KABULIWALA 2.0

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WRITER-di­rec­tor Deb Med­hekar knows his first fea­ture is a tad am­bi­tious. Af­ter all he is tak­ing one of Rabindranath Tagore’s most beloved short sto­ries, Kabuliwala, ear­lier adapted for the big screen by ac­claimed film­mak­ers Bi­mal Roy and Ta­pan Sinha.

But as a lit­er­a­ture grad­u­ate from St Xavier’s Col­lege in Mum­bai Med­herkar was more than ea­ger to em­bark on his Bol­ly­wood jour­ney by bring­ing alive and reimag­in­ing Tagore’s clas­sic. Star­ring Danny Den­zongpa in the tit­u­lar role of an Afghan im­mi­grant in In­dia who shares his pas­sion for cin­ema along­side Adil Hus­sain and Gee­tan­jali Thapa, Bio­scope­wala re­leases on May 25.

Med­hekar has pro­ducer Su­nil Doshi to thank. Doshi had come to film­maker Ram Mad­hvani (Neerja) with the idea and also in search of a film­maker to ex­e­cute it back in 2016. Mad­hvani in turn di­rected him to his col­league at the ad film com­pany Equinox.

BE­CAUSE of the amount of work I have done with chil­dren in ad­ver­tis­ing and the fact that I have al­ways wanted to make some­thing that’s a trib­ute to cin­ema, Ram asked me to take a look at it,” said Med­hekar who has di­rected 150 com­mer­cials for Equinox in the last eight years. “When Su­nil said do this film I felt it was ev­ery­thing that I wanted to do in my first fea­ture – it had chil­dren, magic re­al­ism, nos­tal­gia, travel, and says some­thing about the world we live in and how peo­ple are suf­fer­ing.”

Med­hekar took the essence of Doshi’s idea — a cin­ema hall owner in Kabul dur­ing the Tal­iban era who be­comes a bio- scope­wala in In­dia that trav­els, sings, and in­flu­ences a lit­tle girl — and adapted it fur­ther. “The third act is com­pletely new,” said Med­hekar. Bio­scope­wala meets Med­hekar’s fas­ci­na­tion with what he calls “meta lit­er­a­ture and film”. Talk­ing about work­ing with the vet­eran ac­tor Den­zongpa, the di­rec­tor said, “There are scenes be­tween him and Adil Hussein which will rip your heart apart. You have two ac­tors go­ing for each other and with each sub­se­quent re­take they are out­do­ing each other and a lot’s hap­pen­ing through non-ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion.” And go­ing by Med­hekar’s ac­count of shoot­ing on the streets of Kolkata, Den­zongpa hasn’t lost his ap­peal. “I re­mem­ber him be­ing thronged by women,” rec­ol­lected Med­hekar. Once a charmer, al­ways a charmer.

The writer is se­nior as­so­ciate ed­i­tor, In­dia To­day mag­a­zine

Di­rec­tor Deb Med­hekar says the amount of work he has done with chil­dren has given him con­fi­dence to make Bio­scope­wala.

The Bio­scope­wala is a reimag­in­ing of Tagore’s clas­sic. Ac­tor Danny Den­zongpa plays the ti­tle role.

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