By Murtaza Ali Khan
FTII alumnus Dinesh S Yadav’s upcoming film Waah Zindagi, produced by Ashok H Choudhury, is inspired by the concept of ‘Make in India’ and stars Naveen Kasturia, Plabita Borthakur, and Sanjay Mishra in the pivotal roles. Waah Zindagi tells the story of struggle of a poor farmer’s son, played by Naveen Kasturia, to become an entrepreneur in order to win the heart of the girl he loves, essayed by Plabita Borthakur. But all his efforts go in vain when the Indian markets get dumped with the Chinese products which bring the Indian industries and businesses to a standstill. The rest of the film is about his struggle to wipe out the Chinese products from the Indian market by replacing them with the indigenous ones. Reflecting upon the idea behind the film’s origins, Yadav recollects, “A place called Morbi in Gujarat is famous for its tile industry. A major incident took place around 2007 when China had dumped its ceramic exports in India which led to the shutdown of over 700 factories in the Morbi region alone.”
Interestingly, the film’s producer Ashok Choudhary himself comes from the region and has been closely associated with the tile industry and so he was naturally drawn to the story about the Chinese effect on the Gujarat ceramic industry. Although, the dumping hasn’t fully stopped but the local industry in Morbi has managed to keep the Chinese at bay. “They achieved the impossible by developing indigenous variety of tiles that could match the Chinese both in terms of price as well as quality. But, till date no one has given it the due importance but as a filmmaker it somewhere struck a strong chord with me. That’s how it became the central idea around which the story of Waah Zindagi revolves,” adds Yadav.
Naveen Kasturia, who started his acting career with Amit V. Masurkar’s Sulemani Keeda, got to travel to a lot of exotic locations as part of the shoot for Waah Zindagi. “We shot in Maheshwar in Madhya Pradesh for a song called ‘Bhaari Bhaari’ which is out on YouTube. You usually get to see such locations abroad and I didn’t know we had such scenic locations in India. Maheshwar is pretty much like another version of Varanasi according to me. It lies on the bank of Narmada which adds to the scenic beauty of the place,” reveals Kasturia. Parts of the film are also shot in Ahmedabad, Morbi, Jaipur, and Pune. “I can only imagine how difficult would it have been to hunt out these locations during the recce. Since I was working with a first time filmmaker there were of course a few things that went out of control. But I took it as an adventure and had a great time throughout,” adds Kasturia.
Plabita Borthakur first read the script of Waah Zindagi before her debut film Lipstick Under My Burkha got released. “After I had shot for Lipstick the scripts that were coming my way didn’t excite me much. Then suddenly I got to read the script of Waah Zindagi and I found it very interesting. I then talked to the producer and the director who made me listen to the film’s music which was already complete and that’s what really pulled me to the film. Also, I got hooked to the character of a village girl. Many people had told me that I was too urbane to play a village girl and so I was really happy to get this part and in turn prove them wrong,” reveals Borthakur who sees great merit in Waah Zindagi’s underlying theme of ‘Make in India’. “Waah Zindagi has a very important message at its heart. We are so used to accepting whatever comes our way that we easily give in. That’s how Chinese products have eaten into our market. The film is about not giving up. It’s about a man who wants to make things indigenously and boost the local production. That’s exactly what ‘Make in India’ is all about,” asserts Borthakur.
While shooting for the film in the desert of Rajasthan, the cast and the crew had to withstand extreme conditions. “The temperatures were constantly touching 45 degree Celsius and higher and on one such day we had to shoot a couple of very difficult scenes. While one of them was a suicide scene, the other one required Sanjay Mishra to get buried in the desert sand all the way up to his neck,” recollects Ashok Choudhary. Owing to the extreme heat the director decided not to shoot the sand sequence but Mishra was determined to go ahead with it anyway. “Sanjay Ji started to inquire about the reason why we were not going ahead with it. When we told him the reason he urged us to go ahead with it as per the schedule. I remember we made him wear jute bags in order to protect him from the hot sand. It was really inspiring to see an actor push himself so hard under such extreme conditions,” recounts Choudhary.
Yadav, who was enrolled in the editing course at FTII, believes that the intensive training he received at the film institute prepared him well for a challenging project like Waah Zindagi. Interestingly, a phone call was all that it took Yadav to convince Sanjay Mishra to do the part of the protagonist’s grandfather. “I directly called up Sanjay sir and told him that I wanted to narrate him a story. When you come from a place like FTII the people in the industry tend to show greater faith in you. At the same time it becomes a challenge for you to fulfill their expectations. Fortunately after listening to the very first narration of the script, Sanjay sir agreed to come on board. He immediately called up his assistant and asked him to fix up the shooting dates with me. Later on we did face some scheduling issues but Sanjay sir was very accommodating regarding the dates,” reveals Yadav.
Murtaza Ali Khan is an independent film critic based out of Delhi, India. He is the editor-in-chief of A Potpourri of Vestiges and is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. He has also contributed to The Hindu, The Quint, Wittyfeed, etc. He is on the guest panel for live discussions on the television channel News X. He is Films Editor at Café Dissensus.
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