Begamon Ka Bhopal—Sitting Down with Rachita Gorowala
Manipal International Literature and Arts Platform (MILAP) screened Rachita Gorowala’s documentary ‘Begamon Ka Bhopal’ at the Planetarium Auditorium. Rachita Gorowala, born and brought up in Bhopal, has directed the film to successfully capture the purest essence of her city in a modern filmmaker’s approach. She transcends the emotion of nostalgia with the help of various elements in the movie.
What are your markers and points of considerations when you are making a film like this and wish to stir a feeling of nostalgia amongst the audience through this medium?
I’ll tell you how I went about constructing and deconstructing this film. I had elements in my mind which I wanted to use to evoke nostalgia. I knew where I wanted to place the writer and how I wanted to shoot the old lady, but structurally, it was as broken as one’s memory. The media is consciously crafted to be a non-linear piece of work.
Other elements—the lake, the ruins of the city, the older adults—help to develop an anachronistic sense in the atmosphere. Also, more emphasis is paid on the sound than the visuals. It motivates us to imagine and connect with it on a one-on-one basis.
How did you conceptualise sound in the movie? Did you have any set plan how you wanted it to be?
Yes, I believed that sound had to slow down the film. It had to quieten the displays on the screen. It also gives a lot of food for thought. The audio of the water of the lake, the folk songs, and the voice have an overall calming effect. Since the visuals and the content is screaming on screen, the sound had to balance the effect. Also, the rhythm of my city is like that—laid back, serene, and calm.
There is a voice-over put at different places throughout the narrative of the film. It is a beautiful prose which has no direct relation to the on-screen display. What inspired you to include it in your piece?
The writer of the film, Manzoor Ahtesham, is one of my close acquaintances and I spent a lot of time reading in his house. This one time, while I was going through a lot of his diary entries. I picked out a diary entry and asked if I could use that in my film. There is no logic to it. I used it because I liked the way it haunted me.
Filming this movie must have been a fractured business with the sound design, voice over, and visuals. You also consistently kept it non-linear. Was it made by taking conscious shots or was it put together on the edit?
It is definitely a film on the edit. I first wanted it to be a historical film so I started off by taking interviews. But I always think in episodes and excerpts. I tried to engage with the sound and image. I was never interested in structure.
We had cuts after cuts where we wanted to replete everything of information and reduce it be a feeling. The documentary is an experiment to shed off the small details of the plot and provide it with a self-sustaining emotion. Undoubtedly, it was challenging which is why we went through to 80 odd cuts. We kept changing to arrive at something which feels right.
The movie aims to spurt a feel of nostalgia in the room. It portrays visuals of the ruins, the Begams and their lost royalty, some of the exotic places like Chess Gully, and the writer. What made you have a direct reference to Begam in the title?
The film addresses the fact of the lost royalty in the city of Bhopal. I love the idea of its past and I find it very romantic in my head. Also, the essence of Bhopal is very effeminate. There is romance in the images shown in the film. I believe this is a quality of a woman, that’s why the title.
You have studied at premium media colleges of the country—FTII, Pune and Xavier’s Institute of Communications, Mumbai. How have these two places shaped your opinions/style in a particular way which contributes to the choice of work you aim to do now?
Back then my sensibilities were weak. In fact, after studying at FTII, I cooped myself in my house to read and watch loads of content. I was disillusioned with the idea of history and how it was looked at. I wanted to look at it the way I perceive and understand it. It was then that my sensibilities started developing as a filmmaker.
Today, I work with a fantastic technical team. My cameraman, sound designer, and editor are geniuses. I had a lot of collaboration on the way. And you tell each other where you are going wrong. I was never the captain of the ship. You never are, especially if you are working with creative people.
Have you ever felt discriminated against on the grounds of gender while casting or producing a film?
No. I feel very strengthened about it. I never look at it negatively. Of course, there are times that you need to face some difficulties being a woman, but one should never stop. Let people think I am incapable of the job; I will do my work and prove them wrong.
In this age of technology, where free content is available at the click of a mouse, are you apprehensive about piracy as a filmmaker? What is your take on its effects?
It’s an unfortunate situation, and even a lot of my work gets duplicated, but I think the reach of a film increases manifolds through this. There are a lot of people who ask me for an online link for my movie, and I provide it to them. It is because, at the end of the day, my work is being accessed by a broad audience. I’ll be happy if I am influencing someone to go and make a film. That is the ultimate aim. On the other hand, if somebody uses my work and puts their name on it, then that’s a serious offence.
What are some key insights for any aspiring individuals who are eager to join the film industry? What is your advice for them?
I think you have to be fierce and fearless with your ideas. Try and understand that this is a medium of expression of what you believe in. Don’t let the technicalities and standard conventions get the better of you. If you feel like it, do it.
In the present moment, money is also not an issue. I have seen some excellent work which is shot using only a smartphone. The only key is to find your voice and sight. It is essential to get it out of your system rather than contain it for some other time. So, go for it.
Picture Credits: Bhavya Joshi for The Manipal Journal