Connections – Nila Madhab Panda

With a three tier name Nila Madhab Panda, Madhab is one of the most unassuming film directors I know.

Back in 2007, whilst researching for an Indian creative associate for my project 60×60 Secs, his name was mentioned several times by different people. 60×60 Secs; one-minute film commissions from Britain India Pakistan to reflect on migration, displacement and cultural identity in the 21st century. Having met several artists in Bombay and Delhi, finding none to be suitable for the project, I met Madhab at Cafe Coffee Day a day before my return. I told him about the project, explaining that the collaboration entailed disseminating the information to commission a combination of established and emerging artists working in the medium of film and video, to co-curate and finalise twenty proposals and to finally produce the films. And Madhab briefly told me his story of how he happened to be where he was, about setting up Eeleanora Films and his hopes. With glistening eyes, we parted with a hug that we both knew was not going to be our last!

Here we are five years later, our journeys have taken us many different places and enriched our lives. Since my project finished we have remained in touch and we continue to discover aspects of each other. He brought I am Kalam and Jal Pari to massive audiences internationally and won many awards. Madhab continues to inspire and be inspired. Just a few days back, on his visit to London he was staying over with me, and in between his meetings, we made time to go to the local country park to see the ducks with freshly hatched broods, told me of his future film stories and even managed a quick fire round of questions while watering my garden. Not that he needs an introduction, on the contrary I wanted to share a little of him with you.

Memories on where you grew up?
Jumping fearlessly and swimming for hours in the rivers of Odhisha (Orissa – India), running barefoot, and telling stories.

What is happiness for you?
Many things… most of all being with my son!

What do you like about living in Dehli?
Space and greenery. I feel like I can breathe green here.

Where else would you live?
My village in Odisha.

First film you saw?
No memory of films as such. But I remember watching TV as a child. Actually I don’t make a distinction between the two. One is for cinemas and the other is smaller screen for the privacy of homes. They are equally powerful, equally moving. In our village several of the households would gather around one television. It was a social experience.

Why you make films?
It is the most popular and most refined of all art forms. The best possible medium to tell your stories. Cinema has the power to move people like no other media.

You often talk about a world without borders. What’s your dream for it?
As a human being, I don’t need a soldier to protect me, I don’t need to have a border to divide my home. People who are insecure need borders. My dream… to continue to create message rich entertainment that crosses these self imposed divides.

May we all become more comfortable and secure in who we are. His films erode borders. The settings of his films may be specific, they touch us in more ways than one. They defy fear and foster love. My phone alarm interrupted us as it was time to walk over to the station for his train towards Heathrow. With a glint in our eyes we hugged at the platform as we bid goodbye… knowing it wasn’t the last time.

Bon voyage… see you anon.


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