TORONTO: Among the 10 Indian films screening under the city-to-city programme of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), The Bright Day by Marathi theatre director Mohit Takalkar is definitely one among the top ones.
The film is the journey of a confused, restless young man through India in quest for what he ultimately wants.
Well, Indians know restless westerns travelling to Rishikesh, Pushkar, Pune or Benares in spiritual quest. But the protagonist of The Bright Day is a young Indian Shiv (played by Sarang Sathaye) from a well-off family who doesn’t know what he wants from life as his parents and girlfriend implore him to commit himself to something.
Then one day – the day of Ganpati music festival – he leaves his family, girlfriend and everything behind in Pune and sets out on the journey of self-discovery.
Passing though Mumbai, he lands in the famous tourist spot of Jaisalmer where he meets an American woman tourist (played by Kelly Marie Miller).
The two become pally, walk together on sand dunes of Jaisalmer, then undertake a train journey together, exchange kisses and finally go their own way.
Shiv ends up in Benares – the holy Hindu pilgrimage centre – where his inner quest is finally fulfilled on the ghats or banks of the Ganges in the company of a sadhu (played by Robin Das) who shelters him.
The breath-taking shots of Rajasthan tourist spots, sand dunes and the ghats of Varanasi show the amazing quality of cinematography of the film. And that too with just a Canon 5D DSLR camera!
For director Takalkar, his first film is an autobiographical venture. “Yes, the film is almost autobiographical,’’ he says.
“In 2003 I was working a chef at a hotel in Mumbai and then I started doing animation, 3D Max and sound and video editing. That was a time when I could not figure out what I wanted to do. Somewhere this thought came to me that I had to step out of my safety net to be on my own and see where I head. So in this sense the film is autobiographical,’’ the director says.
Takalkar say he and his friend Sarang Sathaye (who plays the lead role as Shiv) embarked on this journey in 2003. “We went to Jaisalmer and Benares because I had romantic feelings about these places because of their portrayal in Satyajit Ray’s films.We stayed at each place for 20-25 days and met people. There was nothing on the agenda. But we used to meet at night and discuss what happened. So by the time we came back after that journey we had a loose script ready. After working on it, when we showed the script to some producers, they said it is an interesting story but they don’t know whether to make such a film at that time.’’
So the script was put on the back-burner as Mohit Takalkar got busy with theatre till cinematographer Amol Gole of Stanley’s Tiffin Box suggested to finally make the film last year.
Takalkar still cannot believe that his debut film was selected to be screened at the world’s premier film festival.
“Someone told us that someone from the Toronto film festival is in Mumbai and we can drop our film CD at the hotel. We just dropped it at the counter and after some time we started hearing from him (TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey) about what he felt about the film. A couple of emails were exchanged, and then suddenly we came to know that it has been selected,’’ says Takalkar who plans to release the film later this year.
The Bright Day has an uncanny similarity to a Brazilian film called Hotel Atlantico which is also about the wanderings of a young man who does not know what he wants in life. Directed the famous Brazilian director Suzana Amaral, the film premiered at TIFF in 2009.