Award-winning filmmaker and theatre personality Jitendra Rai started his Matheno Films with the aim of making cinema with a social message.
Grounded against the glitz and glamour of stardom, you will often find this young filmmaker conducting theatre workshops with children of various NGOs.
He has worked extensively with veteran theatre actor Makarand Deshpande and he even had his stint as an assistant director and casting director for films like Stanley Ka Dabba, Hawaa Hawaai (with filmmaker Amol Gupte) and Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola (with director Vishal Bhardwaj).
BigWire senior editor Sreya Basu catches up with Jitendra Rai for a chit-chat as he enjoys the success of his recent films ‘Cup of Tea’ and ‘Nanhi Neend’.
Tell us about your short films ‘Cup of Tea’ and ‘Nanhi Neend’.
I come from a small village in Bihar, where education was not easily available, so we had to walk to school for several kilometres and back everyday, which made it very difficult. Even now, the quality of education there has not improved very much.
Since childhood in our village we were always told about the basic necessities of life which is food, shelter and clothes. Politicians also only talk about these three things. People in my village have been conditioned this way where educations takes a back foot.
I personally feel that if you provide education to everyone then people can have a better lifestyle and life condition. This is behind conceptualizing “Cup of Tea”. It is a three-minute short film that focuses on education and empowerment of rural India.
The idea of the film “Nanhi Neend” came to me while I used to spend my time with this old age home as a social worker.
I personally work with many social cause organisations and NGOs (non-governmental organizations), and through my films I try to convey various problems our generation is facing. I like working with children and find it a good way to express my thoughts and work.
What are the recognitions that the films have received so far?
“Cup of Tea” has officially been selected and nominated in 100 International Film Festivals and has already won 20 awards worldwide. I released the film on Children’s Day (November 14, 2017). The film was appreciated by many celebrities, including Sudhir Mishra, Nandita Das, Vicky Kaushal, Bhawna Somaaya, Abhishek Chaubey, Lt Narendra Jha and Kailash Kher.
“Cup of Tea” has received 80 millions plus views on various social media platforms.
“Nanhi Neend” has received 85 million views on various social media platforms.
How is social media reacting to your works?
Social media a great platform for a short film maker to reach masses. Both the films received lots of love and appreciation on social media.
People from the industry reposted and shared the films online on various platforms. Politicians like Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia also expressed their love for the films and tweeted about it.
What prompted you to take up filmmaking? How did Matheno Films come to existence?
As a theatre actor, I did many plays at Prithvi’s. While I was working there as an actor I started exploring different sides of the craft. I realised that I might be a good writer/director than an actor. I started reading a lot and pushed myself to write.
Filmmaking came very naturally to me. I started assisting Amol Gupte and learned a lot. I decided to make a short film myself and one day I was reading a dictionary at the Landmark Store, I accidentally stumbled upon this Greek work called ‘Matheno’ which means ‘to learn’ and thats how Matheno Films came into existence.
You were working as Amole Gupte’s assistant. What was his reaction to the films?
I think that you should ask Amol Sir.
You have also made a short ‘Beardo The Portrait’. Tell us more about it.
This film was actually a dedication to all the creative ones who want to do something different than their parent’s choice. This is to give them strength and courage.
Your films always reflect a social cause. You are a social worker yourself. How do you plan to take it further?
Yes, Matheno Films will be primarily working on social causes because the whole idea is to bring some message in the society with my work; but that doesn’t mean I am not open to the idea of exploring more areas.
Tell us something about your growing years?
I belong a farmer’s family. My dad is a farmer, I am used to the hard work and that’s exactly what I am doing right now.
Who is your inspiration behind filmmaking ?
Iranian Filmmaker Majid Majidi
What are your future project?
I have always loved working with kids, because I get to learn a lot from them. While working with Amole Sir on ‘Stanley ka Dabba’ and ‘Hawaa Hawaai’, I got the opportunity to learn a lot from him as well as the children, and this is why I want my first feature film to be about kids.
Our script is almost ready, and very soon we will be pitching studios. We are also working on some short films at the moment.
How do you perceive the changing face of Indian cinema ?
I feel the realistic cinema is back and I am loving it.
In what area do you feel Indian Films are still lagging behind?
Commitment to work and value of time.
What is that one film you wish you could have made and made it better?
‘Beyond The Clouds’ by Majid Majidi.
What is your opinion about nepotism in Bollywood?
Honestly, nepotism is secondary for me. What bothers me are the people who keep talking about it.
Sreya is based in Kolkata. She is a Senior Editor of Big Wire.