Moon on the Man: a documentary on the curious life of two men in Mumbai
The documentary, telling the story of two men with strange lives in Mumbai, premiered at the Kerala International Documentary and Short Film Festival.
The way Aasif and Wadood were chatting, relaxing on a Mumbai balcony, you’d think someone had accidentally left a camera behind. One of them was leaning over a railing and speaking the truths in a lie. The other said if someone believed the lie to be true, then they would give you their truth. The whole exchange is very raw, a fragment falling from an evening conversation between friends. Prince Shah knew exactly what he was doing when his two friends started arguing about a man called Praklawn and he started filming their exchanges on an iPhone. This was going to be his documentary on one of Mumbai’s most interesting characters.
Praklawn was 79 years old and claimed, among other things, that he was the youngest freedom fighter in India. A young team including Prince filmed Praklawn’s story for 5-6 years until it became a documentary that would add another man’s story to it. Moon over man, as they called their work, was screened for the first time at the Kerala International Documentary and Short Film Festival (IDSFFK).
Even if there were no cameras or a group of curious young people following Praklawn, you would have noticed the man walking around with long golden white hair, shaking each other’s hands. He would calmly tell you his story, the famous people he worked with, the song from the movie he wrote. “We met him in 2007, after a film screening, while we were loudly discussing the film. He came to see us and told us that he had worked with director Guru Dutt. That night we went to his house and spent four hours there. Four years later, I told him I wanted to shoot his story, ”Prince Shah told TNM after the Moon on the man first.
The film’s producer Anshul Pandey and cinematographer Vaibhav Sorte are also with him at the premiere. They take turns talking about the changing emotions they felt while filming the documentary. At first it was driven by curiosity as to whether Praklawn was telling the truth. But somewhere along the way, the curiosity disappeared and they didn’t want to judge him anymore. He has become a dear friend.
Vaibhav, Prince, Anshul
At one point, when they couldn’t get the right climax to end the story, they found Sailesh, another curious character roaming the streets of Mumbai. He tells all who listen to him that he was once a child actor – the dearest – worked in films like Yaadon Ki Baaraat as one of the child actors with Aamir Khan. But somehow he ended up on the street. In the documentary, you spot him at events, asking questions of dignitaries, trying to get a free meal.
“We met him at midnight while we were having a winery at Church Gate after an exam. This guy came to us and asked if we could pay for his cellar. His accent was amazing and he looked like Al Pacino. When I met him again later, I thought why not combine his stories with those of Praklawn, ”Prince says.
Unlike Praklawn, Sailesh had proof of having been an actor before. His face holds the greatest proof, it is the same one that once played a child in many Hindi films. The camera intermittently returns to the two debating friends, who deepen their analysis of Praklawn and Sailesh. “We didn’t want a voiceover. We wanted the conflict behind the camera to happen in front of her. So we let Aasif and Wadood have their discussions. It was the same bunch of questions and answers we had behind the camera, ”adds Prince.
Their two characters enjoyed being filmed with a camera, they “played” for it. “We were curious first as humans, then as artists. We wanted to deconstruct them and investigate them. After a while we wanted to go over the top. We didn’t want to judge, ”Prince says, with Vaibhav and Anshul in agreement.
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