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What does it take to create Indian content for the world? Filmmaker pair Pan Nalin and Gaurav Dhingra spill the secret

Pan Nalin — the versatile brain behind Wagale Ki Duniya — meets us at the Versova office he shares with co-founder of Jungle Book Entertainment, Gaurav Dhingra. Their first venture, was the 2013 documentary Faith Connections inspired by the Maha Kumbh Mela held in Allahabad.
In 2014, they joined hands with Canadian producer Fred Fuchs for the television series, Greeks, which follows the 326 BC Indian invasion of Alexander. Still under development, the budget for season one is around $30-40 million. For now, however, Nalin and Dhingra are excited about a project closer home — their first full-length Bollywood film, Angry Indian Goddesses, which will premiere at TIFF in 12 days. Excerpts from an interview:

Gaurav Dhingra and Pan Nalin started Jungle Entertainment in 2013. PIC/PRADEEP DHIVAR
Gaurav Dhingra and Pan Nalin started Jungle Entertainment in 2013. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Q. How did your paths cross?
Dhingra: Having worked in the production department for Rang De Basanti and as line producer for Delhi 6, I met Pan in 2006 on the sets of The Valley of Flowers, where I was production manager. After the film, we went our separate ways only to reconnect again. That is when we realised that we have similar visions when it comes to filmmaking.

Q. What’s keeping you busy?
Dhingra: We are working on Beyond the Known World, a film co-produced by the New Zealand High Commission; an English TV series with Fuchs based on Alexander the Great’s India invasion. And, among other things, we have developed content for Saadat Hasan Manto’s Toba Tek Singh and an Indo-Chinese martial arts film.

Q. Why choose television?
Nalin: The production quality of television in the UK and US is far better than even Hollywood films. Many mainstream scriptwriters are writing for television as it gives them more scope. Also, people are looking towards the East for stories and there are hardly any tales from India in the market. We pitched a few ideas and Greeks got selected. It is a fictional account based on real incidents. We have done a lot of research to make sure that the content is not just good, but great.

Q. Speaking of content, was it tricky filming Faith Connections, considering the Kumbh Mela is well documented?
Nalin: (laughs) The Kumbh is not just about a mass gathering, the holy dip, and the abundant photo-ops. It is about real stories of real people — all bound by faith...religious or otherwise. From a mother who has lost her child in true ’80s Bollywood style, to a pant-shirt baba, to a 10-year-old who either wants to become a sadhu or join the mafia, the characters we found intrigued us to no end. Eventually, I had to call in more crew and equipment. We just wanted to tell the stories of a few people we found interesting.

Q. How did you manage to hold on to your camera?
Nalin: There were police and security guards at every inch. But, they had areas earmarked for the media and that caused us some problem, as we wanted to shoot certain people and not politicians taking holy dips. In order to roam around freely with our equipment, we had to convince authorities of our purpose and get relevant permissions. We had eight people in three separate teams following the characters we thought would have a story, and we’d often lose them in the crowd.
Gaurav: Even the basic amenities, which for us included battery chargers for our cameras, were hard to find. We had to keep local ‘runners’ who would run back and forth from where we were shooting to a place where we had kept a generator to get the batteries charged.

Q. What prompted Angry Indian Goddesses?
Dhingra: Women-centric stories are seldom told in the right manner. Even today, a film is called Mardaani...as in ‘like a man’. In Gulab Gang, women kick and fight like men. Why can’t women be women and still have their own film? We wanted to make a film where they are in their own space. Our girls are no Jhansi Ki Ranis, just girls…albeit a bit angry.
Nalin: While auditioning, we realised that women can be b**chy about one another, and yet stick together like glue. Their ‘buddyness’ is different from the let’s-forget-the-world-and-have-beer friendship that guys share.

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