Unlike every Friday, this was rather an unusual movie watching experience. The multiplex was replaced by a plush business hotel. The projector abandoned its ‘Gold’ seat position and walked the extra mile to watch the film closely, from a vantage point above the ‘Silver’ seat. The audience comprised of not strangers, but friends, acquaintances, and Social Network friends (Often putting one in an embarrassing situation of not being able to recognize them despite interacting with them quite often).
The best part about the film screening was that the filmmaker was the host and a director was the plot and the screening was followed by an interactive Q&A session, with the director ready to brave the brickbats (of course, there weren’t any) and receive the bouquets (umpteen).
Well, it was indeed a Baawra (crazy) experience to watch Jaideep Varma’s ‘Baavra Mann’ – a documentary on director Sudhir Misra (the ‘h’ has gone, watch the film to know why it’s an idiotic topic to stress upon). Right from its first frame, the director makes no bones about not glorifying Sudhir Misra and sinks his teeth into the eccentricities of the maverick filmmaker.
What begins with a ferryboat ride of Sudhir Misra (busy digging his nose) along with a bunch of unkempt fishermen, lands us to the director’s mind, vision, and world in such seamless manner that you don’t actually realize when you reached there. Once you get into the zone of the director pooh-poohing the ways of the world and the way our film industry functions, you suddenly have this feeling of déjà vu, though the closest you might have come to the film industry is getting an autograph signed by a celebrity. Hence, the byline – A film on Sudhir Misra and other Indian realities.
There’s a scene where Sudhir Misra visits his hometown Lucknow and we see a dilapidated building which is surprisingly introduced to us as an ‘college’. A bunch of students are asked to name few contemporary writers and they’re quick to quip with a ‘Chetan Bhagat’, much to the disappointment of Sudhir Misra. He reflexively enquires the Head Warden about the presence of something called ‘library’ in the ‘college’. The Head Warden, as if already prepared for the answer, replies that there’s a library but nobody goes there anymore, thanks to our generation where film actors and directors have become the role models and heroes for the youth. “Asli naayak to sahityakaar hi hote hai na?” muses an old man from the ‘college’. We just couldn’t help nodding in acquiescence.
The structure of Jaideep Varma’s documentary, ‘Baavra Mann’ is that there is no structure. The only rules he abides by, is there aren’t any. He lets the director ramble, reminisce, rant, muse, abuse, mourn, reminisce, flaunt, conceal, reveal, and share his life and times with unabashed honesty, unbridled realism, and a dash of dark humour – essential ingredients of any Sudhir Misra film, be it as a screenwriter of ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron (1983), ‘Mohan Joshi Hazir Ho’ (1984), and ‘Khamosh’ (1985), or a director of ‘Yeh Woh Manzil To Nahin (1987), ‘Mein Zinda Hoon’ (unreleased 1988 film), to the celebrated ‘Dharavi’ (1992), ‘Chameli’ (2003), ‘Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi’ (2005), ‘Yeh Saali Zindagi’ (2011), to ‘Inkaar’ (2013).
‘Baavra Mann’ chronicles this journey not only from the perspective of Sudhir Misra, but also veterans like Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Kundan Shah (the ‘Sudhir-Vinod’ names in ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron’ was inspired by ‘Sudhir Misra and Vinod Chopra), Pritish Nandy, Deepti Naval, actors like Kay Kay Menon, Chitrangada Singh, Soha Ali Khan, Arjun Rampal, lyricist Swanand Kirkire, composer Shantanu Moitra, cinematographer Sachin Kumar Krishnan, Rahul Ram from the band, Indian Ocean, and like the Aakashwaani would like to put it, ‘aur unke bahut saare saathi’.
“I don’t know whether my film will ever find this kind of large screening,” said the director Jaideep Varma during the event. Well, all we could say is it surely deserves much more and will go a long way in the years to come. Thanks Mr. Jaideep Varma for taking us up, close and personal to a director as well as a film industry we’ve always grown up watching and admiring, the flaws and lacunas notwithstanding. On a parting note, here’s what the director had to say about the event:
“Staggered by the response at Baroda for Baavra Mann screening. Almost 500 people of all age groups. Not a single mobile phone rang during the show. Most of them staying for the Q&A at almost 10 pm. And one interesting question after another, highly stimulating session. I know Baavra Mann will never have a better screening anywhere but this is a pretty good standard to set. Thanks to Harsh Purohit and all at Cognito for the invite and for organising the show so magnificently, with absolutely no hiccup. Awed.”
Well, even we’re equally awed, sir. Harsh Purohit and Jaideep Varma, take a bow.