by Prof. Mukesh Sharma
Jan 25, 2019 at 2:30 PM
The year was 1984 . Children Film Society, India (CFSI), received the directive from Min Of I and B to organize a children film festival in Mauritius. I was deputed for the job. This was my maiden trip abroad. At that time Air India was operating some flights to Mauritius. I reached Port Louis, the capital, with a set of 5 Children films and set the ball rolling for the first ever Ocean film festival at Mauritius. At the airport I found an interesting slogan coined by the Ministry of Tourism " Why is it difficult to find Mauritius on the world map?... Simply because its out of this world." Yes that was absolutely true, the beautiful island of Mauritius, was just out of this world .
Mauritius is out of this world
After a formal inauguration by Mr Parsuramen the Hon'ble Min.of Art and Culture -Mauritius, I was invited for an official dinner, hosted by the Minister. During the course of the discussion, the minister came up with the idea of a co-production of a Children's film with CFSI.
Min. Parsuramen and Mukesh Sharma
The proposal was good but Mauritius had no film industry, what will be their contribution? Moreover Mr Parsuramen the minister also erstwhile Director of UNESCO In India , was keen to finalize the project and announce the same to the press and media , prior to my return to India. I had very little time and very few options. But somehow I was determined to do something, to prepare a blue print, before I leave the shores of Mauritius. I am at my best when I am racing against time.
Hon'ble Mr A Parsuramen
Shores of Mauritius
Knowing that the island nation had no infrastructure vis a vis film production, I divided the areas of co-production on the basis of strength and weakness of each party. Mauritius Film Development corporation would take care of the boarding, lodging, air travel of the film crew from India and back. These were their strong points. In addition, the story idea of the film would be taken from Mauritius. In order to have the local flavor, I decided to cast some theater artistes from Mauritius.
A Multi ethnic Society- Mauritius
CFSI on its part would take care of the equipment , technicians, lead actors, raw stock, post production etc. The film would be shot at one stretch in Mauritius. The total cost of the project worked out to a tune of Rupees 20 lakhs ( two million Indian Rupees) As per my planning both the parties were sharing more or less equal budget burden.
The toughest part of the entire exercise was to select a local story idea for the film. I remember staying awake the whole night and going through various story books, written by some of the famous authors of Indian origin.
As dead as a DODO....
Finally before dawn I zeroed down on the story OPERATION PINK PIGEON, written by Ramesh Ramdoyal. The plot was about saving the Pink Pigeon and breeding them in captivity (which the birds don't do) as they were on the verge of extinction like the Dodo.
The next morning I handed over my project report along with the Story Operation Pink pigeon to the Minister, Mr Parsuramen. He was thrilled and complimented me for my efforts, on such a short notice.
A poster of Souten
Hurriedly a press conference was organized and lo and behold I was the cynosure of the entire press. It was a miracle for the local people. Bollywood coming to Mauritius, as they were going to be a part of the history.
The only film which was shot prior to the planning of this co production was Sawan Kumar Tak's Souten, starring Rajesh Khanna, Tina Munim (now Tina Ambani) and Padmini Kolahapuri. But the local Artistes were not involved.
I remember Mr Parsuramen organising a grand farewell party upon my return. He presented to me a coffee table book (about 5 kg in weight) on Mauritius. I was lucky to get one as it was presented to the heads of states only.
Back in India, I was keen to start the work on co production. But the whole thing got entangled in Red tape. Moreover CFSI was a headless organisation without any Chairman after Dr V Shantaram. So nothing moved. The people of Mauritius were waiting for the film unit to arrive.
The Indo Mauritius co- production file was gathering dust.....There was dead silence on the project.................and then..
Meanwhile can you guess how much time it took, before the project Operation Pink Pigeon finally took off??
One year , Two years.. Three years..or more..
Let's keep the suspense intact.
In my next post I will reveal all.