By Rajiv Rawat
Garhwal Post, February 2008
Parashar Gaur has never stopped dreaming of making the next great Garhwali film. Twenty-five years after his debut of Jagwal (“The Long Wait”), Garhwal’s maiden entry into the ranks of Indian regional cinema, Gaur has returned to India this February, hoping to crash the somnolent movie scene with a double header of screenplays. With a new streamlined approach to filmmaking, he hopes to shoot both films in record time this year, not only to commemorate Jagwal, but also to personally intervene in the development of Garhwali cinema that is facing a stark fork in the road, leading to either a creative renaissance or a generational failure due to lack of interest and funding.
Gaur has taken a long and winding road to get to this point. He has spent the better part of the last two decades with his family in Canada, mulling over the deep frustrations he faced in producing the sequel to Jagwal and dirty politics that forced him out of India altogether. Yet despite these setbacks, Gaur’s dedication to Garhwal and Uttarakhand has remained a lifelong constant, now set to continue almost where he left off all those many years ago.
Hailing originally from Kandoliya village, Patti Aswalsyun of Pauri Garhwal, Parashar Gaur was born to an astrologer family in 1947, four months before India’s independence. Gaur, like many Garhwalis of his generation, migrated as a youth to Delhi for work and education. By 10th standard, he had arrived in Delhi, working to support his family, while studying at night school, eventually earning a BA from Meerut University.
During this period, his interest in theatre led to him to become a prominent member of the theatrical community in Delhi. He would distinguish himself as both a script writer and actor through various well-received Hindi and Garhwali language plays. This experience would eventually prompt him to begin imagining the contours of a Garhwali language feature film that would take another decade to come to fruition.
After several false starts and financial difficulties, Gaur was finally able to get enough support to begin the filmmaking process rolling in earnest. In association with Kauthig, and eventually Anchalik films, primary shooting began in September 1982 in Pauri Garhwal and wrapped a month later.
Jagwal’s premiere the following spring represented a seminal event in the cultural life of the growing Delhi Pahari community as well as a historical milestone for the performing arts of the region. Indeed, the film’s cinematography would eventually serve as the template for many subsequent Garhwali music videos. Likewise, variations of its simple and poignant story would anchor similar village melodramas that would become a staple of the regional cinema genre.
In the intervening years, two central members of the original team, Ramesh Mandoliya and Dinesh Kothiyal, have passed on. Jagwal’s single print remains in storage, waiting for restoration experts to recover its full picture quality. And while Jagwal created much excitement at its time, only a handful of Garhwali and even fewer Kumaoni films (including Megha Ah, Cheli, Garhjawein, Chakrachaal, Beti Bwari, Sat Mangliya, Meri Pyari Boye, Jeetu Baguwal, and Teri Saun) have ever made it into production in the past quarter of a century. Indeed even with the Jagwal’s initial success, financial difficulties would continue to dog the Garhwali film community even with the political ferment of the late 1980s and 1990s energizing Uttarakhand’s cultural identity.
Given the difficulties involved in these productions, Gaur holds no illusions about his current effort which will involve producing two films concurrently. However, he does feel optimistic given today’s widespread availability of audio-visual equipment and dramatic drops in the cost of video editing. As such, rather than worrying about production costs, the success of such films may depend more on human elements including the quality of the screenplay and cinematography and power of the actors’ dramatic performances.
Most importantly, Gaur believes Garhwali cinema can build on the strength of its roots rather than ape Bollywood in a losing battle of sensationalism and titillation. Rather, his two screenplays will explore both political and social themes specific to Uttarakhand, dealing with the tragedy of corruption at the village level and lives affected by changing social norms in a modernizing society. Only this way he feels these feels will make any real impact while serving to enlighten Uttarakhandis at home and abroad to the social realities of the hills. Moreover, in treating his films as movements that involve average people in their themes and coproduction, perhaps he can give fresh impetus to an art form that has stalled after such bright promise. For Gaur at the very least, it is worth another shot.