How far is Darbhanga from Mumbai?


An aspiring actor’s struggle always creates an intriguing narrative to play with, giving the writer and director a chance to tell something already familiar but in a new way. Dhuin by Achal Mishra is the story of Pankaj, played by Abhinav Jha, a small theater actor who wants to go to Mumbai to try his luck and succeed in the film industry. For now, to occupy his mornings he does street plays in his hometown of Darbhanga, in the evenings he hangs out with locals on the cinema and theater tours to discuss cinema and his nights are devoted to take acting lessons on YouTube. However, aspiring to be an actor is not the only challenge in Pankaj’s life. His family is struggling to make ends meet, his father, while looking for a job for himself, wants his son to earn for the family.

Darbhanga may have a special place in the heart of filmmaker Achal Mishra. In his films, alongside the actors, the city also plays a character. However, unlike his previous project “Ghamak Ghar”, this film takes place in a relatively urban setting. The course of the film crosses the winter season, so the screen repeatedly is, well, fogged up. Cinematographer Anand Bansal uses morning and night fog to engulf the protagonist, just as he is engulfed by the tragedies of his life.

The film’s cinematography is simple but adequate and effective. It showcases the many aspects of the city of Darbhanga perfectly, with the camera held still for most scenes except for those where Pankaj is walking in distress. In one scene, probably one of the best of the lot, Pankaj, two filmmakers and a director are sitting on the ground in the evening, facing a monument, discussing cinema, in particular Kiarostami. While the three filmmakers talk about the Iranian filmmaker, Pankaj has no idea what the conversation is about. He shares the love of cinema, but not the knowledge that the other three people have of it. He has his moment of embarrassment and realization followed by a scene where he returns home and all we see is Pankaj and the thoughts spiraling through his head.

The film is distinguished by its authenticity, particularly in terms of local accents and dialogues. The film, in a sense, is a docu-fiction. Most of the people we see on screen aren’t actors, playing themselves, which gives it some rawness.

I recently had the opportunity to see the film at the Habitat International Film Festival, with the crew and cast present to interact with the audience. While talking about the consistency of the theme of home and migration from his hometown, Mishra says, “I make these films to find answers myself. I’ve been away from Darbhanga for a while, I’m going back in this place to make movies. and in the middle of it, to understand certain things.”

When asked why he makes movies in the winter, he said, “This one was shot in the winter. Prashant, who this movie is inspired by, told me about how he had to take his dad somewhere. This image of the father and the son on a bicycle on a winter morning marked me and I knew that I wanted to make the film around it.

Dhuin cast and crew

The film has an unusual running time of fifty minutes, too long to be a short but not long enough to be a feature. While addressing this, Mishra said, “There was no consideration for the running time. We just shot what we had to do, there was a lot of improvisation. I had a script of five pages and we knew what we wanted for the movie. The running time turned out to be fifty minutes, but we knew we didn’t want to add any scenes or shoot more.”

Achal Mishra

Cinematographer Anand Bansal also spoke about static images throughout the film. He said, “It has a lot to do with how Achal sees his film. We moved the cameras around when we thought we needed them.” Achal jokingly interrupts and says, “We didn’t have the money to move the cameras.”

The title of the film ‘Dhuin’ did not come easily to Achal. He says: “I think it’s more difficult to give a title than to make the film itself. I was stuck when it came to naming the film, it was called different names at different stages. I knew I wanted it to be something light and tied I hadn’t heard Dhuin as a Maithili word but someone told me about it, it sounded good and didn’t reveal much about the film, so we we decided to do it.


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