Director Sharad Raj’s first project From Thee Maria, which he directed in 1993 after passing away from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTTI), has finally seen the light of day, almost 30 years after its production. Starring Raghubir Yadav and Irfaan (Khan), it was released on YouTube last month and will be screened at the 13th Indian Film Festival in Ireland in October.
“It is our labor of love that could not be delivered back then, but when I approached Raghu bhai (Yadav) for my third feature film, he asked about our three-decade-old project. A few years ago, I had it digitized as we had shot it on magnetic tape back then. So with his inspiration, I worked on it and here it is streaming online and people are watching it and I am getting a great response,” says Raj.
The film was shot in Bhimtal with Yadav and Sudipta Banwar in lead roles and Irfaan as the supporting cast. Based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s story ‘The Idiot’. “Back then we just had Doordarhan and the theater was not releasing 43-minute films. So I assumed there was no future for this project. Raghu bhai’s wife Roshni, Irfaan’s wife Sutapa Sidkar and others have encouraged me a lot,” he says.
The film already has over 14,000 views. “Last week it was officially selected for the Irish festival and now we are thinking about sending it to other film festivals. Although we have digitized it, since we didn’t have much media back then, its sound and image quality is compromised. That’s why the OTT launch didn’t work and he finally launched it online.”
Over the last 25 years, Raj has worked in different places and is a creative director for TV shows including Kumkum and Dil Mil Gaye. “Then I decided to go solo and directed my first feature film Eek Betuke Aadmi Ki Afrah Ratein which we shot in Lucknow and partly in Muzaffarnagar in 2018 with Adil Hussain and other NSD passes. It has been presented at international festivals in 2019 and is expected to be released.”
He completed his second film The weekend. “The film again stars newcomers and is in post-production.” The director says his next film will be a crime drama for which Yadav has given his nod.
“Dedicated to my father”
Raj’s father, Dr Raj Kumar, a psychiatrist and poet, stepped in as a producer to fulfill his son’s dream. “He started with a small share, but then he became the producer of the film. He also did a directorial role after actor Suryamohan Kulshrestha failed to make it to Bhimtal. He always wanted our film to come out. Now 86, he has momentary memory loss but is very happy with the film’s release. I dedicate the film to him and all the team members who are no longer with us,” says Raj.
“Typical alcohol specialist. Music evangelist. Total travel scholar. Internet buff. Passionate entrepreneur.”