When I learned that Miransha Naik's Vaat had been chosen as an official entry for the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne (IFFM) 2023, I was overcome with pride. All of Miransha's movies have been accepted into international film festivals, and Juze, his first Konkani feature film, in particular, has garnered a lot of positive feedback from critics and admiration from viewers.
Miransha Naik is a Goan film director, producer and screenwriter from a small village in Quepem called Borimol, where he was born and brought up. His initial schooling was in Goa, and, later on, he attended a film school in Mumbai.
Reacting to the excitement of being selected for the IFFM 2023, he said, “It always feels great to be a part of any festival. Vaat was selected for the online version, and I didn’t attend the festival. To be physically present for the screening and the post-screening discussion with the audience and the filmmakers is a different pleasure altogether.”
Watching Miransha’s films makes you wonder as to how he gets these ideas. He explains, “Writing scripts comes naturally to me. Right from childhood, I was fascinated with films. If not for filmmaking, I don’t think I’d have a purpose in life.”
Juze highlighted social injustice, sexual identity and structural violence, while Vaat is about a young man who cannot control his rage, arrogance and stubbornness.
Speaking of how he creates his characters, he elucidates, “I find flawed characters very interesting. While working with some of the people from Canacona, I came across some strange rituals still being practised in their villages and a thought came as to what will happen if I have an odd character who gets into a situation with a lot of restrictions?”
Miransha is gracious enough to share with us the plot of the film. He says, “Present-day Goa, a small and extremely reserved Hindu community serves as home to Mattu – 30, a farmer. He makes the mistake of beating up another villager. In return, his family is shunned from the temple rituals and fined a hefty sum of 3 lakhs. Not only does the family have to deal with the humiliation of being social outcasts, but Mattu has to come up with the money quickly or else his sister's wedding will be called off.”
Just listening to his narration, you want to know more. There is drama, there is conflict and then the reality of the situation.
When asked about whether he was able to arrive at what was planned to be shot initially to make the film Vaat, he says, “When you have budget constraints, you start compromising at every stage, right from casting to choosing the team, types of equipment and most importantly the number of days to shoot. But given all that as an independent filmmaker, when you have enough rushes to cut a film, it is still a miracle. So, despite some disappointments, I’m very happy that I have another completed film.”
Miransha in his conversation threw light on behind-the-scenes choices one has to make when it comes to writing the script, casting, shooting, directing, producing and distributing the film.
He says, “As this is my second feature, we wanted to make sure that we’ll be able to sell this film. Juze was too dark, plus it was a Konkani film with little or no market. So, we decided to make it in Marathi and also have two cuts, one for the festivals and one for the commercial release. I wrote the dialogues in Konkani and then got them translated. Despite the two being very similar languages, a lot was lost in translation. Even though my colleague did a great job, some things can best be said in Konkani.”
He further adds regarding the casting, “I’ve always said this time and again that casting in Goa becomes a huge challenge as we have limited options and there are no professional actors as such. All have other jobs and stuff so they cannot fully commit. My first choice for the lead was Rohit Kokate, who at the last moment couldn’t adjust his dates, as his schedule shooting with Farhan Akhtar changed at the last moment.”
Miransha goes on to say, “I got a local actor to replace him, who was fantastic at his job, but after shooting with him for a day I realised that something was not right. It was my blunder. It was tough to have him replaced when it was not his fault but mine. He was doing everything right. It was wrong casting from my end.”
It takes great humility to accept that it is one’s fault, and Miransha is aware that in life you have to take tough calls.
He states, “In filmmaking, sometimes you have to take calls which are not easy. I had to pay a heavy price as my lead actress left the film because she thought I was being unfair. Maybe she is right, maybe not.”
He continues, “When we finally decided to go with Arjun Radhakrishnan, he could hardly speak Marathi. Though he’s a fantastic actor, it is not easy to perform when you’re not comfortable with the language. But, when you watch the film, you can’t tell about the language or his performance. A lot of credit goes to him for his hard work.”
Miransha makes it quite evident that he is in the business of telling engrossing tales. He enjoys all types of movies, but when it comes to producing them, dark dramas are his favourite or, as one might say, his comfort zone. He adores and respects the work of other directors and longs to be able to produce movies of all genres.
Answering the eternal question of whether there is an audience for Konkani films, he says, “Konkani is a beautiful language, and there is an audience. We just have to keep on making good films, which will eventually bring the audience to the cinema halls. Tiatr still pulls in a full house. We need the same loyalty towards films, and the only way is to make quality films.”
Miransha, if given an option would choose to write and direct. He states clearly, “I hate producing. I’m forced into producing or am left with no option. I don’t mind investing as most independent filmmakers have to, but I never want to produce a film. Producing and investing in a film are two different concepts. A lot of people get it wrong. You have producers who invest in their own films, but it doesn’t have to be the case always.”
Miransha Naik, Konkani Filmmaker
Is the government doing enough to give Goan filmmakers a platform and effectively provide them with the funding they need to produce movies? Miransha boldly answers, “Goa has one of the best film schemes on paper, but we haven’t seen any money. I haven't even got anything for Juze yet. This makes most filmmakers move to Hindi cinema. Despite the scheme, we would still end up not recovering our investment in Konkani films. But it would be of some help and encourage us to make more Konkani films.”
He speaks of his upcoming project, “If I get the right cast, I will still make my next in Konkani. I’m looking for a female and male lead in their late 20s who can speak fluent Konkani. My next film is titled Vish and will be even bolder and darker than Juze.”
Nevertheless, Miransha urges all the Goans to watch Juze if they haven’t already. He says, “Juze is now available online on Varivas Community, a platform for independent filmmakers. It is the highest-grossing film as of now on the platform. Sadly, despite being a Konkani film, most of the views are coming from outside Goa.”
Encouraging young filmmakers, he says, “Have a ready script in hand always. You never know when the opportunity will come. Try and explore all the options and opportunities at Film Bazaar, which takes place during the same time as IFFI.”