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He’s lensed stylised films like Satya, Kaun, Jhankaar Beats and of course the masala commercial Masti. Mazhar Kamran’s heart lay in direction even when he enrolled in the Cinematography course at Pune’s Film & Television Institute.

“I learnt cinematography as a craft that was necessary on my way to become a filmmaker. Also, I was told that in the real sense you cannot be taught direction, which I believe now,” says Kamran. His debut film Mohandas is slated for commercial release on August 14.

Excerpts from an interview with him:

Why ‘Mohandas’ as a first film? And were you in touch with the person to whom it happened, it being a real story?

Actually, my film is based on a Hindi short story by a famous writer named Uday Prakash, which has also been made into plays in Hindi and Marathi. The book itself is not a documentation as such but used the real incident as a take-off point, a spark. It was a very bizarre story where an honest man is robbed of his very identity. He gets a job and then someone replaces him. It’s a complete corrupt setup. When he goes to claim his right, he is beaten up.

Your casting is very unusual.

Nakul Vaid, I agree, does not look like a man who is brought up amongst poor weavers in a village and gets educated. But on his face I noticed a rare innocence and naïve character. He could look helpless despite the lack of a rustic look because this quality overruled everything else. I never looked at commercial viability. In fact, I saw and later met him when I was working on the promo of Ab Tak Chhappan. I also wanted to break clichés.

You have gone against the grain in the casting of Govind Namdeo.

Yes, I had to restrain his tendency to go over-the-top. He’s actually a brilliant actor, so I just told him that while his character was of a judge, he was also a poet! That did it. He’s simply wonderful in the film.

The film has received a lot of critical acclaim. But festival films tend to be very boring as a rule.

(Laughs) I assure you my film isn’t slow or boring. I think that it’s a sin to bore the audience! But I also do not believe in mindless entertainment. I want to give the audience something — in all senses. The idea was so interesting in this case that there was a lot of scope. The film received a standing ovation in so many festivals.

In a rare case, you have not written the film like most new directors.

I am comfortable with any interesting story. It also brings a certain detachment from the script that is welcome because it makes for objectivity — or you might indulge the writer within you. As long as I can shoot exactly the way I want, it’s fine. I have this fast working style even as a DOP. That keeps the cast and team on toes and prevents boredom. From my next film, I will not be my own DOP.

You shot on actual locations of coal-mines.

That was crucial. Others go to New York, we went to the starkly beautiful locales of Sonbhadra in Uttar Pradesh! (Laughs)

What drew you to filmmaking?

I was a part of film clubs while doing engineering in college. I somehow found it more powerful than engineering! Technology, art and literature combined to connect with people — that’s the medium of cinema.

What next?

Mohandas was one of three scripts that I had written when I stopped accepting cinematography assignments. My next is one of them, a murder mystery being produced by Venus.

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