Saqib Pandor, an Anurag Kashyap protégé, is ready to showcase his first short film, Mochi, at the highly prestigious IFFLA, next month. Here are some excerpts from an interview with him, where he gives us an insight into his labour of love, Mochi.

Saqib Pondar

Saqib Pondar

Tell us something about yourself.

I was born and raised in Bombay. I neither had any idea about films nor did I have any serious inclinations towards them till school. I took up Mass Media in college and slowly became interested in making films and ads. I used to live in the same building as Anurag Kashyap. So after my graduation I randomly met him when he was passing by, and asked if I could work with him. He just glanced at me  and asked, “What have you done in graduation?” I told him, “Mass Media.” He didn’t even think for a second, and asked me to come to his office the next day. From the next day, I was in his office everyday for a year as an intern. My duty was to sit and observe. It was during the time when he was editing Gangs of Wasseypur. I eventually got to work as a Continuity Supervisor for Ugly, and even travelled to Cannes with the crew. I was initially not a part of Bombay Velvet. He was shooting in Sri Lanka, and out of the blue, he called me there to get involved in the post production of the film. Later, after Bombay Velvet released, he asked me to make a short film. He gave me 15 days to come up with a script. I took it lightly and didn’t do anything in those 15 days. He got really furious and gave me a piece of his mind. I felt very guilty, and presented him with a draft within a week. He liked the script and agreed to produce it.

So what is the premise of Mochi?

Mochi is an emotional journey of a cobbler. It paints a day-to-day scenario of his life with respect to how he works hard to make ends meet and his relationship with his growing son.

What was your approach to the casting for the film?

The process of casting was very difficult and tedious. We wanted someone who could convincingly look like a cobbler. We finally zeroed down on Umesh Jagtap, who had acted in the acclaimed Marathi movie, Killa. We narrated the script to him. He loved it and immediately pledged his association with the film as its lead. When you watch the film, you’ll realise that he has done a brilliant job. The hardest part was casting for the son. We were looking for a non-actor Marathi kid, who could be spontaneous in front of the camera. So we went around in Marathi schools and observed kids. We held various workshops to train them and get the nuances of the characters right. We finally struck gold in Shubham Tukaram, whom we eventually went on to cast. There is another cobbler in the movie, which is played by Murari Kumar. He has been acting in Anurag sir’s films since Black Friday. He is a seasoned actor and genuine human being. Right from the pre-production to finishing the post production, the film took 5-6 months to complete.


Still from Mochi

Still from Mochi

And how did you go about the funding for Mochi?

Mochi is produced solely by Anurag Kashyap. He gave me a minimum budget, and asked me to work my short film around it. We initially had a four day shoot, which got reduced to only two days. That made us change a lot of our prior plans. I also took help from some of my friends. Kunal Sharma, who is a sound engineer, was generous enough to let me use his sound recording device. Rohit Mittal, another friend, let me borrow his camera.

How did the idea for Mochi come up?

Purely observation. I used to walk around my office, and in the neighborhood there would always be a cobbler. I used to to always wonder how a cobbler will take a particular decision, and what factors would influence his decision. So, yes, a cobbler’s narrative was engraved in my subconscious. When I started working on the script, that idea kept evolving and finally translated into the short film. We went around and researched in various markets, railway stations and neighborhoods. We met with cobblers and observed their craft, posture and physicality. Mochi is an evolution of my observation.

How does it feel like to be selected for IFFLA?

IFFLA is a wonderful platform to showcase my film, and I am absolutely thrilled about it. This year, they had a deadline of 15th January. Mochi, however, was finished on 13th January, and on 14th I uploaded my film and paid the registration amount, just in time! It really was a gamble. When you make your first film, you definitely feel that you have made an Oscar-winning film. But then, when you look at the amount of talent there at the festival, you are just overwhelmed.


Which are the festivals that the film has travelled to? Where is it headed to next?

So far, I have received a positive response from festivals. IFFLA, which will happen on April 6, will be the first festival that Mochi will travel to. There are a couple of other festivals, but they will happen in June and October.

Still from Mochi

Still from Mochi

What are your expectations from IFFLA?

I am not expecting anything. I like to keep my expectations low. When I saw the first cut of the film, I was taken aback. I felt a lot had to be improved. But then, that is with every film. Mochi is a well made film and more importantly, it is a learning process. I will strive to learn from my mistakes and not repeat them in the future films that I make.

Was Anurag Kashyap involved in the creative process of the film?

Anurag Kashyap is the kind of person who won’t tell you, “Do this for me!” He will instead tell you to make your own film and then show it to him. Of course, there are certain generic things that he told me as a mentor, but he gave me all the liberty to shape Mochi the way I wanted.

What would you say about the current scenario in Marathi cinema? What kind of films are needed in the same?

To be honest, I haven’t seen much of Marathi cinema. Mochi is in Marathi and Hindi. Films in any industry should be character and emotion-oriented. Killa, a Marathi film by Avinash Arun, is emotional cinema. Emotions are universal. They cut across barriers of all languages.