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A dialogue with Elkunchwar

At the just commenced 15th Mumbai Film Festival, Mahesh Elkunchwar is all set to leave audiences speechless with the film Monologue directed by Vaibhav Abnave. Situated somewhere between a feature and a documentary, the 28-year-old playwright and filmmaker has gone on to explore one of the most influential Indian modern dramatists through Elkunchwar’s works.

Maunraag
A film still from Maunraag

Recently Karnad, Elkunchwar’s contemporary, remarked in a publication that Elkunchwar’s writings are all about silence. Perhaps that’s why Abnave devised a single-voiced approach where the playwright echoes his own characters and writings.

Mahesh Elkunchwar
Mahesh Elkunchwar

“The idea was co-conceived while reading Sculpting in Time and watching Andrei Tarkovsky’s films, while conversing with Aanand Chabukswar (a renowned drama therapist and theatre practitioner and also a co-script writer on this project) and Dharmakirti Sumant over the last few years. It gradually grew out of questions we were asking ourselves: What is the function of art? Why do we create? What is the relation between our creation and us? Is creation an end in itself?” remarks Abanve. Inspired by Satah Se Uthata Aadmi by Mani Kaul and 32 short films about Glen Gould, the JNU doctoral researcher concocted the idea of a crossbreed.

Director Vaibhav Abnave
Director Vaibhav Abnave

“It is a crossbreed of literature-theatre and cinema,” replies the doctoral candidate at Jawaharlal Nehru University. “The toughest challenge is how to translate the spatio-temporality from one to the other. The script team attempted to translate the literary images into a scenario, which could be ‘staged’.

Cinematographer Vikram Amladi then transformed the space / time of the theatrical into cinematic along with the sound designer Hitesh Chaurasia and music composer Benedict Taylor who opened up the invisible sound dimension to the piece,” informs Abnave. Experimental and pushing the boundaries much like Elkunchwar himself, who turned 74 in early October this year, Abnave’s film is a must-watch for art aficionados of all sorts.

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