In an exclusive interview, we explore the emotional depths, challenges, and creative aspirations of Nemil Shah, the mastermind behind the National Award-winning film “Dal Bhat.” This recognition, a cause for celebration, is also colored by the bittersweet memories of relentless effort and personal loss.
Here are excerpts of the interview:
Congratulations on winning the National Award for “Dal Bhat”! How do you feel about this recognition for your film?
It is a bittersweet moment actually. This film demanded a lot from us- money, time, sweat and blood literally. It is an ode to Aditi, our fellow collaborator whom we lost last year. It is also for the ever so wonderful kids, the generous people of Kutch, who made our team home and to all my friends from around me who gave there all in for the film.
A recognition like this always boosts your morale and pushes you to work even harder. However, I feel it is more important to keep at it and not think about the achievements.
The National Award is a significant achievement in Indian cinema. How do you think this recognition will impact your future projects and the film industry in general?
It definitely is a of a huge significance. Everyone start taking you seriously. The tag transitions from being called a Student Film to National Award Winning Film. It’s more about the image that changes, because film is still how it was two years back, the hard work doesn’t change. It is all about being at it and things follow.
Another perspective is also that now, everyone wants you to make a similar film like this one. I am someone who like to explore, so it becomes difficult to make a similar film. It is important to evolve and explore. Atleast for me.
What message or takeaway do you hope viewers will have after watching “Dal Bhat”?
For me, it is really important for people to feel. Any art form is about communicating emotions. Similar whatever we aspire to say is an outcome of what the audience fell. It is important for the audience to go through the journey with the film, feel the emotions and only then, there will be any sort of takeaway.
I would always like people to be open and inclusive of every living or otherwise thing- with the film or in general. That for me is the first step towards life- basic!
As both the producer and director, how do you balance creative and logistical aspects of filmmaking? What challenges have you faced in these roles?
It is absolutely a tedious task. I am grateful that for me, the producing aspect comes very natural, and hence I am able to balance out both. Not that I had any choice… when you start out, you have to be both. It is very rare that someone trusts you especially when you are trying to break in. But, having said that, to me, I enjoy both the hats. I like to bring the imaginations to reality with my time and space. When you do that, it really helps because you are the one who knows exactly what and how much is needed.
Looking ahead, do you have any upcoming projects or plans you can share with us, and how has the success of “Dal Bhat” influenced your future work?
We are trying for Dal Bhat to reach as many audiences as we can. It is very difficult in India for short films to find home. But we are at it. Dal Bhat is available as Video on Demand on Gonella Channel.
My next project is a fantasy feature film based in India and Ghana. We will hopefully start the production soon and present it at the earliest too.
Finally, could you reflect on the role of storytelling in cinema and what you believe makes a compelling and impactful story for the audience?
We humans have a lot of emotions already, we just need to understand them as to how we can portray them and eventually find a right medium for that. It could be anything- Books, Paintings, Cooking etc. For cinema, I feel that storytelling is really important, but not the only way. It is a visual audio form first. There could be other ways to communicate emotions and make people feel and touch them.
It is about exploring and finding ways to leave an impact and make people feel. We are trying something similar with our feature film. Let’s see how it goes!