After receiving critical acclaim at many film festivals, including the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), director Kamakhya Narayan Singh’s feature Bhor is now available for online streaming. He talks about the idea, generating funds for an issue based film and other related struggles.
When I started working on Bhor, I had two issues in my mind. One was the issue of sanitation in rural India, which was quite burning at that time, and the other was how the last person in the country reacting to this? Is the problem also connected to the caste-based segregation?
As a first-time feature film director, you don’t plan on the producer because you need to have a story in place first. Then you need to mobilise whatever you have—friends, resources, well-wishers. With no money to hire a writer, two of my friends--Ranjan Chauhan and Bhaskar--joined in and we worked on the story as a team.
Second thing is that you do not get a big banner, so you convince a new producer. I was comparatively in a better position because I had several years of working experience in television, so I found one.
Who will do the casting for you? You need the best, you need new and deserving ones. I met Dilip Shankar, he is unconventional, his work in Life of pi and Monsoon Wedding were really good. I even wanted to take some known faces, and some of the characters were written keeping some actors in mind. But the problem was that I wanted my entire cast to live in the village for two months, so they could look and feel rustic. The known established actors did not want to take the risk of investing two months for an unsure outcome. So, we started looking for fresh and new faces. It took us almost six months.
Location was also a big problem because I wanted to shoot in North Bihar, near Kosi river, a beautiful location unexplored in films so far, but logistically it wasn’t possible. So, we decided to shoot in a village in Navada district about 100km from Patna, native place of assistant director Bhaskar.
Comparison with Toilet Ek Prem Katha
A bomb dropped on us when a commercial film on a similar subject released. Whoever watched my film they liked it, appreciated it, but despite its treatment, seriousness, all the village humour, all hard work, it did not have a mass appeal as the commercial viability got affect due to the release of the other film.
Our film went to 28 festivals, was well received everywhere, got accolades, the film won Best film on social issues in Boston. I won best director. This was the only Indian film in Cairo film festival, but releasing it here in India was extremely challenging because a commercial film with big budge, and big stars was already released. Here, I would like to recall what Amar Kaushik, my senior in college and the director of Stree, told me. He said that the topic of both the films may be similar, but the way you are telling the story is completely different and new. This gave me hope.
The film’s lead actor Devesh Ranjan also talked about his journey.
It all started when Dilip Sankar Sir asked me to get auditioned for the character of Sugan. On his advice only I had done my first film as a lead, Vara: A blessing which won several international awards, so I thought of giving it a try.
A two month workshop was scheduled in Bihar, and the day I landed, I was placed in a remote village. As I have worked as a theatre artist for a few years with various theatre groups, I am used to such environments. But in Bhor, authenticity was maintained beyond usual standards. All the cast members were asked to live with local families. We were expected to behave as one amongst them.
While staying there, I started reading their body language, diction and mannerism. Then one day I was thirsty after my tanning session, so I asked for water from one of the big houses in the village. To my surprise, they told me not to enter their house and gave me water in an old utensil. Then I realised that village people had started treating me like the untouchables. Initially, I felt bad but after a while I realised that it’s how the social system works here.
Bhor is now streaming on MX Player.