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    Sep 2011


    Default Global recognition pours in for Akolkar's docuivals, will be screened at PIFF on January 11

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    PUNE: His script was rejected by 70 film producers in Sweden but today, Puneite Dheeraj Akolkar's documentary feature is travelling across the globe winning laurels at prominent film festivals. 'Liv & Ingmar', Akolkar's debut documentary, has been screened at 20 film festivals. The documentary is an affectionate yet truthful account of the 42 years and 12 films long relationship between legendary actress Liv Ullman and master filmmaker Ingmar Bergman.

    The documentary will be screened at the Pune International Film Festival (PIFF) on January 11 and for Akolkar, PIFF is more important than many other festivals. "PIFF is important because it is my home festival. I am a proud Puneite although I am living in London," Akolkar told TOI.

    Akolkar did his schooling at the Nutan Marathi Vidyalaya and then joined the Nowrosjee Wadia College. He pursued architecture at the Marathwada Mitramandal College of Architecture. Before moving to London to do a course in filmmaking, Akolkar was an associate director for Sanjay Leela Bhansali during the film 'Black'. He has also assisted in films such as 'Lagaan', 'Devdas' and 'Charas'.

    Making 'Liv and Ingmar' was not easy for Akolkar, not just because his file of rejections was getting bigger, but also because he was skeptical about Liv giving her consent to make the documentary, and most importantly, face the camera to tell her life story. It was Liv's book, 'Changing', that had inspired him to make this documentary.

    "I wrote an e-mail to her telling her what was on my mind. Actually, I wrote her a poem that was an interpretation of my understanding of their relationship through the book Liv had written," Akolkar said. On February 23, 2007, Akolkar got a call from Liv and she said that she was ready for an interview. "When the phone rang, the person on the other side said that it was Liv speaking. I was speechless. After she gave her consent, I started speaking to the producers. I met documentary producers of all the top television channels, film producers and many production houses, but no one believed in me," he recalled.

    Two years went by and Akolkar still did not manage to find a producer until he met a Norwegian producer who liked his script. The producer knew Liv and he called her up and asked if she was ready for the documentary. "Too much time had passed and Liv told the producer that she was not ready to do it. I asked the producer if he could give me a chance. I decided to meet Liv. On December 14, 2010, she received a standing ovation for her last theatre performance and I met her on the following day. She looked very happy and she asked me why I wanted to do this documentary. I took just three minutes to convince her and she told me that she would be there for him for just two days," Akolkar said.

    She also gave him the permission to use the images and sounds from the timeless Ullmann-Bergman films, behind the scenes footage, still photographs, passages from Liv's book and Ingmar's love letters to her. "That's how the documentary was made. I insisted that Resul Pookutty do the sound and his old time editor friend Tushar Ghogale and the producers agreed to it," he said.

    Having seen both Bollywood and the international film industry, Akolkar said that both the industries have their strengths. "While Indians have a tremendous boiling point for cinema, in European countries, it is the bureaucracy that supports cinema. It is not so strong in India. The western countries have a good government support system for making films," Akolkar said.

    Akolkar said that having lived abroad for over six years, he has seen India changing. "I look at it every time I come back and it fascinates me. Everything in India is changing and that's where my next project lies. I'm currently negotiating with an actor and the project will be about India," Akolkar said, without revealing further details.

    Currently, he is also making a documentary about the most populated island in Assam called Majuli. "The island is sinking at an alarming speed. It's the most populated island in the world and has a culture dating back to 600 years. Losing this island will be a great loss to mankind and my documentary is trying to create a bit of awareness about this island," Akolkar said.



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