BIFFes 2019: Chat with Debashish Makhija of ‘Bhonsle'

'This is not the Bengaluru I grew up in. It’s heartbreaking. Flyovers and malls. Not the Bengaluru I knew.’

Writer and filmmaker Debashish Makhija

Writer and filmmaker Devashish Makhija was at the 11th edition Bengaluru International Film Festival (BIFFes) for the screening of his film 'Bhonsle'. He started his film journey as a research associate and assistant director on Black Friday and then moved on to making feature films like Oonga and Ajji

Makhija caught up with DH on Day 6 of BIFFes. Here is what he said:

Where did you stay in Bengaluru when you were here?

We used to stay in Kumara Park in Sheshadripuram. We would sit in the evenings and watch the trains go by. That was my experience with Bengaluru and suddenly none of that is there.

Tell us about your movie, ‘Bhonsle’. How was the response here?

Response here was not very exciting. I was expecting a lot more people, and because there are 10 screens, and three or four films were playing at my time slot, really big films, I think some Oscar-nominated films. So, everybody was in those halls.

Did you meet anybody who saw the movie?

You know, people seek me out. And I’ve been asked the same questions. So I am prepared for the response I get.

Can you tell me more about the film (Bhonsle)?

There’s a short film I had made three years back with Manoj Bajpai called ‘Taandav’. This (Bhonsle) is a feature-length exploration of that short film. Set in Bombay at a time there is conflict between Maharashtrian political parties and the migrants, when they were asking North Indians to leave. And this has happened in some form or the other in every state and country in the world, almost every country in the world. At its heart, the film explores the question: who decides who is an outsider? What gives you the right to ask someone to leave?

Which movies did you watch here?

It’s too hectic. I haven’t watched any movie. Standing in line, asking for a seat. I don’t go to festivals, I only go when my film is playing, I go to my screening and I leave. I watch my films on my laptop. I am a device watcher. I am not a screen watcher.

Have you watched any Kannada movie recently?

Recently, no. But recently, I had a film of mine in Kerala called ‘Oonga.’ And I had seen Sheshadri’s film ‘December 1’? I think ‘December 1’. That’s the last Kannada film I’ve seen. But not too many. Because I don’t understand the language.

What were the challenges you faced when you were making ‘Bhonsle’?

Where do I begin? See, the minute it’s a dark film that’s not going to end with life affirmation or doesn’t make you feel satisfied by the end, and it’s political, nobody wants to see it. Nobody wants to produce it. Nobody wants to release it. And after having Manoj Bajpai on board, it took us four years to find producers. And we have six producers on this film who came one by one. It took a long time to make this film. Once you find the producers, you try and make it in record time. We shot it in 26 weeks.

What do you think is the highlight of BIFFes?

What throws me off is that it can fit so many films on ten screens compacted into six days. Not just the venue, but also the spirit of making it happen. Most festivals can’t manage to pull that off. This is quite a miracle.

What do you think can be made better?

Now the exact thing I am in awe off is the thing that is throwing me off. Because there is too much happening all at once. That can be spaced out a little. I think if an Indian festival does not go out of its way to prioritise Indian films, there is no point in having a festival.

Do you think more Indian films should be given priority?

Yes. Ensure that you are supporting Indian films. If you are supporting, then give us slots, and don’t have other big international films playing in the same slot. My experience has been better with film festivals in the south, though.

What do you think of the choices of films here at BIFFes?

There are lots of challenges in curating a festival. So, I don’t have a response to that question because I understand the challenges. Aabobo is a community I run that is almost like a monthly film festival where I show mostly short films and now, documentaries.

What is your next movie?

I work on twelve things at the same time because it’s so hard to find a producer. I have six ready scripts.

Any suggestions you have for BIFFes?

Move out of multiplexes. If you do your festival in a multiplex, people who matter are not going to watch the films. I don’t like this atmosphere of being frisked two times. This is not a place for our (independent) films.

 

Read our full coverage on BIFFes

 

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BIFFes 2019: Chat with Debashish Makhija of ‘Bhonsle'

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