He is lanky, lean and looks too ridiculously young to be the director of piercing reflections on exploitation and revenge encounters.This is, however, exactly what the charming Miransha Naik does with his first feature film ‘Juze‘, a Konkani movie that has gone from winning acclaim to doing rounds of film festivals across the globe.
An Indian-French-Dutch co-production that yielded out of the Goa Film Bazaar, ‘Juze‘ was selected for international sales by Films Boutique. The budding director wrote ‘Juze‘ while he was a screenwriting student at Whistling Woods International in Mumbai. What may be of surprise is the fact that the film’s title alludes to its antagonist.
Even fiction, is based on experiences or observations. A real story has a small amount of fiction…
“The Konkani word juze is a synonym for a slum lord. The film is set up in a village in Goa where the villagers face routine brutality and harassment by their employer and landlord. 16-year old Santosh stands up against it and fights against oppression. I could have chosen Santosh, the protagonist, as the title of the film too. But for me, it was more about portraying the fall of evil and it probably takes a little effort to push them off the grid. The hero is worshipped everywhere, in all stories spoken or heard but little is said about what led to the fall of evil. In a real life scenario, this always happens and we see examples of these big bullies who make it miserable for everyone. ‘Juze‘ speaks about the antagonist, as much as it does about the protagonist, and I named him because he was wrong.”
On being questioned if Naik intends to spread a social message by wonderfully portraying characters that fight back despite the trauma and violence they endure, he replies, “I always say this, I’ve never wanted to become the filmmaker who wants to preach. I have never done films to give a message or to make a statement. For me, filmmaking has always been about sharing an engaging story and expressing yourself. If the message does come through your honest expressions, then that becomes an actuality.”
…I want to just go and produce my next film but again, you have to be practical. I invested so much money in my first film and have not recovered any of it. I’m planning another release in early 2018, so hopefully, things happen.
We observe how ardently he narrates the issue and are instantly driven by thoughts if the movie is based on real life incidences. He blatantly admits, “Even fiction, is based on experiences or observations. A real story has a small amount of fiction. My story is based on my experience and observation of people that I have known. There was a guy named Santosh, and I know Juze too. When I had to write the story, I can’t say exactly how it happened but a lot of it was very true. I had to change a few things to fit in the screenplay, otherwise, most of it is based on real life and inspired by true events and situations.”
Sadly enough, this is the problem most regional movies encounter; it does not get the recognition it deserves. “At the end of the day these are business talks and if we do not have enough audiences, we cannot do anything about it. I think this trend has been there for years. There was a trend of parallel cinema and then it was lost in between, and now it is coming back. But people still prefer to watch movies that have happy endings and are commercial hits. And yes, it is fine to expect all of those but it gives a lesser bandwidth for the feature of art films.”
The events that led the hotelier-restaurateur to find his roots in becoming a director is a story on its own.
“The world of cinema has always fascinated me. When I was a kid, I would always watch action movies of Bruce Lee and Jacky Chan. At the same time, I always had a very special place for ‘Ardh Satya’, ‘Mausam’ and Amitabh Bachchan starrer ‘Saudagar’ which I think are highly underrated. My batchmates and I analysed ‘Saudagar’ and thought it was excellent. Stories like these have always tickled my senses. So after school, I got into the business world. But whenever I’d watch Bollywood films, I felt there was something missing and I drifted towards World Cinema. After that, film school happened, so I started watching Italian and Iranian movies, in particular. The sad part was that I got introduced to Fellini’s 8 1/2 and I still don’t like it so much. But I love his ‘La Strada’ and ‘The Nights of Cabiria’ so much. I keep watching these movies. Film school exposed me to innumerable movies because there was more access to the library and I wasn’t very connected to the internet when I was in business.”
While Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali and Kanchivaram seem to be Naik’s favourite regional movie, it was the Konkani movie ‘Paltadacho Munis’ that inspired the artist in him.
Needless to say, Naik’s zeal for filmmaking is extraordinary and he ends the conversation with an inspiring message for the other filmmakers. “It is very tough for independent filmmakers, but when it finally reaches the audiences or when it’s played in the festivals, it’s a feast on its own. At the end of the day when you make a decent product, the response you get is overwhelming. Everything is justified. Whatever struggles you go through or whatever circumstance that comes pouring down upon you, everything is worth it.”
Watch here: Trailer of Juze