Interview: Poorna is the most astonishing real-life journey you will ever watch on celluloid, says director Rahul Bose

Parismita Goswami
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Rahul Bose's upcoming directorial venture Poorna will narrate the real-life story of Poorna Malavath, a 13-year-old girl from a small village in Telangana, who scaled Mount Everest in 2014 and became the youngest girl to achieve the feat.

In an exclusive interview with International Business Times India, Rahul spoke about his experience working with Aditi Inamdar, who plays the role of Poorna, his role of Dr RS Praveen Kumar, the man who identified Poorna's talent, the challenges the team faced while shooting and more.

Poorna will hit the theatres on Friday, March 31. Apart from Rahul and Aditi, the biopic also stars Heeba Shah, Harsha Vardhan and Dhritiman Chatterjee.

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International Business Times: What made you take up this project?

Rahul: Let me keep the answer quite simple. The three aspects of my life are cinema, sports and social activities and this film is the perfect amalgamation of all three. First, it's a biopic (cinema), second it's about mountaineering (adventure sports) and third, it's about the triumph of a poor, adivasi girl. It's a remarkable story of empowerment that you can ever think of. And also, you couldn't write a more dramatic, over the top story of a thirteen-year-old child climbing the Everest. It was irresistible.

IBTimes: Can you tell us more about the film?

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Rahul: There is not much to say. We followed her life on one level very factually and on another level it has been dramatised fictionally in a compelling manner. So, in that respect, it is not a story of a girl who climbs the Everest. It's the story of a girl's journey, from a tiny, tiny adivasi village in Telangana to all the way to the Everest. It's an astonishing journey. 

IBTimes: How was it working with Aditi Inamdar?

Rahul: When I was auditioning Aditi, I spent about two hours auditioning her and I gave her a pretty tough time. She showed me two things: One that she is resilient on the pressure and second, she was sensitive enough to feel. So, these are the two foundational qualities you need as an actor in cinema. You have to be resilient to time pressure, money pressure, weather pressure, co-actor pressure, discomfort around you pressure, and then you also have to retain the ability to empathy. To put yourself in somebody's position and feel what they are feeling. And once I found out these two foundational qualities, I went on to look for her acting capability. 

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During the film, I put her through terrific pressure. We were carrying the film, and in no way, this film was going to be anything less than what people would imagine a film about Poorna Malavath. So, I wanted this film to exceed anybody's imagination. So, I raised the bar very high for Aditi and she never once complained. I could see many times that she felt the bar high but I believe with children you have to have a peculiar combination of encouragement and straight talking.

IBTimes: Was it tough for you to handle multiple departments - direction, production as well as acting in the same film?

Rahul: It is definitely challenging. On the negative side, it is two jobs as opposed to one. But on the positive side, whenever the director demanded an additional expense, the producer would take the decision in 10 seconds because they are one and the same person. You have to be very compartmentalised and very clear that each issue should be dealt separately and shouldn't be confused. The thrust of the entire film is the most astonishing real-life journey you will ever watch in films.

What do you enjoy - being a director or an actor?

Rahul: A director 100 times over because you are creating something that is yours, from your head, from your soul, from your life experiences, from your imaginations. As an actor, you can only be part of somebody else's imagination. While that (being an actor) is amazing, direction is even more amazing.

IBTimes: Tell us more about your character Dr. R.S. Praveen Kumar in the film.

Rahul: Praveen is a real life character; he is the secretary of social welfare in Andhra Pradesh and North Telangana. More than he does, I think his character is remarkable. If you meet him, he is deeply compassionate, deeply driven to do good for society, deeply angered by injustice and always looking to redeem inequality. Praveen celebrates his birthday with 5000 adivasi children, who are his family. This is the quality of the man. I just wanted to capture his compassion, his zeal to do right and his total incorruptibility.

IBTimes: What are the challenges you faced while shooting in the Himalayas?

Rahul: We faced challenges everywhere. We shot at Pakala village, Poorna's village because it had zero infrastructures for us to shoot. We shot at Bhongir rock, where she learnt rock climbing. It's just rock, so we had to climb the equivalent to 75 floors every day up the rock to shoot and there was no bathroom on top also. So if you had to use the loo, it would take you two hours to come up and down. We had to face the heat and inhospitable conditions in Bhongir.

Then we went to Darjeeling, where the weather was unkind to us so there was lot of rain. Then finally we went to Sikkim, which of course I can write a book about because ever single road was blocked and shut down with ice. We got zero infrastructure in most of the places and had to create our own infrastructure, our own roads, locations. So in that respect, I think that the Government of Sikkim was very co-operative but on the spot, nothing happened.

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