Exclusive: Filmmaker Utpal Kalal On His Documentary The 14th February And Beyond's Success At IFFI Goa

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    Doctor-turned-filmmaker Utpal Kalal is currently riding high on the success of his documentary feature film The 14th February & Beyond, which was officially selected for the 51stt International Film Festival of India (IFFI) 2021 in the Indian Panorama, non-feature category. The film went on to receive a heartening reception at the IFFI and is slated to be released on MX Player.

    The 14th February & Beyond takes the deepest look into Valentine's Day and exposes the strange face of this global love fest and its impact on the mental health of our society. The film further explores the origin of this famous day, and how it has become a victim of consumerism and commercially twisted into a competition and self-esteem checklist. The ecstatic filmmaker in an exclusive chat with FilmiBeat spoke about his experience at IFFI Goa and the challenges he faced while working on the The 14th February & Beyond.

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    Utpal Kalal called his experience at IFFI Goa where his film received a thunderous response, to be an emotional and a personal one. Talking about the same, he revealed, "It was an amazing, personal and a very emotional experience for me. At the 49th IFFI (2018), I was just there as a cinema enthusiast and at that moment, we were shooting this movie. It was my first ambitious project as a filmmaker. I have worked before on documentaries, commercials and music videos but this was my first feature film. I always felt that it would be an honour if my film would be screened here. I was not sure if I would have been able to bring our film to IFFI, as it is such a huge platform. I had felt a huge responsibility for the same."

    Utpal continued, "When I got to know that our film has been selected for the 51st IFFI, I was really emotional and was in shock for a while. We had a wonderful time and an amazing experience at IFFI. I really felt honoured to see the respect they gave to independent filmmakers. We had the film selected at certain international film festivals but due to COVID-19, we couldn't go anywhere. Since IFFI was our first physical screening, we had a wonderful time there. Our film was also 'houseful'. We had questions on our minds if people would watch our documentary, but people loved it, and the reaction was emotional for me. My team and cast were with me, so this moment will be memorable in my life."

    Also Read: Danish World War II Drama Into The Darkness Bags Golden Peacock Award At 51st IFFIAlso Read: Danish World War II Drama Into The Darkness Bags Golden Peacock Award At 51st IFFI

    Furthermore, Utpal Kalal opened up about the challenges he faced while working on The 14th February & Beyond. The filmmaker revealed how he had to perform extensive research for the same, as Valentine's Day has a preconceived notion amongst the masses. He revealed, "It was very challenging. It is a very sensitive topic. I had to go deep in research for it, as it's against the popular notion of the day. In India, there is opposition towards Valentine's Day, which sometimes brings in violence, as some people think it's against our culture. We also wanted to cover this day globally. There has not been formal research on this subject, so that was a challenge. I had to start from point A with my research and it took me two years for doing so. There were a few people who wanted to support this film. My colleagues showed some support and we were looking for more people to support this film, even when it came to the finances.:

    He added, "We didn't get much support initially, as people were not confident about how the film will turn out. People had questions on whether the film is against Valentine's Day, as there was no prior research on this subject. It was a huge responsibility, as I wanted to make a feature film documentary of almost one hour. We were also worried about how the film festivals would react to this subject. No studio funded it. It was an independent documentary. We just wanted to stay true to the subject and bring out this film. It was very challenging and filled with a lot of responsibility."

    Also Read:IFFI 51: In Conversation With Chaitanya Tamhane, Director Of The Disciple And CourtAlso Read:IFFI 51: In Conversation With Chaitanya Tamhane, Director Of The Disciple And Court

    Utpal Kalal also revealed that he was initially nervous about how his film will be perceived by the audience. The director added, "Yes, I was very nervous about it. We knew the popular opinion about Valentine's Day - either that it's celebrating love or that it is against our culture. But I wanted to investigate this day in that aspect which we had found in our research. I was confident about the research because I was shocked by its findings. With every unfolding day, I had an intuition that this story needed to come out. I just wanted to believe in the subject and the research. The nervousness slowly turned into confidence. But the nervousness was still there - whether we will be able to do justice to the subject. But when the film started getting selected to international film festivals and we also got a letter from Cleveland Film festival praising the subject, these factors made me confident and gave me hope that the story will resonate with people."

    Talking about the film The 14th February & Beyond, it has travelled to eight countries and getting 10 festival official selections, along with two best film wins at prestigious film festivals around the world. The movie reveals shocking facts about the commercialisation of Valentine's Day along with the spending and traditions that have been overlooked until now. The movie also features appearances of eminent intellectuals like Dr Sudhir Bhave (Professor, Department of Psychiatry, NKP Salve Institute of Medical Sciences, Nagpur), Nityananda Misra (Finance Professional & Author), Namita Singh (Activist, Software Engineer, MathWorks, Boston, USA) and Shilpa Agrawal (Psychologist) and Rajiv Malhotra (Indian American Author).

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