Created by:Muskaan Ghai
The article title is: Exclusive with Vinod Pande the director of UK’s first Hindi language film

In this exclusive interview, for ‘The Southall Shift’, we delve into the cinematic realm of 1972 with Vinod Pande, the director of “London Me Bharat.” Unveiling the nuances of his filmmaking practices and learning about the unique challenges faced during the creation of this film, Pande offers a captivating journey into the past, providing insights into the magic that brought “London Me Bharat” to life over five decades ago.

What inspired you to create “London Me Bharat” in 1972, especially as it marked the first Hindi language film made in the UK?

 I used to be a student in the part-time 16 mm filmmaking course at the City Literary Institute in Holborn, attending the classes after my working hours in the British Civil Service and over weekends. I wasn’t fully satisfied with a short film that we made as a group exercise and had aspired to do something with more independent responsibility creatively. Once, with some friends I chanced upon visiting Southall a West London suburb that had a throbbing Indian community. That sent me reeling. I saw Karol Bagh (Delhi, India) being planted right in the midst of the Englishman’s land. Now for a film-aspirant who also was a part-time broadcaster/ newsreader at the BBC, it was too tempting to ignore.

After some visits to Southall and the related places, I was ready with the script. Being a student of basic filmmaking and a regular participant in Hindi BBC’s radio-features, my script was more like a radio script, in which I first wrote the commentary to be spoken by the narrator and then matched it with the visuals which I had collected in my mind’s repository through my visits to the intended locations. This is the reason that I have always felt that my first film has a rather simple, academic look.

If given the opportunity, what aspects of “London Me Bharat” would you consider changing or approaching differently if you were making the film today?

I’ll make it more universal. I’ll make it a story of dynamism and industriousness in a migrant community from anywhere to anywhere. A community which always is focused to elevate itself collectively as well as individually, whatever be the scale of toil. Also, at the same time, a story of human excellence in absorbing the fineness of the host community and assimilating it unto themselves, without losing their own cultural and spiritual identity.

How did the local film industry and audience respond to the introduction of a Hindi film about a South-Asian community and space within London?

The film was never released in local theatres and television in the UK. Even some distributors like the Contemporary Films who were an important distribution company for documentaries did not take any interest. In any case the film was in Hindi and designed for the audiences in mainland India. This perhaps was the reason that the only Asian television program of the BBC Birmingham at the time, “Apna Hi Ghar samajhiye” also ignored us. Maybe, they also remained indifferent because they didn’t want to look partial to the Indian settlers as against Pakistani and East-Pakistanis (now Bangladeshis).

How do you perceive the film’s impact and relevance in today’s cinematic landscape?

Now, that really is a tall order. “London Me Bharat” is a simple film; with a simple soul and simpler dynamics. Perhaps, any temporal or historical objectives and search for “relevance in the cinematic landscape” of any time was truly beyond my dreams at the time, as it is today. You write a line or a passage or a story from what excites you as and when. Beyond my human integrity, I hardly had the wisdom or the intelligence of choosing the type of pen and the ink or the paper on which I were to express myself at that point of time.

Isn’t it amusing that what I had thought was lost in the sands of time, has been discovered by the British Film Institute and we are discussing it half a century later for its value, despite my earnestly simple goals when it was done?

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