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'Samsara' is all about choices, says Pan Nalin
By Arpana, Indo-Asian News Service
New Delhi, June 15 (IANS) Sometimes passion leads to a renewed vision, which in turn brings glory and fame. That's what happened with Gujarati director Pan Nalin whose first feature film "Samsara" is releasing June 23.
Before making his first film, a spiritual and sexual romance shot entirely in Ladakh, Nalin spent several years in the Himalayas and churned out documentaries on the region, including "The Tulkus", a story of reincarnation of Buddhist monks.
"I was looking for something unusual for my first feature film. I have been living a life of a wanderer and have made a couple of documentaries on Ladakh. The idea of 'Samsara' was born there," Nalin, a self taught filmmaker, told IANS on phone from Mumbai.
"Samsara" not only earned Nalin global fame but also bagged more than 30 awards at several international film festivals.
Nalin said: "It is a universal film, a love story about choices - when to love and where to live - and the main character in my film chooses between a monastery and a worldly life. The film has an open ending. I have left it to the audience to decide the climax.
"'Samsara' is an exceptional love story. It is like a mirror where you can see your own reflection.
"I spent a lot of time in monasteries, not only in India but also in China and Thailand. I felt this was the best story to situate in the region."
Apart from his personal experiences Nalin took help from monks too.
"Some of my very close friends are Buddhist monks and they shared their experiences generously with me."
Before he started filming "Samsara", Nalin familiarised his artistes also with the way of life in Monasteries.
"All my artistes spent two months with monks to understand their lifestyle, and many of the roles in the film are played by people living in Ladakh."
"Samsara" has been screened in 60 countries and received well by the audience. But its screening in India is like a dream come true for the director.
"I never thought my film would be screened in India because it doesn't have a star or songs. It has been an effort to bring it to India.
"I don't underestimate any audience. And I hope Indian audiences are ready for such movies and will accept my film. Though it is difficult to bring spectators to hall to see these films, when they come out of the theatre they are found cheering."
Quite a few directors have shot their films on Himalayas, but Nalin insists that he is the only director to shoot an entire film in Ladakh.
"I agree people have shot films there, but no one has ever attempted to make the entire film there. We are the first ones to shoot the film at the altitude of 156,000 feet - which was an expedition for the cast and crew.
"We certainly faced problems. First our generator fell down, and then floods in the Indus river swamped our camps. Besides, there was no communication facility; we were totally cut off from the outside world."
Nalin had informed the team about the adversities in advance.
"We had informed the cast and crew in advance about the problems and conditions there. We hired Chinese actress Christy Chung, who is Rani Mukerji of China. We told her, 'you won't get five star facilities and will have to bear with simple food, room, etc'. She was ok with it."
Nalin is now gearing up for the premiere of his second film, "Valley of Flowers", starring Naseeruddin Shah and Milind Soman in lead roles.
"I am giving finishing touches to 'Valley of Flowers'. I want to premiere it at Osian's - Cinefan Film Festival. My film will probably open the festival.
"It is a love story spanning across two centuries. It starts on Himalayas and ends in modern day Tokyo. It is an Asian version of 'Rome', and Naseer plays Yati - there is a myth that there is a snowman on Himalayas who maintains the balance between the Mother Nature and mankind.
"Milind plays a bandit who falls in love with a mysterious girl, who is actually a demon. Yati knows it and he cannot allow such relationships to grow so he tries to stop them.