BY RENU MEHTA, TORONTO:
Zwigato is director Nandita Das’ third feature after Firaaq (TIFF ’08) and Manto (TIFF ’18) that was showcased at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). With a storied acting career, having worked with filmmakers like Deepa Mehta, Mrinal Sen, and Shyam Benegal, this latest feature is set in Bhubhaneshpur and focuses on the tight margins of the gig economy. The film stars Kapil Sharma and Shahana Goswami.
The story captures an everyday man who is a delivery man and gets enmeshed in the daily grind of ratings and delivery quotas, making the audience think about workers’ rights and the way they live their life.
What inspired the film?
It was Covid time and there was contactless delivery for our conveniences. There were lot of people who were working but they were completely invisible and I just felt that there are lot of stories out there. And when we actually started talking to them, I felt that I could write something. I did a short script and I took it to Applause Entertainment and the CEO Samir Nair said no, this merits a feature film length. And when I did, I realized there really was a story that needed to be told of new India, of the relentlessness of life, of those who are hidden in plain sight, to just make us aware of their conscious existence, to their contribution to our life , to their struggles, to their fears. I think that is how we create empathy through cinema by telling stories of people that we don’t get to see.
Tell us about the film
I wanted to do something small and simple after my first two features, but no film is really small and simple because you have many challenges of different kinds. And of course the treatment of each film varies depending on what the subject is and every film has to be different. The concerns remain the same. It is really to show a mirror to our own selves and the society that we live in and to make films that are relevant to our times.
Why did you select Bhubhaneshwar for the story?
I was quite clear that I wanted a two tier city and not one of those Metros. Because in a two-tiered city, there is a mashup of traditional and modernity. So you have the malls and the high rises, but you also have the small lanes and Bhubaneshwar is a temple town. Visually also it is an interesting place. My father comes from there. We have so much diversity in the country and like someone asked why Bhubaneshwar and I said why not Bhubaneshwar.
About women centric films?
Only when there is a woman protagonist, we think it’s a woman centric film which I don’t think is true. I think it’s how you treat woman characters in a film. It’s not the length of the role but what nuance, what layers you give to the film. How do you make women vulnerable and strong at the same time and bring in those layers is what matters!