tough chal­lenge. “That’s when we thought of crowd- fund­ing the project. Luck­ily, many saw the merit in a sub­ject re­volv­ing around the acute lone­li­ness and iden­tity cri­sis of mi­grants and my long- cher­ished dream has be­come a re­al­ity.”

Shri­vas­tava, who gen­er­ated the funds for Naya Pata through so­cial net­work­ing sites, per­sonal con­nec­tions, has be­come one of very few film­mak­ers who have tried crowd fund­ing, and started a new trend for film­mak­ing in In­dia. In­ci­den­tally, he has cre­ated his­tory by mak­ing Naya Pata through crowd fund­ing in just Rs8 lakh. “My ex­pe­ri­ence while mak­ing two doc­u­menta- ries, two short films and one fea­ture film and di­rect­ing more than 200 street plays has ob­vi­ously helped,” laughs the film­maker who writes at his blogs E- Bi­har and Patna Ki Sadko Se.

The movie stars theatre per­form­ers Ab­hishek Sharma and Yash­ward­han Singh, who both play the pro­tag­o­nist in dif­fer­ent stages of life. Also star­ring in the film are Shaad Ahmed and Julie Warsi in sup­port­ing roles.

Shri­vas­tava is pleased that Naya Pata is be­ing show­cased as part of PVR Di­rec­tor’s Rare. “This is a story that is very close to my heart and thanks to this op­por­tu­nity I can now share it with ev­ery­one.”

San­jeev Ku­mar Bi­jli, Joint MD, PVR Ltd, said, “We’re glad to be as­so­ci­ated with a film such as Naya Pata. Ev­ery as­pect of this film talks about cin­ema that is heart­felt and the ef­forts gone into the mak­ing of this movie are ev­i­dent. By re­leas­ing Naya Pata, we hope that the movie re­ceives the ac­co­lades that it de­serves, while putting in­de­pen­dent cin­ema un­der the spot­light. Shri­vas­tava has nar­rated a very poignant tale about iden­tity cri­sis through this crowd­funded film.”

Di­rec­tor’s Rare works as a spring­board to sup­port the the­atri­cal re­lease of crit­i­cally ac­claimed cin­ema from across the world and niche con­tent. Launched in Oc­to­ber 2011, it has been in­volved with the the­atri­cal re­lease of more than 50 films which in­cludes an eclec­tic mix of In­dian and in­ter­na­tional in­de­pen­dent films, cult clas­sics, short film pack­ages and avant garde doc­u­men­taries.

A still from the film

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