Imagine there are no countries…

It was pouring heavily that afternoon as we started our drive from Mumbai to Bengaluru. The announcement in the car radio was warning of possible shut down of the city as there was a strong possibility of thunders shower coupled with the high tide, which was expected to hit the shore of the city soon. We were thanking our stars as we were expected to be out of the city limit by that time…but we thanked our stars too soon! We took a snacking break amidst the downpour at the Panvel unit of the McDonalds outlet. And while re-boarding the car, in a hurry to shelter our daughter Mou’ from the rain, we managed to lock her in the car with the key inside!

clinik-bannerPanic set in as we were evaluating different options but that’s when we met the first of the Good Samaritans of this journey. A gentleman who had stopped at the outlet took it on himself to get the nearest locksmith, and once the car door was open, when I wanted to pay the guy off- realized that I’m not carrying enough small change. To top it, he even refused to accept the reimbursement from me in spite of my repeated request!!  In the commotion as we restarted our journey, it took us a while to realize that we forgot to even ask the gentleman’s name while thanking him profusely!! Thank you sir, wherever you are…and stay blessed!

Now you may want to know, why we were on the road to Bengaluru amidst that downpour. Well for the start of this story we have to travel couple of months further back.

I was excited to receive the mail from CLINIK Kathmandu informing me of the selection of my proposed feature film ‘Xhoixobote Dhemalite..’ (Rainbow Fields) in their film lab along with 8 other projects from 5 South Asian Countries, and was really looking forward to the experience of spending a creatively satisfying week in the tiny Himalayan Country. CLINIK “is a script and project incubation lab with a special focus on young individuals and their projects, catered to support storytellers working with cinema (fiction) to enable difficult stories to have a chance. It aims to bridge capacities between individual artists from 9 countries in South Asia to support independent films”. It is an arm of the Kathmandu based NGO-Docskool. However, destiny had some other plan… the very next day after receiving my confirmation; Nepal was rocked by the massive earthquake! I had no heart even to enquire about the fate of the script/film lab with the organizers once I heard of the terrible tragedy – it seemed like such an insensitive thing to do at that time…

But, as the saying goes – ‘you can destroy a man, but not defeat him’. Kshitiz Adhiraj, founding director of Docskool, and his team once again proved the correctness of the saying by refusing to bow down and embarked upon creating their own destiny… Almost a month later, I received another mail informing of their determination of going ahead with the lab albeit in a different venue- Bengaluru. Obviously, there was no question of not attending the lab from my side! And after 18hours of beautiful drive through the monsoon soaked roads, we reached the venue of the lab in Bengaluru on 20th of June.

I had eight wonderful people from five countries as my fellow participants in the CLINIK lab to start with.  Two young filmmakers from Nepal, AbhiManyu and Prawin had come to the lab with stories rooted in their land… Sri Lanka’s Udara  Abeysundara’s immediate claim to fame in the lab was his unruly, curly mop and his hobby – ‘magic tricks’ with playing cards – before we get to know more about the story he wanted to tell. Two female Pakistani filmmakers – Iram and Saima – did enough to break the stereotype associated… and besides me there were two other filmmakers from India – Rigzin Kalon from Ladakh, who   brought along with him the simplicity of the mountains as a part of his nature and Arvind Kamath from Bengaluru itself, who become a close acquaintance once he was convinced that my Facebook profile picture with sunglasses need not necessarily reflect my overall personality! Our daughter Mou’ beat me hands down in popularity amongst the participants in the dining hall. Not that there was any complaint from my side – especially considering ‘ Xhoihobote Dhemalite’  (Rainbow Fields) itself is an ode to childhood.

ClinikWe also had three mentors from 3 different countries – well known film critic Meenakshi Shedde from India besides director/producer Michael Henrichs from Germany and script writer, director/ producer from Italy Giacomo Durzi. As the lab progressed, producer Kartikeya N. Singh from India, Cinemart (Rotterdam film festival)’s  representative Lucas Rosant  from France  and Ms Ananda Scepka of Locarno film festival (Switzerland) also joined us as mentors along with couple more participants -my executive producer Sethumadhavan.N  and Arvind’s executive producer Anand Varadaraj. In short, we were about a dozen people from some eight countries who came together in that oasis for a week, discussing ideas, taking inputs and looking for ways to make each other’s projects – and yes, our respective films – better.

The ambience of the lab was almost like the film school that I’d never had the privilege to attend… besides our own film’s we genuinely took interest in each other’s project and gave suggestions whenever we could think of any, to make it better… encouraged, no small way perhaps, by the fact that we all are coming together from such diverse background and the probable funding sources of each of the projects are also equally diverse – we are definitely not competing for the same purse. In other words, we didn’t have to beat one another to win the race… all of us were competing against one’s own self , cheered by everybody else… Aah! Such a perfect race!

Taste of the pudding is in the eating. All of us are well aware of the fact that regardless of how enjoyable the lab has been, the true worth of the same would be judged by how many of these projects end up being translated to good, honest films. And going by our experience, we are pretty confident that majority of them will…  However, it is also true that many a times the journey itself is equally important as the destination. Going by that yardstick, CLINIK 2015 is already a huge success – at least in the minds of the dozen of us fortunate enough to be its participant!

On the last day of the lab, we all were getting emotional at the prospect of ending the dream and our inevitable return to the real, cruel world. And we all were asked to give our own two bits about the adventure we all had. Looking at the roomful of acquaintances from around the world who had threatened to turn into friends during our brief sojourn, I couldn’t help ‘imagining’ a world free of man-made barriers…



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