Films, my quest and I, complete the trilogy


By: Vivek Mohan

“There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.”
Maya Angelou

This is true not only for this piece but for my films and their screenings too! Anyway it’s part of this game, namely, film-making where the juggler (read film-maker) goes with the “begging bowl” even before the game (read film) begins! But as usual, people disperse.. There is no dearth of ‘advisers’. As for sponsors – they are far and few. But passion prevails. As the Olympic boxer Akhil Kumar rightly said, “A dream is not what you see during sleep, but the one that doesn’t let you sleep.”

My Quest
I shall start with my first ‘baby’, nationally and internationally, critically acclaimed, “MALANA – In Search Of…” (English/73 minutes/2008). It’s a story of a Malani over a period of one year. The film took four years to be completed.

The idea was to prove that the word ‘democracy’ is Greek but the concept is ancient Indian and Malanis have nothing to do with Greeks! When one doesn’t know anything, then it’s all ‘Greek’! Without visits to Malana and research a section of the media has been “Manufacturing Consent” (an award winning film of this title on Naom Chomsky).The idea came from my best friend Dharmendra Singh Katoch, while visiting his village in Kullu after my 10th class exams. Who knew, the son of a Psychiatrist wanting to join the Army will land up in Mumbai, thanks to his skills of letter-writing to newspapers in Shimla?

The film got into all the top three Indian film events – Indian Panorama (IFFI); National Award (like Sahitya Academy/Sangeet-Natak Academy) and MIFF in ’98!

Meanwhile, two stories kept me going in all those four years in the making of Malana… First, I’d read a story in school, in which a Guru tells his shishyas to fetch water from a near by stream in a basket of bamboos! One of the shishyas kept going up and down till he succeeded. He knew there was some logic in what the Guru had asked him to do. The basket had swelled and had sealed all the holes in it.

Two, I’d read how Narendranath went to Shri Ram Krishna Paramhans to seek God and all he got was his head dipped in the river again and again till the young blood protested vigorously. To this, Paramhans, replied, “The passion you displayed in saving your life is what you need to seek God!” That was the beginning of Swami Vivekananda…

A view of Malana (Pic: Vivek Mohan)

Malana is much advanced, if not in physical terms. Their day/night deliberations end in unanimity or belief in their supreme deity, unlike us where the ‘majority’ wins with sandals/shoes/mikes flying. Instead, Malanis look up to the ‘high command’! The film is produced by the pioneers of parallel cinema movement in India, M/S Neo Films (Manmohan Shetty/Pradeep Uppoor).

For whom the bells toll
My second film is “For Whom The Jingle Bells Toll?” (English/29 minutes/2003). It’s a story of my homecoming to Shimla, to find there’s no longer a ‘White Christmas’. Whether you are a Christian or a Hindu, climate change doesn’t discriminate! The title is from Ernest Hemingway’s famous book on Spanish civil war. Only the word ‘jingle’ has been added. The idea came from the Supreme Court’s decision to make English education compulsory. But funds were exhausted. So I and my wife wife, who is an advertising professional, started Conscious Alive Productions to make meaningful films for the ‘educated unaware’. Environmentalist, and Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr R K Pachauri, flew from Delhi to Mumbai for the film’s première. Actor, Anupam Kher too was there in the capacity of being a Shimlaite! Recently, the film has been donated to the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh for screening in schools. My individual efforts were getting very tiring!

On a different trail
Last but not the least, my third film, “Spot The Difference” (English/28 minutes/2007). It’s a simple story of two similar looking families who’ve come to Shimla to earn their bread and butter and in turn raise their kids. The identity of the families is not revealed till a point. The conflict starts once it’s revealed that one of the families is a Buddhist (Tibetan) and the other a Catholic (Chinese). The idea was to ask the world – are we humans or mere labels? The title was inspired from (unlike Bollywood ideas!) a column – ‘Aap kitne buddhimaan hain?‘, in a Hindi magazine, by the name – Parag. The film was borrowed by NDTV 24*7 from Prasar Bharti (the producers of the film) to screen it on the channel on December 6, 2007, to spread the message of peace on the anniversary of the demolition of Babri Masjid.

Where to?
So what next? The obvious Q and the obvious A… I’m roaming around with a ‘begging bowl’. Not for ideas, but for dhaooae (money in Kulluvi!)

A man is not where he lives but where he loves. I love…”Laga dholo ra dhamaka, mhara Himachala bada banka!”

