It was a couple of years back when I had a conversation with Nikita Naiknavare, the founder of India’s first Open-air, Immersive cinema, on what inspired her to come up with this unique concept in a country where cinema halls are the incumbent mode for the masses. What she explained to me was in direct resonance with what we, the screengobblr team, stand for as well – creating a close-knit community of film-lovers who appreciate cinema not just as a form of entertainment but also as an art-form in itself. Since its conception, Lost The Plot (or LTP as it is fondly called) has become a de facto hangout for cinephiles and the film fraternity.
LTP’s Film Caravan Festival is a collaboration of independent artists, poets, musicians and film-makers who all come together at one place for an immersive cultural experience. As a part of the festival this time, we collaborated with the LTP team to host a 30-minute Q&A session with the talented cast and crew of Nipun Dharmadhikari’s upcoming Marathi film Dhappa which recently won the Nargis Dutt National Award for Best Film for National Integration. We had a fun tête-à-tête with the film’s producer Sanket Shah, actors – Vrushali Kulkarni (plays Anuradha), Akash Kamble (plays Suhrud) and Akshay Yadav (plays Chetya), all of whom were gracious enough to share their journey with us.
Here’s an excerpt of the session:
screengobblr: First of all, I’ll start with Vrushali. We all see in the film that you play a mother-figure to the kids who wants to teach them good values and who wants to stand up for what’s right. What did you think of your character when you first saw the script ?
Vrushali: When the script was given to me, I really liked it. Being a doctor by profession, I felt really humbled that I was being provided the opportunity to play this role. What I found unique about the script was that the message being conveyed was being done solely by the kids.
screengobblr: Now I would like to come to Akash. Akash, we see you playing Suhrud who is a team leader to the kids, alongwith Sharavi. There was a moment when the kids thought that the play might never happen. That’s when you stepped in and motivated them to keep going. How did Nipun explain Suhrud’s character to you ?
Akash: It was very clear for my character that us kids knew what was right. It didn’t matter to us that all that chaos was happening. They would do what they have to do. If you are right in your life, I don’t think and Suhrud didn’t think that you have to fear anyone.
screengobblr: That’s a beautiful message. One of my favourite scenes from the film was when you look into the don’s eyes and stand strong. Okay, cool so coming to Akshay who plays Chetya in the movie, the prankster. So, Akshay how was your experience of working with the team and with Nipun.
Akshay: Actually, they didn’t have to change me much.
screengobblr (laughs): We thought as much. Again, another of my favourite scenes was the one where you wear that monkey-suit and do sort of a tandav-dance near your father’s bed after knowing that he was the one who had called in the goons to disrupt the play. What were you thinking in that moment ? How was it explained to you ?
Akshay: Yes, I had to let the emotion of ‘krodh’ (anger) out.
Vrushali: By the way, the actor playing his father in the film is his real father.
screengobblr: Oh that’s interesting. We felt that chemistry there. Do you scold your father at home as you did in the film ?
screengobblr: Finally, I would come to Sanket. So Sanket, as a Producer, what did you see in the story that made you think that you should invest in it ?
Sanket: So, the story was written by Girish Kulkarni. The first draft was just a one-pager. After that, we kept improving upon the story through Girish’s imagination. I was also part of the creative process and we all were aligned to the fact that this was a story that everyone would be able to relate to.
screengobblr: Nice. So, now I would like to open the forum for audience questions. Anyone ?
Audience member: It is great that film-makers like you are fortunately making films like this. However, do you feel this film would make a difference ?
Sanket: See our intention with this film is not to preach anyone, anything or even expect it to be an agent for change. We are just trying to convey a message through a medium. After that, it is upon the audience to either accept it or reject it. We have screened the film in several festivals and won a National award for the same. We hope that people take it in the right spirit and appreciate it.
screengobblr: Rightly said. As shown in the film as well, the children are confused that the mention of the god of some other religion can cause such kind of a disturbance in society. There’s nothing wrong in what we’re doing. We just want to bring communal harmony. Not even communal. Just harmony as human beings. And if anyone has an objection to that it just goes to show that the film would justify that this is how the adults are seeing it which would just be wrong.
Vrushali: And this is perhaps what happens. Here we are fighting and up there, if there are gods indeed, they may even be having lunch together peacefully. Everyone has their own understanding. We should be answerable for our own actions.
Audience member: Why did you name the film as ‘Dhappa’ ?
screengobblr: That’s a great question actually. Why did you call it ‘Dhappa’ ?
Vrushali: You know the game Hide and Seek right where the seeker has to start all over again if he/she is patted on their back by a hider screaming – ‘Dhappa’ ? So, just like in the game, the children in the film are jolting the adults into seeing reality and basically starting all over again as better human beings.
screengobblr: That’s beautiful. I would like to come to Sanket again. Sanket, we see a lot of what feels like Pune in the film. Was this film completely shot in Pune ?
Sanket: Yes, it was fully shot in Pune. The society that you get to see in the film is somewhere in Bavdhan.
screengobblr: I would also like to ask you about another one of my favourite scenes from the film – the opening scene where the children have a water-cannon battle. What was the thought behind that ?
Sanket: I think Girish would be able to answer that question better since he was our writer.
Vrushali: One reason could be to show that even though the children play childish pranks on each other, they come together and stand strong when the situation demands it.
screengobblr: Makes sense. Sanket I also wanted to know about how you cast Chetya and Suhrud ?
Sanket: We auditioned hundreds of kids for the various roles and ended up with the 19 kids that you see in the film. We were having an especially hard time trying to find someone for Chetya’s role. Then Akshay’s father who had already been cast suggested that Akshay be auditioned. Nipun saw him and immediately knew that he had got his Chetya. He could see that Akshay would basically be playing himself. For Suhrud’s role, it was important to us that we got someone who understood what it was to live with Suhrud’s special ability. When we met Akash, we saw that he had Suhrud’s personality and would be the perfect fit.
Vrushali: Akash is one of the most hard-working children. He did a lot of accent and diction training to better fit into his character.He was very diligent.
screengobblr: And that hard-work really showed on screen. You got lucky with their casting. They have both given phenomenal performances. Okay, with that we wrap up this session. It was an immense pleasure to have you with us tonight. You guys have been a great audience too. Have a good night. Thank you.
Check out the trailer for Dhappa right here: