MUMBAI: If filmmaker Kalpana Lajmi and the cast and crew of her new under-production film ‘Kaanch’ are back from location in Bhopal to the relative safety of Mumbai, it is only because of Mahesh Bhatt’s timely intervention. But what happens to the fragile production entitled ‘Kaanch’ about a village where the men throw their women-folk into prostitution and live unscrupulously on the women’s earnings?
Kalpana and her team have decided to rescue the film from the truant producer and fund their own way to the film’s finish line. Still recovering from the setback Lajmi says, “What we’ve managed to shoot we’re very proud of. It’s a very delicate film which needs a lot of nurturing. Instead it’s stuck with a producer who seems to have very shady connections in very powerful places. Now we feel as helpless but determined as the women in our film. Women are not susceptible to sexual assault alone, as we’ve shown in ‘Kaanch’. Emotional and spiritual violation is as horrific as rape. What we’ve gone through is worse than rape and we’re determined to rescue our fragile baby from the clutches of this man who has has goons that can get us eliminated.”
To rewind the story…last week Kalpana Kajmi and her unit of ‘Kaanch’ arrived in Bhopal to shoot, only to realize that the producer was unwilling / unable to pay for the shooting. The 120-member unit found itself held hostage in four different hotels of Bhopal until the hotel bills were cleared. Says the filmmaker, “70 percent of our crew is back in Mumbai, but we don’t feel safe. We’re under tremendous threat. It’s sad for an independent working woman to say this. But I feel the absence of a man in my life. If Bhupenda (her companion of 30 years musician Bhupen Hazarika) were around I wouldn’t be feeling so vulnerable.”
The important thing at the moment is to not let the film be shelved. Says Kalpana, “We won’t allow that to happen. We’re going to buy the film off the producer. Apparently there is a rule by law whereby a defaulter in any business venture can be compelled to relieve the venture of his presence. We will examine all our possibilities. But the film belongs to my cast and crew Ila Arun, Veena Malik, Avika Gour…We are the creative owners. We will find a way to become its financial guardians.”
Grateful to Mahesh Bhatt for his timely intervention Kalpana says, “If it wasn’t for him my cast and crew would still be stranded in Bhopal. I’ve known him from when I was 16. He has always been there to help and support me.”