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.