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‘Creativity is seeing what everybody else has seen, and thinking what nobody else has thought’

Life&More October 11, 2019

BHARATBALA who gave us Vande Mataram, Gurus of Peace, Incredible India and the National Anthem with 50 of India’s maestros is ready with Virtual Bharat, an initiative of uncovering India’s Untold Stories through a 1,000 film journey across the vast corners of India. In an email interaction with SAURABH TANKHA, the filmmaker shares how the new series is a virtual museum of stories that connects India

Virtual Bharat uncovers India’s Untold Stories through a 1,000 film journey across the vast corners of India. Why call it Virtual Bharat?
Over the years, I have collected many stories during my travels across the country. In the last few years, thanks to the new avenues that are now available due to Internet penetration, I thought that this was an opportune time to make these stories into short films. Imagine a child growing up in Nagaland, who hasn’t explored the country much, watching a beautiful story based in Odisha. I believe this virtual museum of stories is a way of connecting India.

How did you go about hunting these stories? And how have you ensured these 1000 films are made on untold stories?
It is not that simple. For me, the challenge is not to find an untold story per se. It is about taking a story that we know about, and discovering an untold angle for this. That is what keeps me excited.

When did the idea first strike you and how much time did it take you, from the stage of conceptualisation to the first show, to complete this project?
The source of this project goes 22 years back when I made Vande Mataram. I am a gypsy. I have travelled across India and the world. The stories I saw, the people I saw, I wanted to encapsulate in a systematic manner, and not just music videos. The presence of online content platforms, good internet bandwidth and accessibility in India got me working on this three years ago. By and large, India is not a documentary consuming country. So the idea was to weave a high-quality narrative under 10 minutes. Also, through these stories, I want to bring out fresh talent from every part of India.

What is it about India that always fascinates you?
There is just one word for it — our people.

When you are not thinking about India, what are you doing?
I don’t think about India. I think about stories. I don’t have a geographical way of thinking about stories.

Is filmmaking energising or exhausting?
Energising. It keeps me young. This is oxygen for me.

The word “creative” for you is?
Creativity for me is, and I quote, “seeing what everybody else has seen, and thinking what nobody else has thought.”

What does it take to be good storyteller?

Did your parents ever know that their son would make India proud by creating content on the country after which he was being named? This can’t just be a coincidence. They surely could see future…
My father was a part of the freedom struggle. One day, he sat me down and said, ‘in advertising you create a big idea for a product to connect consumers to it emotionally and create empathy in them for it.’ He said, ‘Can you create a big idea for India? Something that will set young minds in fervour.’ That is what inspired me. It opened up the creativity in me to try and create a new landscape for India.

Share something about your family…
I come from a family where I was brought up by nation-building values. That was my core value system. There was never a class system. In my growing years, I saw people being treated with dignity and respect, whenever they were interacted with. That is something I have always tried to take forward in my stories. Kanika, my wife, has also been a very genuine partner through my journey. She has played a big role in shaping my creative thinking for many ideas.

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