'Dhai Aakhar’ is about power of written word : The Tribune India

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'Dhai Aakhar’ is about power of written word

From DD series ‘Chekhov ki Duniya’ to ‘Dhai Aakhar’, his new film, director Praveen Arora seeks refuge in literature

'Dhai Aakhar’ is about power of written word

Actors Mrinal Kulkarni and Harish Khanna in a still from ‘Dhai Aakhar’.



Sarika Sharma

FROM his early series for Doordarshan to his latest venture ‘Dhai Aakhar’, which competed in the Indian Panorama section at the recent International Film Festival of India (IFFI), director Praveen Arora’s 30-year career has been dominated by adaptation of a myriad of texts.

Director Praveen Arora

The weekend at IFFI witnessed two screenings of ‘Dhai Aakhar’, his first feature film. Based on the novel ‘Teerthatan Ke Baad’ by Amrik Singh Deep, it tells the story of a widow who rebuilds her life after years of being in an abusive marriage when she starts talking to an empathetic writer through letters. Their relationship stands against patriarchal societal norms laid down for a woman who has lost her husband.

Arora calls ‘Dhai Aakhar’ “an ode to love and the power it holds to transform someone’s life”. “I want to highlight how abuse is accepted and normalised within families and the kind of impact it has on a woman’s personhood.” The film stars Hindi and Marathi actor Mrinal Kulkarni, film and theatre personality Harish Khanna and Marathi actor Rohit Kokate. Asghar Wajahat, of ‘Jis Lahore Nai Dekhya O Jamyai Nai’ fame, has written the screenplay and dialogues, lyrics are by Irshad Kamil and music by Anupam Roy.

Arora first read the story in ‘Hans’ magazine and felt that the dimensions of the characters could be explored further. “Wajahat suggested to the author to turn it into a novel. We had just decided to turn it into a film when Covid struck. Incidentally, this is a true story of a woman who now lives in the US,” he says. The director feels that despite awareness, a large section of women in India is still oppressed. “We either want a woman to be subservient or treat her like a goddess. Why can’t she be an equal human being? What about her dreams and aspirations? It is a cruel situation,” says Arora.

Sirsa-born Arora did his Masters in English literature from Panjab University, Chandigarh. After pursuing journalism, he shifted to Delhi where he did theatre with Mahesh Vashistha in the 1990s. Literature is the mainstay of theatre, but when it came to making a TV series, he found himself in the company of books. He first worked with Ranjit Kapoor on ‘Chekhov ki Duniya’ (1995), a cherished series on Russian author Anton Chekhov’s stories; he was associate director. His next drama, his first project as a solo director, was ‘Parsa’, based on a novel by Gurdial Singh, Jnanpith awardee from Punjab. A docu-series on five of India’s most famous writers followed.

Adapting the written text has many advantages, insists Arora. “A novel offers you a detailed story with different layers and dimensions of various characters and situations. One gets in-depth insight into the plot and the psyche of the characters. Take a look at Stanley Kubrick or Vishal Bhardwaj and the kind of magic they have created with their adaptations,” he says.

Survival pushed Arora into ad filmmaking and devoured the experience gained to “understand the brilliance of the medium, its possibilities and potential”. His next film is an adaptation of Marathi author Saniya’s ‘Tyanantar’; the third would be set in Punjab. But, for now, he is happy with the response he got at IFFI and is eager to take his film to audiences around the country.


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