By: Vivek Mohan
Today is Ganesh Chaturthi. A day-long festival culminating on 22nd Anant Chaturdashi. The final immersion, bidding adieu to our much beloved Elephant God with the reverberating chants in the air, “Ganapati Bappa morya, purdchya varshi lavkare aa!” (Oh, our darling Lord Ganesha, come back soon next year!)
I vividly remember seeing the film RANI & LAL PARI’ in Ritz, Shimla, during school… which first introduced me to the immersion and cute Ganesh idol! Life came a full circle when I left for Mumbai for a more meaningful life and became the art of festivity! The BIG-time producers of Malana film had a repertoire of many a big-time directors and I was the youngest and newest of them all, including Vikas Desai, nephew of legendary music composer Vasant Desai. Every year he used to install the idol and invite all his industry friends, colleagues, relatives, neighbours, et al for evening prayers before the final immersion at his South Mumbai posh apartment. I also had the opportunity to attend the ceremony and rub shoulders with the class crowd. Over the years I fell in love with Ganesha (No, it’s not a ditch that one falls in, like love it grows!). The arti, archana, puja, vandana… (hey, not girls!) the tea, the snacks, the modaks (Ganesha’s favourite sweet laddoos!).
Few years later I was in Kullu valley after the winter recce during monsoons for the big launch of the 1st shooting schedule of Malana film before the Saawni jaanch (fair)… I used to shuttle between various villages for preparations and research purposes. On one such occasion, I was in Ghurdor village near Lra Kellon on the left bank of Beas after Naggar. I missed my Vikas Desai Ganpati and remember what he advised… “filmmaking is nothing but solving problems, like life! He used to teach at the prestigious St Xavier’s too. Murphy’s law was at its best…anything that can go wrong, will. And believe me, it did.
In that household I found a whole lot of villagers gathered and I wondered and wished, hoped that ‘all izz well’. The local deity was visiting and I also had the honour of shouldering the palanquin, being the guest of the family. When all were merry-making and I felt little out of place, I asked one of the ‘sober’ men, what was this deity! “GAUN”. What!!! “GAUN – GANESHA!” God is omnipresent, after all!
You remember Him honestly and he is there… my favourite Manoj Kumar song… na khet mein milega, khalihan mein milega; Bhagwan toh hai bande, insaan mein mileaga… I was in the Valley of Gods!
I felt Him. I bowed again and again and sought His blessings. Malana took four years for completion, from start to the censor certificate (Maneka Gandhi’s directive to cut sheep sacrifice shots as cruelty to animals), which was covered by OUTLOOK magazine specially. ‘VIGHNAHARTA’ sailed me through all that… I was out of Mumbai at odd times for long… out of sight… out of mind… and out of work! The tremors and aftershocks I feel even today! My producers supported me as MUGHLE-AZAM-II’ was happening!
All izz well that ends well.
The film went on to be the part of three different and most coveted film fests in India, National Award, Indian Panorama(India’s best cinema for the world) and Mumbai International Film Festival for short, animation and docu films, in the same calendar year ’98-99!
My friend Ganesha. But my first love is still the bandar babu Hanuman from Jakhoo, whom I don’t miss to visit on my trips to Shimla to be ‘spiritually fit’, and also my dog’s grave on the way back, who taught me faithfulness and sincerity!
(The writer is an award-winning Himachali film-maker based in Mumbai)