On a very cold night in Chicago, Prashant drove me home after a magical Kathak performance. We talked about music, Chicago, the South side, the Kathak dancers of Kadamb from Ahmedabad and Prashant's upcoming film Patang. He described a scene in the film that is etched in my memory since. A simple first kiss between the protagonists Bobby and Priya. But Prashant needed to capture the first kiss in its authenticity. He wanted a young man who had never been kissed. He found his actor, his Bobby in a local Gujarati actor. He wanted to capture that look of surprise on the actor's face, that intimate moment after the kiss, he tastes his own lips, the question mark on his face, the moment of passion, all in one real moment to be captured in one take because the first kiss ever cannot be rehearsed or reshot or retaken on a take 2. Simple.
Prashant was editing then, from his study in his parents home in Chicago. The walls were an installation of post it notes that covered every surface. I was allowed to watch very little of the work, however we talked more about the film. Patang had consumed his existence. He worked on it alone, editing for hours, days. Many times exhausted and too tired to work. But he marched along. Finally in its last few months, Prashant moved to New York to finish the final edit, work on the sound and everything else that needs to be done when you are making your first feature film, your life's work, a work of love... and proudly I can say a masterpiece.
A few months back, after I moved back to Mumbai, I got a message from Prashant saying its almost over. It will be ready in time for Uttarayan of this year. He wanted to first share his film with the people he had worked with in Ahmedabad. He asked me if I would join the celebration. I would not miss it for the world.
And so finally after 6 years since its inception, Patang was screened in a private gathering of a few hundred people in a movie theater in Raipur a tiny neighborhood in the old city of Ahmedabad. Everyone who showed up for the screening had been attached to the film in some way. The local actors, the children, the local crew, the asst directors, the producer, the costume designer, the sound folks, the title sequence folks, the parents, the friends from around the globe, and Prashant's family. It was a mixed crowd, languages and accents were the highlight of the gathering. It was a festive mood. A collective energy of anticipation. We all piled in to watch the film. The children all sat quietly. There were a few words spoken by Prashant before the film. This Chicago south side boy of Indian origin spoke in an accented Hindi the most beautiful few words presenting Patang to the people who made it with love- with love that he recieved from them, what he calls- 'Ahmedabad ka Pyar'. Prashant was welcomed amongst the Amdavadi people like a son who has come home after many years, a hero and he is one. Everyone wanted to be close to him, a hug, a tearful story, they were all his friends and kin. I was very proud of him. It was side I had never seen before but I knew it existed.
As for me, I loved the film. Its wonderfully crafted, a beautifully heart warming story told with such subtlety and emotion. The colors are gorgeous, every shot is overlapped with layers- layers of the old city of Ahmedabad, the people, the movement, the bazaar and of course of the energy of the kite flyers and the kites. The build up of the characters and their relationship with each other both love and hate reaches its zenith and then slowly calms down- like a kite soaring high that is cut and then gently floats- this way and that way till someone finds it and lovingly mends it and proudly owns it. I guess you will have to wait to watch the film for yourself.
The photos you will see below are a collection of images of the four days of celebration that I was a part of with the film crew during this Uttarayan. Two years ago, on the cold Chicago night I had never imagined that I will meet and become good friends with the "never been kissed before" actor, the super talented and handsome Aakash Meherya. Aakash, at this very moment is at the Berlin film festival participating in the world premier of Patang.
My friend, Gopal of
, was invited by Prashant and Jaideep (the producer, the other partner, who made things happen, who kept all accounts, who also lost his mind a bit in the process) to photograph the four days of festivities. Check out his fantastic photos
page. I shadowed him closely and managed some cool photos myself. I hope I have captured the spirit of love, fun, play, community, sharing, hope, and just what the Gujaratis would say- Jalsa in these photos.
From the Patang screening at Raipur, the kite market and the festivities on the rooftop.
To Prashant with all my love and hope and prayers. Good luck!
The children who acted in Patang.
Prashant catching up with the kids
Prashant's dad and uncle
Sujata (costume), Anurima, Kristin Fey
Just before the screening
Getting ready for his speech
The Kite Market: Sunglasses, cowboy hats, glowing devil horns, and of course kites. The frenzy, the excitement - the night before Uttarayan. Oh and the kite temple where the soothsayer saw my future. Yes that happened.
The kite temple
The soothsayer who looked into my past and gave me a glimpse of my future. He told Gopal that he is a ladies man.
Last minute dori preparation
Close to midnight and still smiling
This family who had a street side fafda jalebi stand insisted that we try their food. They kindly nourished our famished souls with fafda served with green chilies, papaya slaw followed by yummy sweet jalebis.
And finally the two days of kite flying (yes I did take many many pictures).
Party on our rooftop
There was one...Prashant.
Was joined by three others
then two more..
and another two
Prashant and Anurima siblings
Once again two more
The whole lot of them
And the party begins...
The Chinese lanterns
The stunning sunset
The fire works!
Irene and Bhavik- new friends
The night, the party carries on...
The beautiful official poster for the movie now screening at the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival - the Berlinale. The photo of the hand by MS Gopal and designed by Prashant.
The Patang Screening times at the Berlinale:
Feb. 12 at 16:30
Feb. 13 at 20:00
Feb. 14 at 15:30
Cinemax X6 (Press)
Feb. 15 at 22:30
Feb. 17 at 13:45