It was while watching Pradip Kurbah’s Onaatah: Of the Earth, as a member of the National Film Awards jury, that Bombay actor-filmmaker Satish Kaushik decided to remake it in Marathi. Onaatah went on to bag the award for best Khasi language film at the 63rd National Film awards and now Kaushik’s adaptation of it — Mann Udhan Vaara, directed by Sanjay Memane — is set to release on October 11.
“It’s theme, treatment, simplicity and lack of pretentiousness reached out,” says Kurbah. “The small film and the journey of its protagonist touched my heart,” concurs Kaushik. He initially wanted to remake it in Hindi, but felt that the sensitive subject might perhaps be better accepted by the Marathi audience.
Remakes of Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Bengali films have been dime a dozen but, according to its makers, Onaatah is the second film ever from the North-East to be remade in another language, the first being the 1975 Assamese film Chameli Memsaab that was remade in Bengali and Hindi.
According to film journalist turned filmmaker Utpal Borpujari, Onaatah being remade is an example of the increasing visibility and interest in North-East cinema beyond the film festival circuit, aided, of course, by the buzz in the social media. “But ultimately, it is the universality of the story that is the prime reason for Onaatah, or any other film, getting remade,” he says.
The Marathi title pertains to the upheavals in an individual’s life. “The hurricanes in life, happiness and sorrows are passing phases that come and go,” says Memane, who prefers working on films that are based on social issues or have a deep connect with life itself.
The film is about a woman’s journey back to life after one such traumatic experience. It makes her lose faith for a while but through some gentle, kind-hearted people around her she gets her grip back and reconnects with life. “Their goodness, the fact that they are non-judgmental helps her get out of the cocoon,” says Kaushik.
The screenplay and dialogues of the Marathi version have been written by the veteran, multi award-winning filmmaker duo Sumita Bhave and Sunil Sukthankar. “They write for their own movies,” says Memane, on the rareness of having got them on board. Memane got his break as a cinematographer in their 2002 film Vaastupurush. According to him, the structure of the original has been adhered to with changes brought in terms of the location and for reasons of cultural specificity. The Khasi hills terrain makes way for the Konkan coastal region. The Marathi version has been shot in Kudal town, between Ratnagiri and Goa. Some situational songs — some of them written by Mr Sukthankar — that add meaning to the narrative are featured in the Marathi film, sung by Sonu Nigam and Ajay Gogavale of Ajay-Atul duo among others.
Mann Udhan Vaara marks many other mileposts. It happens to be Kaushik’s first Marathi production that he has produced with Jayantilal Gada of PEN India Limited and Vishakha Singh of Lokaa Entertainment. There are veterans like Kishor Kadam and Uttara Baokar in the cast as well as young faces — Monal Gajjar and Ritvij Vaidya — both new to Marathi cinema. Kaushik has plans of making the film in Hindi as well.