Road to Sangam marks the debut of Amit Rai as a director in. A television report in a leading news channel had caught his attention. Later, he developed the same into a feature film approached his name sake Amit Chheda and had his first film on floors with the ensemble of best of the performers in it. Road to Sangam, a film inspired from Gandhi Ji and his principles, has already bagged three awards in three different international film festivals, including Viewer’s Choice Award at ‘MAMI’. Latest in the Awards galore are three awards at Los Angles Reel Film Festival. Categories are Best Foreign Film; Best Foreign Film Original Score and Best Foreign Film production Design. It received thunderous applause at Cannes. In conversation with Amit Rai, he talks about the making of his first feature film.
What made you ink upon Gandhiji as a subject of your film?
A television report about Allahbad museum going to restore an old vehicle by repairing inspired me to make a film. This was the same vehicle in which Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes were carried to Sangam. I found the thought very symbolist with our country where people of different religions are staying together. Like the engine of any vehicle where different nut and bolts have to work in tandem to make it work, likewise in a nation like ours, all have to work together to take the country ahead. If any parts (religion) are not working properly, it can damage whole system. We used clippings of Gandhiji’s procession of last journey.
How did you manage to recreate a replica of the original vehicle or did you manage to get the same one from the museum?
No, we do not have the original vehicle, it is a national heritage. We made a replica of the original vehicle which is their in the museum. We took help from same person who has repaired the original engine. He helped our art director. We struggled a lot for the same 48fordV8 engine as well which we found finally at Lucknow. This all took around one and half year. Because of such a perfect replica of the vehicle, people of Allahabad tried to stop shooting, they thought filmmaker took historical car for shoot and accused museum people of this irresponsible behavior.
Is this the movie based on Gandhiji or Gandhigiri?
We have Gandhiji in story but it’s not a story about Gandhigiri or Gandhiwad. It’s a story of any normal person and how he can simply apply his ideology in real life even today and how it affect society and people around him. It’s not the story against any particular community but it’s their point of view to see the situation, and how they react to it.
What kind of research did you do for the movie?
Gandhiji was so religious in his personal life but he always put nationalism above religion. After the death of Gandhiji no one from that particular community (Muslim) talked about it. In the film Road to Sangam we have tried to portray their point of view in all honesty. In fact, we have dialogues in which the Muslim community leader acknowledges that Gandhiji had died for us.
What is role of Paresh Rawal in the film and how you convinced him to do the film?
Paresh Rawal is playing the character of Hashmat Ullah Khan, the person who was responsible for repairing the original engine. I had thought of only three people for this role but once we narrated the script to Paresh ji, he immediately agreed. In fact, so impressed was he with the character, that he did his own research for it.
Would you call it a hard-hitting film?
No, the film is not hard hitting. It’s a feature film which will definitely leave everybody thinking. In fact, who so ever has seen the film at various festivals, have been all with praise. Even younger generation has been very positive about this film. Since the film is a mix of real incidents and fiction, we have characters that are actually there. We have shot the film in Allahabad at actual locations. We do have some hard hitting dialogues but the entire community supported us during the film making because there is nothing malicious or wrong.
What was all going on in your mind while writing script of Road to Sangam?
I always used to think about family’s property dispute, disputes in religions-state, country. That’s what I have tried to put in the mind of my protagonist. He feels strongly about his community but he does not separate from the country. His belief is to come together to make it into a stronger country. I also specially feel people who stayed here during the time of partition are not just vote bank. They are the citizens of the country and hence its strength. They should not allow anybody to use them as one and instead become part of the mainstream growth and ignore minor irritants. Before making film I had studied all the documents of Muslim community from the time of partition and then have tried my best to do justice to their psyche. While reading all those documents I also got to know that Muhammad Ali Jinnah was always more interested in Waziristan more than Pakistan.
What were you doing before making Road to Sangam?
I have done my best plays in Marathi thought I am a non-Maharastran. But to do my first love theatre, I had to learn the language and thoroughly enjoyed the process. Some of my award winning plays is ‘Hai Wadan’ with Girish Karnad, Aashad Koirin, Mahabhooj, Chokat Vihiri and Dagad Aot.