Films As A Glue To Bind Communities

Sacred beliefs and rituals surround the story of Tajmal, where Bhima Konade, a poor farmer decides to sacrifice his goat Tajmal to a family deity to propitiate it for the wellbeing of his son Baal. But the child tries to protect the goat not only from his family but from outsiders. The film written and directed by Niyaz  Mujawar won a national award for fostering national integration. In this interview, Niyaz talks about bringing together communities, and the larger social milieu of modern day India.

Tajmal won the Nargis Dutt National Award for national integration. What aspects of the film you think impressed the judges?

The film's story, performances, cinematography, soundtrack, and overall impact on encouraging national cohesion could have all impressed the judges. It would be difficult to identify particular components of the film that pleased the judges without more information or the judges' viewpoints.

I think "Tajmal" brings together people from different backgrounds, and can be a great force for good in a time when separation and polarisation seem to be on the rise. It serves as a powerful motivator towards a more equal and just society by reminding us of our common humanity. Ultimately, the reason why audiences enjoy films that bring together previously divided groups is because they tap into a universal human desire to feel included and accepted. They serve as a constant reminder that, despite our differences, we belong to the same human family and that, by joining forces, we can build a better world for ourselves and the generations to come.

It requires great courage and sensitivity to talk about religious practices like sacrifices. Does the film deal with only the little boy and his love for Tajmal or is it a commentary on society?

The practise of animal sacrifice is just one of many difficult topics explored in Tajmal. The film focuses on a little child and his admiration for the Tajmal, but it also serves as a commentary on larger social and cultural issues in India. The conflict between tradition and progress is explored throughout the film. The film presents animal sacrifice as an ancient cultural practise, but also shows how it can clash with contemporary standards of morality. The little child exemplifies this conflict since he cares deeply about his family and their traditions but is also becoming increasingly aware of the brutality and suffering inherent in their rituals of animal sacrifice. Identity, belonging, and national unity are also examined in the film. The film uses the Tajmal as a backdrop to examine how people from diverse backgrounds may come together to form a common sense of identity and belonging, and the monument serves as a potent symbol of India's rich cultural past. The film's critique on society is ultimately broad and multidimensional, touching on themes of culture, tradition, modernism, and individuality. The film's focus may be on a small child and his admiration for the Tajmal, but it is also a profound commentary on larger social and cultural concerns in India and an invitation to examine one's own worldview.

What techniques of film making cannot be taught in film institutions. Could you illustrate with your own example

While film institutions can provide students with a solid foundation in various aspects of filmmaking, there are certain techniques and skills that can only be learned through practical experience. One of these techniques is the ability to work effectively with actors and to elicit powerful performances from them. Film institutes can teach us a lot about filmmaking, but we need hands-on experience to grasp some techniques. Some of my strategies include working with performers and getting powerful performances. Creating a safe and supportive environment for performers is a top priority for me on set. I collaborate with them to shape their characters and understand their motivations. I also use other methods to get strong performances. I use numerous takes to capture my performers' nuances and allow for set improvisation and spontaneity. I also provide my actors thorough criticism and guidance during filming. Teaching these approaches in a classroom is challenging due to the need for a thorough understanding of human psychology and personal connections with performers.  We also need much of practical experience and risk-taking. We can only improve our abilities to work with actors and elicit outstanding performances via exercise and experience. Although film institutes offer a good basis in filmmaking, they cannot replace the significance of hands-on experience and mentorship from professional filmmakers.

Is it difficult to get an animal to act in a film?

Yes, getting an animal to act in a movie is hard. Animals have their own feelings, personalities, and ways of acting, which can make them hard to control and direct on set. They might get easily sidetracked, scared, or not want to work, which can slow down or stop the filming process. It can also be hard to train an animal to do or act in a certain way when told to. This takes a lot of time, skill, and knowledge.

Where does Tajmal feature in your film career.

Before I made Tajmal, I had already made a movie called "Disco Sannya" and written a couple of full-length movies. The Tajmal's pre-production phase benefited me tremendously. During the making of Tajmal, I felt better about how I did things. I had a lot less trouble with production, but as soon as we finished the movie, the producers ran into money problems, which slowed down the post-production process. When we finally got all the money we needed and moved forward, we were given the highest prize a film in India can get: the National Film Award for Best Film on National Integration.

After receiving this award, I gained a new sense of self-confidence that helped me think about stories that spoke to me on an extremely personal level.

Video Excerpt of the Interview