By Aditya Savnal. Posted on June 29, 2015
Filmmaker and writer Nagraj Manjule is best known for his debut feature Fandry. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the Mumbai International Film Festival (2013), apart from screening and winning at festivals across the world. Besides this, the film also won two National Awards for Best Debut Director and Best Child Artist. Prior to Fandry, Nagraj Manjule had directed Pistulya - an award winning short film.
Nagraj who hails from Jeur village in Maharashtra is also a writer and a poet. His book Unhachya Katavirudhha, has won which won several literary awards including 'Daya Pawar Smruti Puraskar' and 'Narayan Surve Kavya Pratibha Puraskar'.
We recently interviewed Nagraj at his home, where he spoke about his inspirations, the reactions received by the film at festivals and what prompted him to make Fandry. You can listen to the complete interview below.
Published below are some excerpts from the interview.
Somewhere in 2007, I decided to be a filmmaker. I did a course in mass communication on the insistence and encouragement of my friends. I also did the course with an intent of securing job as a journalist or a reporter for a TV Channel or any other stream of media. While I was studying mass communication, I made Pistulya. I incorporated a lot of my personal experiences into the film.
It felt good that I could write, make films and express my thoughts through the medium of cinema. A lot of people appreciated Pistulya and it also went to a lot of festivals and finally won a National award. It gave me immense confidence and convinced me that I could make films.
In villages, people use the term Fandry derogatorily to address people of lower castes. It is also a term used for pigs. This caste difference was my initial inspiration for the film. Somewhere in 2012, I wrote the first draft of the script. I then narrated the script to my friends, who liked it a lot and encouraged me to make the film. And that is how the journey of Fandry began. In our community, catching pigs was a means of livelihood. However such people are still looked down upon by other classes of the society, which is very sad. This casteism is still prevalent in every section of the society.
International audiences were surprised after seeing the film, as they don't get to see this side of India. Because they mostly watch Bollywood films, which never show this ugly face of reality. An African lawyer who saw the film, loved it and said this is a universal story which will resonate with all types of audiences.
After watching the film, the producers told me, that the film has turned out to be much better than what they had envisioned it during the scripting session. And this was very reassuring and motivating. After the seeing the reactions received by the film at Mumbai Film Festival, I was convinced that we have made a good film.
In poetry, one's thoughts are expressed through his/her writing. Only people who are interested and are keen to read poetry will actually read it. Even amongst them, you can never be sure whether they will get 'it'.
Films, on the other hand, can reach more people. In my opinion, filmmaking is a stronger medium to express your thoughts, though poetry is a much a better form of self expression.
Just because I am a filmmaker, doesn't mean that I am inspired only by films or filmmakers. Poets like Digvijay Kumar, Dushyant Kumar, Kusumagraj, G.D Madgulkar have inspired me. Some of the films that have inspired me are Bicycle Thieves and Cinema Paradiso. I have also been inspired by the films of Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Shyam Benegal.