New Delhi: Even as her latest film ‘Zwigato’ has found a permanent place in the core collection in the library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, actor-director Nandita Das laments that it is a pity that ‘smaller’ films are not getting enough releases in cinemas.
Despite the fact that for the past 15 years or so, the participation of independent films made in India has increased dramatically at major international festivals, Das feels the economics of running a theatre has become quite difficult with the advent of OTT platforms.
“Only very big budget films, which are more of spectacles, can afford to be distributed in theatres. We as filmmakers would want our films to be on the big screens where the audience commits their time completely to watch a film. It is a unique, collective, and immersive experience,” says the actor-director who has acted in over 40 films in 10 languages and made films like ‘Firaaq’, ‘Manto’ and now ‘Zwigato’.
It was during Covid that her last film was conceived as a short one, but after being nudged by Sameer Nair (CEO, Applause Entertainment), who was to produce it, she began to delve deeper. “The research process for the film took about two years. We gathered facts as well as personal stories by interviewing many riders. Their struggles, dilemmas, fears, and aspirations helped me understand their world closely. We also spoke to ex-employees and senior managers of food delivery companies. Ultimately, it is a human story and that is why I think people connected with it,” says Das.
Stressing that she was surprised to receive a mail from the Library of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences asking for the Zwigato script, the writer-filmmaker, who is not a trained writer and ‘enacts’ every dialogue she writes in her head, adds, “So, the script is considered worthy by a discerning and credible body is surely an honour. After screening the film to so many different audiences, it is the icing on the cake that the film has a universal resonance.”
Talking about the film’s release on OTT platforms, she says it is not that they do not want it, just that economics has to work for both — the platforms and the investors. “Commerce is a reality and unfortunately cannot be ignored. There are many who are waiting for an OTT release so I hope ‘Zwigato’ finds a good home very soon and the film can reach as many people as possible.”
As the conversation veers towards the content being pushed on OTT platforms in current times and she says there are many who find amazing films and hidden gems of various genres. Stressing that “we, as audiences, are complicit” in the kinds of content that get produced and distributed, the actor-director adds, “It is only when more of us watch independent films and unique stories, that more such films will be made. Basically, the more the demand, the more will be the supply so we cannot absolve ourselves of our responsibility in shaping the content that we are lured into.”
Some who instinctively anchor towards projects she relates to, Das looks for a good script that resonates with her sensibilities, interests, and concerns. “For me, a director who can translate that into an interesting cinematic experience and a role that is layered and believable is equally important. Often, all these things do not come together as there are many factors involved in filmmaking. But all I can say is that I chose films for the right reasons,” she says.
Das, who has always enjoyed doing different things does not see any reason why one has to make a choice between acting and direction. “I have never really planned my life, even though I believe that every choice you make leads you to the next crossroad. Each form of expression challenges and excites me in different ways. But the direction, while far more consuming, brings together my various interests and passions. Both have different challenges and thrills. The experience is fairly incomparable. So, I hope I never have to choose between the two,” concludes Das who is currently working on a film story and will soon be seen in a web series.