Hemwant Tiwari is an actor, writer and filmmaker who recently bagged 12th Dadasaheb Phalke Film Festival Award for his film ‘Lomad’.
Lomad is a 93 minute, single shot film made in black and white. The film has been recognised at 18 different film festivals.
How do you feel receiving so many international awards for your film ‘Lomad’?
I feel elated and confident. All the credit goes to my team.
Tell us more about your journey to cinema.
I was born in Bihar. When I was born, it was Bihar and after the division, it has come in Jharkhand. My father was in the Army and he got posted to Gurgaon that lies in the northern part of India. He then bought a small piece of land there and built a home. So, I did my schooling from Army Public School, Dhaula Kuan.
As I grew up, I worked in a call center and saved money. Realizing my passion for cinema, I came to Mumbai. In the initial days, I used to teach yoga and give auditions simulateneouly. Then I did theatre for a long time. I did the film ‘Delhi 6’ with Rakeysh Om Prakash in the beginning of my career. I played Lord Ram in that.
Slowly and gradually, a short film happened. It’s called ‘Life is beautiful’. Then I did short films ‘Panaah’ and ‘Salaam’. Then I did a couple of feature films that didn’t release.
And then this amazing international series called ‘Medinah’ came my way for which I was in Qatar for 6 months. And after that, I was writing Lomad and finally, me and my team made this film. So, this is my journey more or less, in brief.
Lomad is the world’s first black and white one-take film. How did you come up with this unique idea?
At the beginning of my career, I did my acting course. And apart from all the aspects of acting, we are also taught to watch as many films as possible. You have to eat, breathe and live films. So, I started doing that. At that time, I watched an amazing film called ‘Rope’ made by Sir Alfred Hitchcock. And when I watched that film, I was inspired. It was made in 1948 and at that time, the reels used to get finished after ten minutes. At that time, this legendary filmmaker made ‘Rope’. At every ten minutes, he used to go to the back of the actor and he used to change the reel. He tried to make a one-shot film at that point in time. So, when I watched that film, I was amazed and I just wanted to make something extraordinary like that. And that is how I thought of making Lomad a one-shot. And to make it black and white, I was inspired by Alfred Sir. And also, the film’s story comes out in a more dynamic way in black and white.
What the film is all about and what is the significance of the title?
This is the story of a couple. A boy and a girl who meet after a decade. They were together in college and they meet again to create some magical moments but things don’t go that way. Their car gets stranded on an abandoned road. The story is about how everyone is ‘Lomad’. Lomad means Fox. The film has a dialect of Haryana and that is how I came up with this title Lomad.
There’s lomad (fox) in all of us which comes out at an unusual place and time. Even a person himself doesn’t know what he/she is capable of doing at an unusual place or time. That’s the film is all about. The characters do a certain thing that they never thought of.
Since this film is made very differently, what kind of preparations you had to do in the making of the film and before that?
That’s a lovely question! So, apart from the story, which itself has a lot of twists and turns, it also has a powerful storytelling style and performances. A lot of preparations went into this project because it is a one shot. One single mistake and we would have to start it all over again. And that is what happened. After doing so much of hardwork and rehearsals of six months, we would have got the film in the first attempt. But at 88 minutes, the card finished. So you don’t know! Even after so much of hardwork and preparations, any single thing can compell you and your entire team to start from the beginning. Any mistake can happen. It can be from the crew, the actors, or anyone. Our card finished in first attempt and in our second attempt we got the whole film.
The preparations were a lot. We had six months of rehearsals. Initially, we prepared scene by scene at home. Once we were ready, we went to the location and rehearsed again. And then we called the technicians and rehearsed with each one of them too.
When you are doing something out of the box, faith is a very important element. Faith in yourself, your work and your teammates. So you had this faith since the beginning or it developed gradually?
I believe that faith comes gradually. Earlier I used to feel that we have to be dependent on someone for something. But eventually, I realized that I am the universe and I am enough. And the moment you realize this, you can do anything. When you believe in yourself, you get the confidence and then only you can bring that faith in your teammates.
I had faith in myself. Slowly and gradually, as I met people for this project, my faith increased. The point is, I am the universe. If I have faith in myself, I can make the other person believe in me too.
When you started working on this project, did you anticipate the kind of success you have been getting?
No. Even though I have written it, directed it and acted in it and even though I have the most amazing performers and technicians in the film, but sill I didn’t think this. I just thought that we are making something different and it will make an impact. See, I made it just because I wanted to make it. I wanted to make something extra-ordinary.
But slowly and gradually, when we started sending it to the festivals and the kind of response we started getting, I had never anticipated that it would happen.
How did you choose the entire cast and crew for this entire project?
It was a process. Auditions and everything happened. I went with different cameramen on the set and rehearsed. So, in every department, I wanted people who are hungry and passionate to do something extraordinary because this film required that. I just wanted extraordinary people for this. And gradually, I got those people.
Why didn’t you choose a popular face for this project?
What happens is, I write a script and then I go behind a popular face that could take months. I didn’t want to waste any time. I didn’t want to waste my idea.
The best part about this film that could have happened is that I am an actor as well. So I just knew the nuances of the part and I knew that I can do it.
However, I would definitely want to work with amazing and popular stars but I didn’t want to waste a minute on this unique project.
They say, ‘A popular face helps you sell a film’. What do you think about that?
I was watching an interview and this person said that intent of making a film should be amazing. Popular faces or new faces, that doesn’t matter. If the intent is good, you come out with a good film. And you can’t decide the fate of the film. Every film has its own fate and you can’t decide whether you make it with a known face or a new face. So, I just went with my gut feeling that I have to tell this story. I didn’t care about whether it was known faces or new.
When will we be able to watch the film in India?
Very soon. We are working on it. I am also very eager to present this film to the world.
As a filmmaker and cinema lover, from where do you take your inspiration?
I find inspiration in anything to everything. If I sit with you, I would just listen to you. I love listening to anyone and everyone because that is where the whole story is. Everyone has their own story. Everything has its own story. I find inspiration in this cup. I put some black coffee in this mug for some time and it left a mark. So, I find inspiration in everything. Also, I like reading about filmmakers and actors.
What kind of cinema do you like to watch?
I like to watch cinema that has story. That is it! I don’t go behind known faces. I just love watching good cinema and good performances. I recently watched ‘Nayattu’ on Netflix. Brilliant story. I didn’t know any of the faces in that film. But the story was so amazing that it just gripped me in the first five minutes.
Do you have any plans to enter the mainstream commercial cinema?
Right now, I just want to do this interview, finish this coffee and get a good nap in the evening. That’s it. I don’t care about the future. I just want to make good films and be a part of good films as an actor. That’s it.
Any other project you are currently working on?
Yes, I am giving auditions. Simultaneously, I have written scripts. I am working on that. The pre-production is on. The moment the lockdown is lifted, I will start with that.