Cannes Film Festival
25th La Cinef Selection 2022
May 5th, 2022
Filmmaker Pratham Khurana has been intrigued by death all his life. Nauha was inspired by the relationship he shared with one of his very close friend’s father and taking care of him while he was ill.
Hi Pratham, thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been keeping during these strange times?
Thank you for having me! I am not sure how I’ve been keeping up honestly, haven’t thought much about it. I’ve been one of those privileged ones who didn’t have to face the realities of the pandemic, but people that are close to me and the ones I love unfortunately have had the first-hand experience of the negatives. Honestly, I see it as a way of living (at least for now) and that we have to adapt to it like we adapt to the other changes in our lives.
How have you kept yourself motivated?
I have honestly been trying to surround myself with as much life, love and art as I can. Creating art through different mediums (plays & music) gives me comfort and motivates me to create more stuff of my own. Talking to people about their perspectives on different things keeps my brain going and creative energy flowing.
How much has your experience at Whistling Woods International help to guide your approach and filmmaking style?
A lot actually. Whistling Woods International has changed me a lot as an artist. I was a completely different boy with different sets of ideologies and learnings regarding filmmaking. Even though I still don’t watch as many films as I should be, I was introduced to international cinema only at the institute. I found my calling in terms of films there and I think I’ll always be grateful to the institute for that.
What would you say have ben the most valuable lessons you have taken from your time at Whistling Woods International?
I remember being told in one of our first classes in university by our professor Mr Somnath Sen that a lot of children will realize that filmmaking might not be for them and they’ll leave. But the ones that stay, have to have trust in their professors and the university. I don’t know if it was the way he said it or if that statement was in me all along, but that is what I did. I surrendered and learnt the importance and relevance of a guru- my mentors that I later found in Mr Abhijit Mazumdar & Mr Paresh Kamdar.
Congratulations on Nauha being selected for the 25th La Cinef, what does it mean to you to have your film part of this year's festival?
Thank you so much. It’s still surreal whenever I see that our film is part of a festival that we didn’t even think about while making the film because it was too huge to even dream of. As much as I am grateful to all the people who helped me achieve this vision directly as part of the crew or indirectly as family and friends, there’s still a lot of confusion since it is something I did not see coming. So I am navigating my way through it, trying to understand myself in a situation like this and making sure that I don’t take a step which is not correct.
Can you tell me how Nauha came about, what inspired your screenplay?
I’ve been intrigued about death all my life. Thinking about the concept of death is something that comes very naturally to me. But I’ve also never found answers around death, or maybe the answers that I’ve found are not what I want to agree with. Indirectly or directly, there has always been this underlying theme of death in the stories that I have written. I was made aware of this before the ideation of Nauha by one of my friends and that is when I decided to write a lengthier script having this as one of the primary themes. However, the story was inspired by the relationship I shared with one of my very close friend’s father and taking care of him while he was ill. The screenplay changed a lot over time, as did the characters but the crux remained the same.
How close do you like to keep to your screenplay once you start filming, do you allow yourself or your actors much flexibility?
A lot of what I do on set is planned but the part that I enjoy the most, if it won’t be so much to say as the reason why I make films also- is the process. So it keeps changing depending on the type of treatment I am giving and the amount of budget I have and who I am as a person.
When working on a film like Nauha how important is the collaborative nature of filmmaking?
The journey of making a film is a very long journey. A 15 minute output is typically made using months of inputs which is why it is extremely important for the process to be collaborative, where new ideas come every now and then, leading the film to grow and forming an identity of itself. A film made with not much collaboration can make the output restrictive, which is something I am scared of.
In fact, a big reason why the film had its own language throughout, even though all of us were away for almost a year during the pandemic is because it remained so personal. The story is so human that it demands its makers to relate to it even before they do anything for the film. The idea of loss is something we all have dealt with. Some have lost their pets, some have lost their family members or maybe even a bar of chocolate that melts and drips off its wrapper on a sunny day. If it wasn’t for Nauha and its relatable theme, I wouldn’t understand the importance of having a collaborative environment.
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
It’s a passed down dream of my Dad’s. Not exactly directing or writing films, but my father was always a film fanatic and would have loved to be a part of the film industry and the art that comes with it. His mother (my grandmother) would collect money and make him skip school for him to watch films and that is a ritual that he followed when I and my sister were born. He would sneak us out, make us skip school and not tell my mother. The first film I ever saw in a theatre was Bluffmaster (a Hindi language film) when my mother had gone to her hometown and papa made us skip school to watch the film. How could I have done anything else apart from filmmaking?
Is there any one area of filmmaking you’re really keen to explore more?
In a conversation about the universe that I heard recently in a podcast (TRS Clips), the interviewer asked the interviewee “What’s out there in the 3/4th?” to which Swami Mukundananda (the interviewee) replied,“It’s indescribable because our words can only compare with the glories that we see here”. I feel this answer fits perfectly here as well. There isn’t any one area of filmmaking that I’d want to explore. Even if I’d want to, I feel it would be coming from a dishonest place. Only when I make something in the future that people deem as ‘different’, will it automatically become an “area”, and that is when you and I will know.
"The idea of loss is something we all have dealt with. Some have lost their pets, some have lost their family members or maybe even a bar of chocolate that melts and drips off its wrapper on a sunny day."
How much would you say your style and approach to your films has changed since your debut short?
Nauha is very similar to the first short that I made in terms of its pacing and the emotionality it has to offer. However, when I compare these two, I see a more mature director behind the camera who knows what he wants, which is very little yet particular. However, the earlier Pratham was much more naïve in the way that it affected the film only in good ways. That naivety somehow made the film more alive. My approach however has changed a lot. I view things from a very different lens, both as an artist and a technician. I now know better how different aspects of Mise-en-Scene can affect the viewer and I approach scripts with a balanced eye for both art and craft.
Is there any advice or tips you would offer a fellow writer/director?
I don’t think I’ve reached a place where I can offer a tip or advice to a fellow filmmaker. All I can talk about is my experience and I think I would love to get back to my earlier, more confident filmmaker self who used to wear those blinders that horses wear while working on a project. I’d like to be more unapologetic, if that makes sense.
And finally, what do you hope your audiences will take away from Nauha?
I hope that the audiences leave the theatre or shut their laptops off carrying a comforting feeling but not something heavy. Feeling bittersweet maybe is the right word. As long as the audience wants to be quiet for a while, give a thought to what they just saw, open themselves to vulnerability and take a look at what all life has to offer, I think I am doing the job of leaving behind my physical footprints in the way I’d want to.