This is not the script for a film. But somewhere in all this material lies my diploma film. Certainly, this is the subject for a long documentary, which is why it took me so long to decide to make it the subject of my diploma. Saying everything I have written out here in 20 minutes on film is not going to be easy. My research now has to be distilled into a film.
Before I saw Tarapore, the film that was emerging in my mind was a fictional story but based on what I had seen and heard. A work of fiction that could also have easily been the truth. I thought of making it about three characters who were the last Parsis in their respective towns. A retired railway driver in Daund in his 60’s and his wife and daughter, packing his belongings and bidding farewell to the place where he spent all his life, for reasons of health. A middle-aged unmarried man, who’s not a priest, but whose job is to look after the agiary in Satara, even though he’s the only Parsi there, because his employers, an old family from Satara, though they have moved out would like to keep the agiary going for sentimental reasons. And a young man in his 20’s who’s married to a non-Parsi and runs his family’s ancestral liquor business in Nagar.
This story, however, didn’t excite me enough. It seemed the logical, obvious outcome of the research I’d done, but it sounded clichéd, boring, something done before. However, when I saw the ravaged state of Tarapore, I knew I had found the story I was looking for. And from making a fictional work, I decided that showing the reality in Tarapore was the best way of transposing these twenty-five pages of written material onto celluloid.
To make a documentary though for a diploma film with all its attendant constraints is a difficult task. I do not have the luxury of shooting hours of footage and constructing the film on the editing table. I will have to make the film before shooting. For this, I now need to articulate what I have seen and heard in Tarapore in context with my larger theme of survival and extinction. This is my next task.
As I write these pages, I also realize that this is my story too. A story of a personal search into my roots and identity. This is a story I have yet to explore, and maybe I can tell it along with the story of Tarapore.
Hidden in these pages, then, is my diploma film. As Michelangelo said, “ Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” And so I intend to chip away at my block of material till I discover my film.
Parsi house in utter ruin, Tarapore