Reacho Nagpur Exclusive: Meet Prantik Deshmukh, Vidarbha's Very Own National Film Award Winner!

Prantik's film 'Matitali Kusti' has won this year’s National Film Award in the Best Exploration/Adventure Film category.

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This year, there was a lot of fuss about the winners of National Film Awards. While Akshay Kumar’s Best Actor win for Rustom and Airlift wasn’t received well, jury head Priyadarshan’s remarks after the press conference, added more fuel to the fire. 

But there was one winner who deserved every bit of it. And to top that, he’s from Vidarbha. 

Meet Prantik Deshmukh, a 25-year old filmmaker from Yavatmal. He is the director of Matitali Kusti, a black and white film that showcases the struggle of the modern day traditional wrestlers and their battle against the freestyle wrestling.

The film has just won this year’s National Film Award in the Best Exploration/Adventure Film category. 

Deshmukh is a post-graduate degree holder in Mass Communication from the Savitribai Phule Pune University. The film was a part of Deshmukh's fourth semester individual project. It was produced by his department while the shooting was done at Chinchechi talim in Pune, one of the oldest wrestling training centers in Maharashtra.

Moreover, the film has also won the Filmfare Award for best film in the nonfiction category. Incredible isn’t it?!

Reacho caught up with the young National award winner and this is what he had to say!

On 2017, kickstarting on a great note!

I’m very happy. I’d never expected that my first film will get this kind of appreciation. First Filmfare award and now National Film Award in the Best Exploration/Adventure Film category. Overall 2017 has been kind to me, till now. My whole team, crew and my family are very happy!

On his decision to make Matitali Kusti in black and white!

I’d never planned to make a film on traditional wrestling, at first place. Instead, I was in a very different direction. I was planning to show what a wrestler does from sunrise to sunset. For this project, when I started meeting professional wrestlers, I came to know that this art form, which is about 3000 years old, is on the verge of extinction. This art form has seen a steep decline in the last 15-20 years. It is then when I realised the need to put this issue in limelight. And hence, the monochrome effect which you can see in the film is a metaphor for this downfall. 

On different reactions from the viewers: 

People from my generation, people from my parents’ generation have been watching Kushti live but they were unaware of the fact that this traditional art form is on the verge of extinction. They were very surprised after watching the film. Moreover, they were shocked to see the state of the traditional wrestling in India. Some loved the theme, some were spellbound by the visuals. Overall, there were different reactions from different people.

I’ll tell you one incident which happened before the film had won any award. One traditional wrestler who had watched the film called me soon after and he was crying. He was glad that someone made a film on Kushti and has raised a voice for people like him. This is when I realised that audience is relating to my film. This film helped him to connect with his roots.

On the challenges, while shooting this film:

90 percent of the film is shot in a very small space. It was shot in a room in Sukhrawarpeth, which is like in the middle of the city. And I wanted to shoot it in natural light. Hence get that perfect light was very important. Or else the film could’ve been monotonous.

Also, the wrestlers in the film are no professional actors. When I kept the camera in front of them, then they got really awkward and it looked really rehearsed. Hence, I shot the film very carefully without disturbing them. 

On his inspiration:

My inspiration, people who I look up to changes every now and then. So no specific names, but definitely there are many artists whom I admire!

On guiding budding filmmakers from Vidarbha:    

Trying is the best way to learn something. And filmmaking is all about trying, failing and achieving success. I’d only tell them to just go and make good films. 

On his future plans:

I’m just 25. I just want to learn more about the filmmaking. For me, every painting, every film, every photograph has a story. I don’t want to classify myself just as a filmmaker, I just want to tell good stories.

You can watch Deshmukh's 12-minute short film, here:

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Mandar Pandhare (WRITER)

Mandar Pandhare is a commerce graduate turned journalist. When he is not writing stories or editing articles, he is either busy traveling, cracking lame jokes or drooling over Nagpuri street food.