From celeb chef to recognised director

Vikas Khanna’s film ‘The Last Color’ talks about how widows in Vrindavan were not allowed to play Holi and how a Supreme Court order changed that

A chef’s directorial debut and international acclaim is not congruent in thought but Michelin-star chef Vikas Khanna is winning awards for his movie ‘The Last Color’.
It is based on the Supreme Court verdict allowing the widows in Vrindavan, who were earlier restricted from playing Holi, to do so.

In a chat with Metrolife, the chef-turned-director spoke about his venture into the film industry and more.

What made you take up film direction?

I never planned to foray into films; it just happened. I had a short story in mind, titled ‘berang’ (colourless), which eventually turned into a full-fledged movie. For someone who has no idea about filmmaking, winning accolades like the Audience Awards and Directors’ Vision Award at Indisches Film Festival, Stuttgart in Germany was a pleasant surprise.


Vikas Khanna

What was your inspiration behind the subject of the film?

I had visited Vrindavan in 2011, during Holi, to shoot pictures for my book, ‘Utsav: A Culinary Epic of Indian Festivals’. During that time I happened to see hundreds of widows — standing on the balcony and by the roadside — colourless, all in white, while everyone and everything was splashed in colour.

As I looked at them and smiled, my guide told me, ‘Don’t look at them, it could be an omen of bad luck’. I was taken aback. However, a 90-year-old widow smiled at me and blessed me. Despite being shamed by society, she was able to bless someone. That made a deep impression on me. In the movie, there is a woman who bows in the end as she dances, that’s inspired by her. 

Any reason you started with a socially relevant topic?

When a change happens, one needs to tell that story and celebrate it. The fact that people have fought for this change is an inspiration in itself. As a chef, my life has been filled with colours and here, the women had those taken away from them. That thought moved me and I just wanted to celebrate this change.

How has the journey from celebrity chef to film director been?

It is crazy. Initially, people asked me why am I even venturing into films since I have enough money and global recognition. People are generally scared of change. I did everything from costume design to screenplay for the movie. It was great to watch how the entire process unfolded; I also had to think from multiple points of view. It is amazing that my team and I pulled it off so smoothly.

Did you face any challenges?

Many. Selecting a team, balancing the sensibilities of the US and Indian teams, time management and so on. The audition of Choti, the young tight-rope walker, was one of the most difficult tasks as the entire movie hinges on her.

Who did you turn to for advice?

Anupam Kher was my go-to person. Every time I got stuck, he was there to guide me through. My mother too was there with me while shooting the film. 

‘The Last Color’ goes places...

  • Only Indian film to get a special screening at the ‘Marche Du Film Section’ at Cannes this year
  • Premiered at Annual Palm Spring International Film Festival
  • Part of the opening night at the Atlanta India International Film Festival
  • Showcased at the closing night of New York Indian Film Festival 2019
  • Will soon be premiered at MAMI Mumbai Film Festival
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