The Gold-Laden Sheep & Sacred Mountains director Ridham Janve speaks with Shalini Saksena about his film in Gaddi dialect
What is the movie all about?
It is about a sacred mountain in the Himalayas. It is an exographic sci-fi film; a narrative on the lives of the shepherds, the Gaddis. The mountain is sacred for many reasons some that stems from folklore and myth. So much so that people believe that one can go back and forth in time if you stepped at one particular spot. A jet has crashed here. The Army descends for rescue operations. But they can’t find this place. A shepherd is roped in to look for any survivors. This affects the lives of the people living on this mountain.
How did you come up with the story?
My friend, Akshay Singh who is also the producer of this film and I would visit villages in Himachal. The aim was to cut ourselves from big cities and find a quiet spot where we could write. We would visit these places and stay for two-three months, nice place, nice people and cheap living. This is when we came in contact with the Gaddi people. That is how the story unfolded.
You chose pahari language to tell your story. Why?
It is not actually a pahari language. It is a dialect that is unique to Gaddis. We chose this language because we didn’t want to use any actors to tell our story. We wanted to keep it as real as possible. It had to be very organic and this would not have been possible with actors.
What were the challenges faced to make non-actors act?
There are not many characters in the film. But most of them were easy to cast since we knew quite a few Gaddis. The problem came when we had to cast the main character. We started to look for the right person when the shepherds were high up in the mountains. It would rain as well. We would set up camp and then look. Many times we came back empty handed. But when we did find our shepherd — Arjun Singh — everything fell into place. He was perfect. The good part was that he was able to give us time and brought in his own energy.
Why did you not want to reach out to the masses?
When we started shooting, we tried to free ourselves of any preconceived notions. We wanted to bring to life the place and the story that we wanted to tell. For this film, pandering to the audience was not the aim. This doesn’t mean that I am opposed to making a commercial film. But with this film, we wanted to be as real as possible.
Does the movie want to send a message across?
There are several subtle messages of human quest, spirit of the mountain and Nature. But none of them are in your face. We just wanted to create an experience of being in the mountains.
What is scope of indie films in India?
It is always tricky to make such films because of availability of funds and which festivals to show them at. Therefore, some filmmakers put themselves under pressure and start censoring themselves and their project. This is unfortunate. One should make a film from the heart and it will find an audience. This is true for commercial films as well.
What about experimenting with projects?
I am open to all kinds of genre. I just don’t want to repeat myself. I have tried to experiment with different kind of films. I would want to make
sci-fis, thrillers, horror and even movies for kids.
What are your future plans?
I am working on a web-series; it is out and out a commercial project. I am also in the process of developing a few scripts since I would want to make a film in the near future.