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July 29, 2015

The Idea Behind ‘Masaan’

By Tanisha Choudhury

Neeraj Ghaywan, the director of Masaan, tells us about his inspirations and the idea behind the film

Four people, each in hope of a better future, meet on the banks of the River Ganges — a low-caste boy hopelessly in love, a daughter racked with guilt after a sexual encounter ends in tragedy, a father who’s lost his moral compass and a young boy in search of a family. Set in Varanasi, this is the story of debutant director Neeraj Ghaywan’s film Masaan. A standing ovation at its premiere was followed by the FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) Award and the Promising Future Prize in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes 2015.

The idea for the film occurred to Ghaywan years ago, during his years at a corporate office, when a friend told him about the burning ghats of Varanasi and the people who cremate corpses. “He spoke in detail about them and how they are just dead bodies for them, nothing beyond that. I was fascinated by them and began wondering what a person’s thought process would be when they’re doing it, what their world view will be and how they’d appreciate the quality of life around them. From that thought, I concocted a short story which I turned into a feature film, years later.”

Ghaywan takes inspiration from the works of Satyajit Ray, Guru Dutt, Robert Bresson, the Dardenne brothers and Masaan’s producers Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane. Undeterred by the heat of Varanasi and the burning pyres used during the shoot, the film’s cast and crew poured their hearts and souls into the film — the results are on screen for all to see.

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