In March 2012 when Nitin Kakkar was shooting his debut feature film, Filmistaan, in the hot terrains of Bikaner, little did he expect that a year later, his movie would bag the National Award for best feature film in Hindi. The movie, which is about how a wannabe actor, who is kidnapped by a terrorist group, strikes friendship with his Pakistani captors, thanks to their common love for films, has not only been screened at several international films festivals but also bagged awards. An excited Kakkar says, “Winning the National Award is the biggest high. It is always good to win acclaim at international festivals, but gaining appreciation on home ground is a different feeling.”
Kakkar, who has helmed television shows like Crime Patrol and CID, always nurtured a dream to direct movies. In 2004, he worked as an assistant director on a short film, Black Freedom, based on Sadat Hasan Manto’s stories. The 37-year-old first-time filmmaker says, “While striving to realise my dream of directing a film, I had to helm TV shows to ensure that I had a steady source of income. But that was a good training ground for me, as in television, you have to work in tough conditions and adhere to strict deadlines.”
His passion for cinema coupled with the ongoing Indo-Pak crisis prompted him to merge the two topics and pen Filmistaan’s story and screenplay. He was also influenced by the comments on MTV’s Coke Studio and used them as dialogues. He says, “I was touched by how people from India and Pakistan had a common love for music, while reading the comments on Coke Studio,
and decided to use a few of them as dialogues.”
Kakkar was also clear that he wouldn’t cast any well-known actors for his debut film. He explains, “Filmistaan is about a common man’s perspective so I wanted to cast unknown faces. Also, I believe in actors and not stars.”
Quiz him about the challenges and he quips, “Every step was a challenge. I wanted to shoot the film on 35 mm and not on digital camera, as Filmistaan was my tribute to cinema. It was difficult to find a financier.”
Filmistaan, which was shot on a shoestring budget, had a World Premiere at the Busan International Film Festival and was later screened at the Mumbai International Film Festival, Kerala International Film Festival, where it won the best debut director award, Gotenburg International Film Festival and Jaipur International Film Festival, where it won the Best Debut Director and Upcoming Feature Film Awards.
Despite winning so many accolades, Kakkar couldn’t find a distributor for six months. He says, “All corporate houses were interested in a film with stars. Finally, Shringar Films has taken up Filmistaan and the movie will release in June.”
Kakkar, who is now ready with two scripts, confesses that working on his debut film has been a learning experience. “ I have learnt how to believe in my dreams despite adverse circumstances. I want to make small-budget movies and am looking for people who want to change the world. Cinema is the strongest medium that can influence minds,” he signs off.