In the thick forests of the Western Ghats in Maharashtra, a young man goes out searching for honey, the way his father taught him. A filmmaker’s camera wanders with him, capturing majestic tree canopies and lingering around village houses where women whisper intimate secrets and stories of their husbands and lost loves.
A mystical film, about nature and people of Kondwall village, And What Is The Summer Saying, premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2018 in the Berlinale Shorts section. At the recent Mumbai International Film Festival 2020, it won Payal Kapadia, an alumnus of the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, the Pramod Pati Special Jury Award for Most Innovative/Experimental Film. “Through the film, I hope to bring out that which relates not only to the nature outside but also one’s own nature within,” says Kapadia. Excerpts from an interview:
What led you into the forest to make a film?
A few years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to this village and to Namdeo, the man who has learnt to live off the forest from his father. He is a very learned person, with a lot of knowledge about the forest. What interested me was how he collected honey from the beehives in the trees. I wanted to make a film about him.
A still from And What Is The Summer Saying
How did you develop an understanding of forests, represented in the dreamy scenes?
I am from Mumbai but grew up in South India, in a school situated in a forested area. Perhaps because of this, I was interested in this part of the Western Ghats to make this documentary. Growing up, I wanted to come to FTII because the institute lets students explore cinema without any restrictions from the outside.
What does the title of the film represent?
The filmmaking was during summer and we would spend the afternoons with the women of the village because it was too hot to shoot. Their stories also began to interest me. The film combines these two experiences. The title comes from this season too.
What led to the experiments in this film?
We had a lot of difficulty shooting the women in the village. We decided to use only their voices in the film. Thus, the images and the sound are not completely related. Sometimes difficult situations lead to experimentations in cinema.
Will you make more experimental cinema?
I would like to experiment with cinema, both fiction and non fiction. I am currently writing my first feature film All We Imagine as Light, where I hope to apply some of these ideas.