Avinash Arun Dhaware trained to be a cinematographer at FTII, where he was a year junior to actors in training Rajkummar Rao, Vijay Varma, and Jaideep Ahlawat. The latter was the star of the first season of Prime Video’s Paatal Lok, one of the first streaming shows during the pandemic that became a cultural sensation. “We thought it would be a niche show,” recalls Dhaware. He couldn’t enjoy that success because of the pandemic but the appreciation for his second feature film, Three Of Us, also starring Ahlawat, has made up for it. A delicate, sensitive film about a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s who returns to her hometown in the Konkan region, Three Of Us features elegant performances from Shefali Shah, Ahlawat and Swanand Kirkire. The film was ready for release for a year but took its time to make its way to theatres. “Day by day, it is becoming difficult to release independent films in theatres. Streaming platforms now want only those films that have done well commercially having burnt their fingers with their initial spending,” Dhaware says. But he is not one to complain. “I have great admiration for big-budget filmmakers such as SS Rajamouli, Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar and Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The pressures on them are tremendous, yet they are brave enough to make films on an epic scale,” says Dhaware. The director, whose debut film in Marathi, Killa, won much acclaim in 2014, spent his childhood in Talegaon near Pune, and started assisting filmmakers at 16. Having shot Disney+Hotstar’s School of Lies, he is now working on the post-production of the second season of Paatal Lok, which he promises looks good. “Making a film is much easier than a series, where you have to shoot six to seven pages of the script every day. A show can take upto two-and-a-half years, whereas a film doesn’t take more than a year. The real struggle is after the film is shot, to ensure it is watched,” he says.
The Crooked CEO
Call it a sign of the times, but corporates are the new crooks in Hindi cinema, replacing the politician, police, and even the mafia. “India has the best ecosystem for our project with its raw materials and cheap labour,” says Kalee Gaekwad, the fourth-largest arms dealer in the world by his own admission, in Jawan when selling India as a shiny, new destination to an international conglomerate of businessmen. “For that to happen, the government needs to be ours,” says Gaekwad’s character, played with flourish by Vijay Sethupathi. In Netflix’s dark Kaala Paani, it is a multinational corporation that is cutting a swathe through the traditional habitat in Andaman and Nicobar Islands without appropriate clearances. And now The Railway Men, a brilliant new series from Yash Raj Films, soon to be aired on Netflix, revisits one of the biggest corporate crimes in the world, the Union Carbide gas leak in Bhopal which killed 150,000 people, according to one estimate. We’ve always known of the extent of the ecological and human disaster the gas leak caused, but The Railway Men brings it home in a graphic and meticulous way. Some of the documentary evidence of the leak was used in Disney+Hotstar’s medical thriller Human, but the depth of the narrative in The Railway Men really nails the US corporation. At a time when the media is getting a beating for being compliant, it is good to see recognition for the efforts of the late independent journalist Rajkumar Keswani, on whom Sunny Hinduja’s character is based. Keswani wrote three articles on safety lapses at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal in the local Hindi weekly newspaper Rapat in 1982, two years before the world’s worst industrial tragedy: “Bachaiye huzoor is shahar ko bachaiye (Save please, save this city).” No one paid any attention. The series focuses on the efforts of some fine officers of the Indian Railways to save those affected by the leak on December 2, 1984, despite orders from the top to divert all trains away from Bhopal Junction.
Scene and Heard
The other side of the Emergency is something that hasn’t been explored enough in Indian cinema. So there’s considerable excitement for Summer of ’77, a film that Sudhir Mishra will be shooting in January in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, which captures the resistance that led to the formation of the Janata Party government. Given it’s from the maker of Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (2003), based on the Naxalite movement, the expectations are high.