A film based and shot in a non-descript village in Maharashtra will be premiering at the 21st Mumbai Film Festival.
When a bunch of young, first-time filmmakers from Kerala, decided to take a leap of faith and produce a feature film, a whole village came together. Shot in Arale, a beautiful and nondescript village in Maharashtra, A Thing of Magic, has an entire cast of first-time actors and residents of the village where the story is set. Now the film is all set to premiere at the 21st Mumbai Film Festival. “The film will debut in the India Story section, along with 12 of India’s finest directors,” says director, producer and writer Nithin Anil.
The inspiration for these youngsters was the Assamese language film Village Rockstars, written, edited, co-produced, and directed by Rima Das, a self-taught filmmaker. “To us wannabe filmmakers, walking around with stars in our eyes, what Rima did was revolutionary. This self-taught filmmaker made a film that was selected as India’s Oscar nomination!” says Nithin. Destiny arrived in the form of Aninditha, who suggested a village in Maharashtra — Satara — where her uncle lived to set their story. So, Nithin and team decided to pool in resources, gather equipment and travel to the remote village. “We went around a lot of villages there, but each one had its share of problems. Some did not have food and water and some had no electricity. Finally, we reached the village of Arale on the outskirts of Satara, which seemed perfect for our plot to unfold.”
The team did not have a proper script, but travelling through the length and breadth of Maharashtra, interacting with the residents and immersing themselves in their culture saw the script taking form— from visual narratives to its cinematic version.
So, what is the plot of the film? Nithin answers, “Gundu Kaakka is a struggling harmonium player, who aspires to join a local drama troupe. One day, after watching a 3D movie, he presents a pair of 3D glasses to two sisters — Pradnya and Prateeksha. He tells them that the glasses have magical powers visible only to him. Though they initially refuse to believe him, an event soon occurs that raises the sisters’ curiosity. And as the determined sisters try to find out the truth about the glasses, other stories of the little village slowly unfold.”
All the actors were found from the village. Most of them were not by predetermined choice. They were approached, found, and brought to the set by knocking on doors on the day a particular scene was to be shot. Around a hundred people from the village acted in the film. “We turned a house into a make-shift audition camp and I was amazed by the talent on show. I still cannot understand how untrained actors put up amazingly spontaneous and effortless acting. Remember, this is a script written originally in Malayalam and English, translated into Marathi, and directed in a lot of Hindi — proving that language can be no barrier to filmmaking.”
Another interesting aspect of A Thing of Magic is, it was made using the most minimal equipment available. Nithin shares, “Some of the equipments we used were DIY. There were on-the-run sequences which necessitated a shoulder rig and our cinematographer made one out of PVC pipe cuttings and a few fittings. The zero-budget rig worked like a charm and played a crucial role in the production.” He laughs and adds, “Our tripod had legs missing.”
The film would not have been possible without the cooperation of the villagers. “During the entire shoot, we were hosted by the village of Arale and the film soon turned out to be a community project for all of them, invoking and creating some special moments of magic within their hearts, and ours.”
That special moment also extends to the effort and budget of the film about which Nithin says, “We wanted to try and break the myths about the limitations of minimal equipment filmmaking. The entire movie is self-funded by its makers. Also, this journey led to the discovery of acting talent tucked away from the mainstream, and a platform for them to perform and enjoy the challenges and thrills of movie-making.” The filmmakers left the village of Arale with a heavy heart and a promise. “We finished the shoot with the promise to soon head back to the village and screen the movie for them in a little-big screen. And what a promise that is to look forward to!” Nithin also wants to bring the cast to the MAMI stage for the Q and A session and let them experience the thrill of interacting with the crowd. Before signing off, Nithin says, “We hope to return to the village soon, with our love, passion and our film.”