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Bagging the groom!

Filmmaker Sushil Rajpal talks to Anuj Kumar about his National award-winning “Antardwand”, and how it mirrors reality

CHAINED BY PRACTICES “ Antardwand” deals with groom kidnapping prevalent in some districts of Bihar

Socially relevant, small budget cinema is proving to be the flavour of the season. New names and faces are making their way to the marquee. After “Udaan” and “Peepli Live” generated more than the expected buzz, it is now the turn of Sushil Rajpal's “Antardwand” , which released recently.

The film is based on groom kidnapping, colloquially called pakaruah shaadi, in Bihar. Inspired by a real-life incident, where his close friend had to go through the bizarre practice, Rajpal says groom kidnapping has got a degree of social sanction, because in 80 per cent of the cases, the boy and the girl resign to their fate. “That's why people are ready to take the risk.”

Portrayal of reality

Rajpal says it is mostly IAS officers and Government engineers who are targeted, because the private sector has yet to reach Bihar in a big way. “What happens is that the girl's father targets a boy of a well-to-do family. If the groom's family declines or demands an unusually high dowry, the girl's father gets the boy kidnapped, forces him to marry his daughter and ensures that the boy and the girl spend a night together. The boy is virtually trapped for life. He can't get divorce till the girl gives her consent. If he pursues the case, complex legal battles on maintenance and rights over property crop up. If the boy has inherited property, his wife automatically gets a right over it. More often than not, the guy compromises, and everything looks normal on the surface.”

Rajpal says that in such cases it is the girl who suffers the most, as she hardly has any outlet to air her emotions. “Whether deserted or divorced, her life becomes a living hell. Her father believes he has done a great job for his daughter, but in most cases, he only ensures her slow death.”

The filmmaker says dowry is one of the biggest causes, but egos also play a part in such kidnappings, as in most cases, the girl's family is also financially strong and politically connected. Rajpal says the film doesn't take sides as his intention is to bring out reality. “I have treated it as an entertainer; otherwise, the common man won't be able to handle the seriousness of the issue.”

It helps that Rajpal hails from Bihar. Interested in photography from college, he graduated from FTII with specialisation in cinematography. A known name in advertising, he was noticed when he shot Pradeep Sarkar's “Laaga Chunari Mein Daag”.

We generally expect visually-rich subjects from cinematographer-turned-directors. So, why did he decide to opt for something different? “I wanted to make a content-driven film. I shot in real-life situations and cast actors who could speak with a local accent.”

The film stars Raj Singh Choudhary (of ‘Gulal' fame) and FTII graduate Swati Sen in the roles, with Vinay Pathak and Akhilendra Mishra lending support.

The film was ready two years ago, but came into the limelight when it won the National Award for the best film on social issues. “A doctor friend of mine in the U.S. saw it, and said that it should get a theatrical release. He donated some money, and the process started. The National Award helped PVR come on board, but the real help came from Anurag Kashyap, Imtiaz Ali and Raj Kumar Hirani, who vouched for the film.”

The trend of established filmmakers coming to the support of an emerging filmmaker is healthy, isn't it? “Yes, particularly when they all make different kinds of cinema. I was lucky. Even if somebody has the best of intentions, you must remember that these are very busy people and it is difficult to take time out to watch and then promote a film.”

Even as we talk to Rajpal, he is busy collating funds so that his Rs.1.5-crore film gets the desired publicity. “It is one of the rare films where the publicity budget has exceeded the shooting budget!” he laughs.

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