Interview with Bollywood Film Maker Soumendra Padhi
He has brought laurels to Odisha. He took up a unique Odia real life story of Budhia Singh, the youngest marathoner, to create a fascinating biopic that has touched millions of hearts and has inspired many of us. Hindi film industry and reviewers are all praise for this inspiring debut. He is Mr. Soumendra Padhi, a proud Odia and he is planning to make more films on Odisha based stories to highlight Odisha at the national and global levels. Eindiadiary.com Senior Editor, Mr. Kamala Kanta Dash brings an interview with the inspiring director.
Welcome to Odisha Diary. Congratulations for an epic film on the youngest marathoner Budhia Singh.
Thank you. It feels good people liked the film.
Our readers are keen to know more about you and your journey to cinema. How has it been to be known as a Bollywood director?
It has been an interesting journey, now looking back I can connect the dots but way back then I didn’t knew where to begin. While growing up we saw films and always believed only certain people are meant to make these films, we are supposed to work very hard and get a job that was how it was.
I was very unhappy with what I was doing with my life so I decided to shift to Mumbai to pursue a career in films. Everything looked very uncertain. I was also all alone in a big city like Mumbai. You always don’t have all the answers but somehow I followed my instincts. I did basics in animation and film making from a film institute in Mumbai. Then started my career in advertising where I self-funded all my short films. This was a big turning point because I learnt by doing it. That was the period when things started taking shape.
Budhia Singh is a bold movie. Not an easy topic to work on given the challenges and controversies associated with the real characters. Why did you choose this story?
Since Childhood I have always been fascinated with child prodigies, be it Lord Krishna or Abhimanyu from the Mahabharata. I don’t know why I find it mystical. So when I came across this story where a child barely 5 years old was running marathons that instantly drew me. Yes I agree there is continuous anxiety which follows you when you are making a biopic especially when it concerns a minor as in this case. But the quality of conflict and contradictions that unfolded in their lives drew me.
Biographical films are increasingly getting national and international attention. How do you see this trend? Do you think they will be able to bridge the gap between the commercial and art films?
Biopics were always made In Hollywood and other Film Industries outside on regular intervals. Its only catching up here in India primarily because there has been a shift in the movie going audience. And it’s a great thing to have happened because it’s content driven and inspiring. I think presence of a big star cast in a biopic ensures the bridge is considerably smaller. But the filmmaker has to mould the character to suit the personality of the star which greatly compromises of the quality of the final output. So it’s always a battle of art and commerce.
Coming to your film, we have heard that you chose MayurPatole after you took audition of more than 1000 hopefuls. What did you want specifically from the title character?
We auditioned more than 1200 kids from various parts of Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Chhattisgarh, Hyderabad and Bihar for more than six months. We wanted someone who was athletically very promising since the film had lot of running to do and someone who had never faced the camera so that we could mould him. Mayur was very apt for the part. His eyes say a lot. He is the soul of the film. We never had any other option so I believe he was destined to play the part.
How did you convince Budhia, his mother and wife of coach late Biranchi Das that you will do justice to their characters? What has been their response to the release of the film?
Art and Life are always in conflict when you are narrating a true incident. There has been so much written, documented on their lives already so this film is an interpretation of what we have felt deeply. And there a lot of trust, care and attention that goes when one is making a biopic. In our case we are very thankful to each of them especiallyGitanjali Panda, Sukanti Singh, Budhia, SampadMahapatra and Siddhartha Mohanty who showed trust and hopefully we believe we lived up to their expectations.
Budhia after watching the film called me up and said he wanted to put on his shoes and start running. This was a huge…huge compliment for all of us.
How as it working with ManojBajpayee? He is known to be a thinking director’s actor and a perfectionist?
He is a dream for any director to work with. Very committed and a thorough professional. He was there for me all the time. We spent a lot of time in pre-production stage. He learnt Judo and also conducted workshops for the kids and other key actors who were part of the film.
The movie has won the critics verdict for its nuanced characters and fine acting by everyone. How has the Bollywood reacted to the film and what review or which comment has touched you the most?
The critics have been very flattering. This part of Odisha has never been before so it was fresh for the audience especially outside Odisha. Although we would have liked the film to be a huge commercial success but I suppose there are so many factors which a film-maker do-not have any control over. But we as a team are proud of the film we have made. I am sure as more and more people will discover it over the years. I am very thankful to Code Red Films for taking the risk. The reviews from NDTV by Saibal Chatterjee, Namrata Joshi – Hindu were very good. That Stayed with me.
What’s next? Odisha has rich culture, heritage and literature. Are you thinking of anything from Odisha for your next project?
Odisha will always be a part of my narrative consciously or sub-consciously.
Would you like to have any message for the young aspirants, directors,actors and script writers?
I believe there is no recipe which can be passed from one person to another because what worked for me may not work for them. Each one of them will have to explore on their own. They will have to make their own mistakes and learn from it.