Kamal Swaroop's documentary-fiction Rangbhoomi was screened followed by an interaction with him in Jadavpur University today. The film is about Dadasaheb Phalke and is his latest project. I had watched Om-Dar-Ba-Dar, the movie which made him famous only a day ago and was eager to meet the director. It is considered a cult movie in indian scenario and i agree that the country has seen no such. I have some ideological queries about it though.
Rangbhoomi was done with the help of students from Srishti School of Art Design and Technology, Bangalore. I liked the movie also for this. It is democratic in that way. The director is not all powerful and the narrative moves forward also through the help of these young people. They were asked to do some research on the time Phalke spent in Benares after he decided to resign from movies. There he had written a semi-autobiographical play called Rangbhoomi, a seven hour long one. The movie uses the text of this play and films the students and Swaroop himself doing research work in Benares. It moves forward with the people they meet in this process and the information they gather. Shot in digital, i also liked it that the possibilities of the medium are greatly explored. Visual effects are used copiously. Some of them blow your mind. Swaroop said that for him the research that went behind the making of the movie [he had done it for as long as twenty years] was more important that the movie itself. He also said that it was not his movie and was that of the cinematograper and the editor. He was able to enjoy the film because of this, he added. In the movie we see himself going around Benares asking people if they knew of Phalke's time spent there etc. He said that we ourselves could see that he wasn't directing anybody. It was the original play that was directing all of them, he clarified. There were, however some deliberate elements. He, for example, was sure that he didn't want his images to resemble the many photos of Benares that we are familiar with. Therefore a stone miniature of Benares created by an art director from FTII was used. He was filmed against a blue screen and later pasted on this, in some places.
As a part of the reasearch they developed a website called PhalkeFactory. It is quite interesting. Anybody with an account can make changes and add data in it.
There is a lovely scene in the movie when Phalke's movies are shown to the localites. The movie had got funds from Films Division because it had that year  got a new chief and the country was also celebrating 100 years of cinema. Swaroop said he thought it was an interesting idea to show people of Raja Harishchandra Ghat 'Raja Harishchandra' as a means of commemorating the hundred years. 'Just fooling around', he said, laughing.
He said that he usually shied away from watching his work and that it was like a pilgrimage or exorcism for him. 'It's good your name is in the film [and] you haven't made [it]'. He concluded, laughing.