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  1. this articlie was published on the 24th of Jan 09. today, its 9th of Feb 09. not even a single comment on this article.

    i'm not surprised. in fact, i'm a bit (selfishly) relieved that things in india, himachal (with its generations of ill-fashioned, cheap-imitation like apparel sense and hash-smoking, impossibly unhealthy hoodlums) in particular havent changed. the 'selfish' part comes from the fact that i dont live there anymore and im glad that i dont.

    had this been an article about (completely insignificant) himachali politics or some bollywood rant by some equally disillusioned writer, this space would've been full in a few hours.

    anyway, let's move on.

    the fact that vivek mohan has made all these movies and i have never heard of them only strengthens the point that we'll always (i emphasize on ALWAYS) need a danny boyle to bring these things out on a bigger scale. of course, we'd end up making movies about unimaginable poverty and life in slums of india (make that shimla – the whole town looks like one), but that's what sells and that's what danny boy is interested in, be it mumbai or glasgow.

    people like vivek mohan would be struggling at this very moment to come up with huge amounts of money for their new projects, that's for sure. all of the newly acquired (and soon-to-disappear) wealth in himachal in forms of loans and grants will never find its way into arts and related areas, as himachalis would now be addicted to driving 'bigger' cars. i can only sympathize with mr. mohan and his film-maker buddies on that front. what needs to be pointed out though is the fact that he HAS made these three movies…! hats off for that!

    now – i need to watch these movies. so i pray someone reads this comment (slim chances) and tells me where can i get these DVDs or whatever they come on.

    as to the matter of mr. mohan getting dhaooae for his next project (or a couple of beers for that matter), i suggest he places his main characters in London or Sydney in his next project. that always gets indians.

    i'd really like to stay in touch with mr. mohan and like-minded people as i intend to do stuff in that particular direction in the future.

    v thakur


  2. thanks for replying.

    first things first. 'most of us have unfortunately not seen his movies' – exactly the point i was trying to make. why? that's what we need to find out and then work on that.

    now about the 'unhealthy hoodlums'. firstly, i hope you are not one of them. as to what i'm trying to get at, let me create a little picture that'll clear it all for you. go to any college in HP and head straight to the canteen. Kullu college would be the perfect place, but any college in HP would be good enough for this purpose. take a look around. if you still dont get it, try to pick one guy and then look at him – head to toe. imitating some bollywood actor's second-hand (most of the hollywood actors are handed down their wardrobes from models from NY, Milan et al, anyway – so that'll make it third-hand) fashion sense. i dont know… something like aamir khan's latest avatar as a (very bad) mimicry of Guy Pierce (did you know who that is?) in Momento. copying Momento Nityin! Momento! then look at his hand Nityin- there should be a suspicious looking cigarette hanging there. If you haven’t already smelt it, it would be what I’ve already suggested it should be. No need for me to mention that he most probably will has arms like twigs and his face would tell you he needs a quick detox and an orange juice diet for the next five weeks.

    What I’m trying to express is that we need to create – not copy. We need to live a healthy life. Sports and other activities should be given much more attention and support than it gets. Arts culture needs to be given a chance. Kids are following people like Kurt Cobain without even knowing that the only thing he was good at was creating music – he sucked at injecting chemicals, that’s why he’s dead. Smoking hash and sporting a skeletone-sque physique doesn’t make you a rockstar. It makes you an unattractive idiot who realizes after college that there’s not much he can do in life.

    Kids in Himachal need to take a different approach than the rest of the Indians. They need to capitalise on the fact that they live in a much better place than most of the Indians do. They need to stop following the hippy-like trash that we get in places like manali and dharamsala and set their goals higher. Education and an open mind will get them where they’d like to be. We need to create that culture and then nurture it.

    My good friend Nityin, I know by now you’re wondering how do I know all this crap about these ‘hoodlums’???

    I was one.

  3. @V Thakur

    Wow!! This post is something. I guess why there have been no comments here is as most of us have unfortunately not seen his movies and passing comments without seeing the movie would be inappropriate. Leaving other things in your post aside, what has baffled me is (with its generations of ill-fashioned, cheap-imitation like apparel sense and hash-smoking, impossibly unhealthy hoodlums.

    Can you elaborate on this..

  4. Thans a lot VT for your kind words…DVD is available for only the 3rd film in Delhi (} I keep screening them in Shimla off and on to a great response! As far as my time and resources allow me to! Himacaha has to 'wake-up' fast beyond nattis and local so- called "Int festivals" – Lavi;Summer Shimla and Kullu Dussera"

  5. awesome!!!

    the article and Vivek's spirit in finding the true beauty through silver screen is certainly need incouragement. haven't got any chance to see his movies but have heard a lot of them.I have personaly been told of the movie search of. by one of his friend but unfortunate…so unfortunate it is that still i haven't seen it. I have read an article in tribune about this movie and ever since i have been looking for it. would like to visit Vivek one day.

    with regards.

  6. Thanks to Mr. Vivek Mohan for sharing his experiences with us. As I'm also looking to find my base into filmmaking, even I never heard about Mr. Mohan's movies (I'm sorry for that). But the very true thing is that himachal need to rise above in the field of art and culture.

    I agree with Mr. V Thakur on his words (Himacaha has to ‘wake-up’ fast beyond nattis and local so- called “Int festivals” – Lavi;Summer Shimla and Kullu Dussera”). But on the other hand i completely disagree with him that the young himachali's are not making any effort towards a better future. Due to the poor education in himachal, we are unable to connect with the outer world as the resources are very less. there is a lack of motivation and role models. First of all we need to provide them the role models whom they can follow.

    The government will have to put some energy in the development of culture and education in himachal. All my friends from himachal and outside, who think about the social and cultural development of Himachal should have a look at my film "DYALEE – A FADING GLORY (… ) based on the fading culture in himachal.

    I hope this conversation will move towards a new era of intellectual development among himachalis.

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