Fourteen years later, you can sometimes forget how deeply KBC got injected into the consciousness of this country. There had been game shows before, yeah, but the stakes were never this huge. A crore was a special number, your life was different below it and it would be very different above it. It hit the sweet spot for Indians between earning your reward and the fatalism that accompanies being a single unit in a dense swarming crowd and still deserving it.
It was true for me so it must be true for many more; we all visualized getting a cheque from Amitabh Bachchan, earning (that was important) it by passing through the nerve-wrenching levels (“padaos” in AB’s voice imprinted in us all) to reach there. That shot of AB and the contestant conjoined by a cheque as they faced the camera is iconic (now sitting behind the glass showcase of many homes, cover picture of many fb profiles). But in these pictures you can also see the silhouettes in the back-ground of those that did not reach the hot seat. You can feel their presence while watching the show, outside the spotlight, hoping time slows down, not wanting to hear the gong that comes at the end of the hour. You don’t want to identify with them, ever, even as you try to decide whether you will do a thumbs-up, hand wave or salute when the camera pans to you at the name-introduction.*
Khara Karodpati is about a man who did not reach the hot-seat. The village gathers to welcome home their returning hero to find a dejected man who cannot look anyone in the face. Vishnu did not lose, like the other 9 out of ten people, he never even got to play. Depressed and ashamed, he shuffles around the village now, back to his life again, embarrassed and confused at seeing posters of Deewar or Saudagar. His friends and fellow villagers, wanting to shake him out of his funk, come up with a plan.
The film was made by Piyush Thakur as part of an exercise while he was a student at FTII under budget and time constraints (filmed under 40 hours, which when you see the film is kind of incredible). And the roots of these constraints show at times, but also add a simplicity and directness to the emotions at the center of the film. Piyush cites Rajkumar Hirani as an influence, and like that director he studied as editor at FTII. That background shines through in Khara Karodpati. Within the first five minutes, even before Vishnu returns to the village, you have a very clear idea of the eco-system the film is set in, the people (actual actors cleverly inserted among actual villagers) who live here and their connection to Vishnu. The entire film is a case-study of economical and efficient short-filmaking.** Throughout there is a control and confidence at work here that carries the film to its heart warming and touching end.
This is a film about the silhouettes in the back ground and there is bitter-sweetness to it. Vishnu’s life does not change. But at least he gets to live that life around people who care about him.
*I know people who looped their names as said by AB in KBC as part of their ringtone and kept it for years since that show aired.
** The best kind!
Director & Editor: Piyush Thakur
Writer: Deepak Mohana, Alap Mohile
Producer: Pankaj Rag
Cinematographer: Vatsala Goel
Cast: Somnath Nimkar, Anuya Patil