National award-winning director NageshKukunoor on festival favourite, Dhanak, and his Rajasthan connect
A MAGICAL journey that takes you all the way back to the joys of childhood— that’s how director Nagesh Kukunoor describes his film, Dhanak. Having participated in 43 international film festivals, the film—which won the Crystal Bear Grand Prix for best children’s film last year, at the 65th Berlin International Festival—is finally hitting cinemas in India this month. To be released as a movie and a book (authored by Anushka Ravishankar), it follows the extraordinary journey of two children from Rajasthan, one of them blind, on a mission to meet their favourite star, Shah Rukh Khan.
For those who have followed Hyderabad-based Kukunoor’s previous directorial ventures, Rajasthan is a familiar landscape. “I am drawn to the desert. I think it provides the perfect dramatic set up, as if anything could happen there. In fact, the whole idea of this movie was sparked by the image of Chotu and Pari (played by Krrish Chhabaria and Hetal Gada) and walking through the desert,” begins the 49-year-old. When asked about being labelled a serious filmmaker, he says that it’s pointless to tag a movie sad or serious just because it deals with a socially-relevant topic. For him, the differently-abled are also living their lives, just like everyone else. “That is one of the reasons why this movie takes place on the road. I am also trying to reconstruct the India from my past through Dhanak, where people were kind and helpful—a place where children could walk around fearlessly,” he shares.
Dealing with both a road trip and blindness was tough, confesses the award-winning director. And since films often resort to exaggeration to portray disability, Kukunoor admits that he and Chhabria, the blind child actor, worked hard to break the stereotype. “In many ways, this movie is a simple, lighthearted entertainer. It’s about being able to look at the world through a child’s perspective, blind or otherwise,” he states. But it also took him a year to get everything right. Talking about the India release, he says, “For an off-beat movie like this, exposure and critical acclaim is important.” As for future plans, he is vague. “It’s not an active process where you follow a step-by-step plan. Sometimes certain images and ideas reverberate with you and then you take it forward,” he concludes.
Dhanak premiers on June 17.
— Arya P Dinesh