‘Socio-cultural documentation is the need of the hour’

Gunratna Sontakke
Friday, 2 March 2018

Academician Pradip Mane shares his experiences of working on a documentary on social activist Anil Awachat

Dr Anil Awachat is primarily known for his social work (he is associated with Muktangan De-addiction Centre) and writings. But how many of us know that Awachat pursues several hobbies like origami, playing flute, cooking and making sculptures? A documentary film on his life, Anil Awachat: Ek Muktachhand has tried to capture the activist’s life in all its shades.

Pradeep Mane, a columnist and assistant professor at Garware College, has directed the biopic. He shares his thoughts on Awachat and about the film. Excerpts...

When did you think of making a documentary?
I was an avid reader of Anil Awachat’s books during my school days. I have read almost all of his published books and some unpublished writings too. Once I visited the set of my younger brother’s short film, and realised that I can also make a documentary. With that thought, I decided to make a documentary and after giving some thought, I zeroed in on making it on Anil Awachat.    

Why Awachat?
He is a sensitive writer and human being. He is my role model and I wanted to share his work with the world. However, it is very difficult to capture and present all the aspects of Awachat’s personality — he is a great writer, thinker and social activist — in a 45-minute documentary. I have made an honest attempt to make a good biopic documentary. Let’s see how the audience responds when it is screened on March 4 at National Film Archive of India auditorium. I am really excited and little nervous at the same time.   
What challenges did you face during the making of this documentary?
The technical aspect of shooting interviews of several personalities was a big challenge. I had to wait for four months to get an appointment with the late Sadashiv Amrapurkar as he was not keeping well. Another big obstacle was lack of money. Due to unavailability or shortage of money, I had to postpone shoots several times. Sunil Chavan, who is associate producer of this documentary, helped me a lot.  
Do you think such biopic documentaries can be made through interviews only?
To make an effective biopic documentary, one needs to go beyond interviews and collect relevant footage or shoot the relevant incidents. We need to show what has actually happened through shoots. We shot a few scenes at Juna Bazaar, Mandai and at Muktangan De-addiction Centre keeping in mind the writings of Awachat. At the end, we had total 30 hours footage and thus editing became a huge task for us.

Without losing the essence of the topic, we had to come up with a meaningful 45-minute documentary. While doing this, we followed Baba’s (as Awachat is known) technique. He had once told us, ‘Our mind is a natural editor. What it wants, it keeps stored and discards unnecessary things’. I applied the same technique and included in the documentary what I remembered spontaneously.            

How many people did you interview for this documentary?
I interviewed about 15 people from different walks of life such as academics, film, literature and social work. To name a few — Baba Adhav, Dr Abhay Bang, Sumitra Bhave, Sunil Sukthankar, Sadashiv Amrapurkar, Milind Bokil and Mukta Puntambekar.

Interviewing recognised personalities lends authenticity to your content, which is very important here; a friend will always praise his friend. In this case, I therefore chose to talk to people from various fields.

Did you find any behavioural differences in Awachat before and after the shoot?
No. Awachat follows what he preaches and teaches. There is nothing fake about him. He is a genuine person and social worker who wants to make a difference to society. He has become a very good friend of mine now.   

What are you future plans?
Though I like to write for newspapers, I am also interested in making more such documentaries. We should capture the lives and work of socially responsible people on camera so that it inspires others even after 50 years. Socio-cultural documentation is the need of the hour.
ST Reader Service
Anil Awachat: Ek Muktachhand, a documentary on social worker Dr Anil Awachat’s life will be screened at National Film Archive of India auditorium on Sunday, March 4 at 6 pm. It is open to all

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