Himachal has always lived up as perfect hosts in the eyes of countrymen, engaging with its juicy apples, rich culture, charming gentry and tranquil terrains. The state relishes its every single moment of glory and takes equal pride in the achievements of its inhabitants.
But lately, Himachal’s image has been forced to take refuge only in the names of its selected Bollywood aces, despite many others bringing laurels to the land in their own field of work.
Vivek Mohan, the winner of prestigious National Award for his critically acclaimed documentary ‘Malana – In Search Of’ is one of those unsung heroes to watch out for.
Catching him up over coffee in Shimla, the Mumbai settled documentary & ad film maker, who is in Shimla for a vacation, shared his thoughts on a variety of subjects, all touching Himachal in some way.
Arriving at the scene with a green Himachali topi smartly gracing his grey hair strands, the man comes across as a bubbly character, who prefers calling spade a spade.
The man started the conversation expressing anguish over the pathetic state of independent filmmaking in Himachal. For him, more needs to be done, if we are serious about taking pure Himachali tales to the world.
“We are lacking in originality. Our people don’t mind aping culture of Himachal’s immediate neighbors, which of course is more flashy and eye-catching. All this comes at the cost of ignoring our local pahari culture,” he said remorsefully.
He was more livid at outsiders using Himachal as platform to earn audience and recognition for their work, without investing their gains back into promotion of film culture in the state.
We should organize more film festivals in Himachal and invite local talent to share their work. “It’s so difficult to see any Himachali entry in film festivals organized in other parts of the country. So, Himachalis should get a chance to showcase their skills at least in their state,” says Mohan.
“I have seen talented filmmakers such as Nagesh Kuknoor graduating up the ranks through film festivals. This is why, I want local talent to find an opportunity, at least in their backyard, only then will they gain in confidence.”
On being asked about state helping the cause in anyway, he replied “state needs to do more to promote cinema culture here. Right people should be positioned at the right administrative positions. We don’t have a dedicated department for promotion of movie culture, whereas, even less developed states such as Orissa have a certain system in place.”
When asked about the reason behind intense passion and highly charged emotional connect with his globally acclaimed documentary on a small hamlet Malana, which introduced the village to rest of the world in a whole new avatar, Mohan instantly transports back to nostalgia.
The otherwise chirpy man recounts his hardships during those 4 years of his life, while shooting for the picture. “I have given a lot to the project, but earned bagful in return as well. Even my marriage was postponed due to the project. Then, why should I not be passionate about my work?”
And rightly so, the filmmaker with wide-ranging knowledge about the subject deserves a salutation for his work, despite coming from a place with almost no movie culture.
But, how did passion for film making get hold of the man? Replying to which he shared that he didn’t complete his education and dropped out early while studying Sociology and journalism at college; moved on to work with an advertising company as copy writer in Mumbai and always dreamed about doing something out-of-the-box.
Movie making enthralled him the most. His first brush with cinema was through writing movie reviews for one of the premier film magazines in those days.
“After office hours, I used to watch latest movies on video cassettes. It was the time when multiplexes and internet were taking baby steps in the country. A cassette came for Rs 10 hire on an hourly basis.”
It was the same magazine for which eminent writers such as Jerry Pinto, Ervyll E Menezes and Rensil D Silva contributed regularly too. He wrote film reviews for the magazine for some time, after which he decided to take a complete dip in the cinema world.
But he did a number of ad films and shared space with some of the best names in the industry, before coming up with his own documentaries.
When asked about any new projects coming up, he replied, “I am working on stories, but things take time to finalize.”
As the conversation drew to an end, Malana maker reiterated that unless systemic apathy towards local heroes ends in the state, nothing will change.
“Himachal finds mention even in our national anthem. This is the greatest confirmation of our rich heritage. Unless, we broaden our mindset and take to film making in a big way, a revolution is difficult to come by on its own. Already, our local cultural events are totally hijacked by cultural performances from other states.”
If truth be told, are we really ready to climb on to the next level? We appear contented in producing sub-standard music albums under the false impression of promoting local culture. Hoping against hope is the only resort left with us. Unless, some of the well established names in Bollywood from Himachal take up the responsibility (from which they have shied away for long) things won’t materialize!