From law books to the silver screen: Delhi lawyer makes film on mental health

Supreme Court lawyer Nirnimesh Dube recently swapped his seat in court for the director's chair, debuting with 'Zindagi Kashmakash'.
Nirnimesh Dube
Nirnimesh Dube

Delhi-based lawyer Nirnimesh Dube recently swapped his seat in court for the director's chair, with his debut film entitled 'Zindagi Kashmakash'.

As an outsider, breaking into the industry proved to be a significant challenge for Dube. He says the industry is mostly insular, proving to be tough on newcomers looking for opportunities. 

In an industry that often favours individuals with established connections, breaking through as an outsider without a filmi background was no easy feat,” outlines the lawyer-cum-filmmaker.

In this free-wheeling chat with Bar & Bench's Aamir Khan, Dube narrates how he went about making his reel dreams a reality, the challenges he faced along the way, and the message he wanted to convey through the movie.

The first act

Dube, who was raised in a family of film buffs, was bitten by the movie bug at a fairly young age. 

Growing up in a household where cinema held a sacred place, with both my mom and dad being avid movie buffs, I was immersed in a world where stories unfolded on the silver screen, stirring emotions and sparking conversations. Each cinematic experience fuelled my fascination with the art of storytelling and kindled a burning desire within me to contribute to this magical medium,” he reveals.

In a bid to delve deeper into the world of filmmaking, Dube found Pankaj Roy at the Institute of Moving Images in Delhi to show him the ropes. He also learned screenwriting from Anjum Rajabali at Whistling Woods International in Mumbai. In his free time away from law books, he devoured the works of Syd Field on screenwriting and Francois Truffaut’s Hitchcock. 

When it came to shooting the film, the debutant filmmaker’s priority was assembling the right team. Securing funding for the project proved to be a daunting task, and selling the film posed an even greater challenge.

And so, he tried to build a network to get a foothold in the industry. In his quest, Dube discovered someone who was acquainted to acclaimed film director Sanjay Nag, who was set to embark on a new project titled 'Good Morning Sunshine' starring Revathy, Shabana Azmi and Tejaswini Kolhapure. 

I seized this opportunity with relentless pursuit, finally meeting the director and securing a role as an assistant director in the film. What worked in my favour was my unwavering dedication and willingness to contribute without any financial compensation. I was prepared to give my all for this role, as my legal profession provided me with the means to support myself financially. From that point forward, I never looked back on my filmmaking journey,” he says.

Plotting a course

Dube was in the middle of writing his first script when he narrated it to Kolhapure. The actress instantly liked it and agreed to star in it without seeking much remuneration. 

The lawyer-turned-filmmaker also managed to get on board well-known singers, including Shaan. 

I knew my first film would have lots of songs. I have six of them and each song was sponsored by one friend of mine,” says Dube. 

Lyricists were expensive, so he decided to write some of the songs himself.

Zindagi Kashmakash happens to be a personally witnessed story of someone close to Dube. The impact of a mental health disorder on the person influenced Dube to depict it on screen.

The chaos that engulfed her life became the catalyst for my creative process, and I embarked on the journey of writing. However, this endeavour proved to be a tough task, as I aimed to intricately layer my story with multiple dimensions,” he says. 

The art of layering, particularly for a first-time screenplay writer, presented its own set of challenges and it took Dube nearly ten months of relentless effort to complete the initial draft. Another two to three months later, the script was finalised. 

The painstaking process was driven by my desire to craft a story that authentically captures the complexities of mental health and resonates with audiences on a profound level,” he reveals.

Nirnimesh Dube
Nirnimesh Dube

Action and response

As with most things, the COVID-19 pandemic threw a spanner in Dube's works. While the film's post-production was completed a few days before the onset of the pandemic, its release was drastically affected owing to the subsequent restrictions that were imposed.

Eventually, he was able to release the film in theatres. He found the response of the legal fraternity in Delhi towards the film overwhelmingly positive and encouraging. 

On the very first day of the film's screening, the audience comprised of both senior and junior colleagues from the legal community. Naturally, I was filled with nervous anticipation, unsure of how they would perceive the film. However, as they left the screening hall, their kind words and words of encouragement were incredibly comforting and gratifying,” he recalls.

Dube says his “true identity” is being a lawyer and he promises to never leave it behind. 

However, he says filmmaking is a passion that ignites a sense of vitality in him. While he continues to pursue legal practice, he wants to indulge in filmmaking as a hobby.

Dube’s legal background equipped him with skills and perspectives that proved beneficial in his filmmaking endeavour. While the two fields may seem distinct, he highlights notable parallels.

Firstly, the rigorous analytical thinking and attention to detail ingrained in my legal training have seamlessly translated into the realm of filmmaking. The ability to dissect complex issues and identify underlying themes has become a valuable asset in shaping the stories I wish to tell on screen,” elaborates Dube.

Moreover, the strong communication skills that he honed through his career in advocacy aided him in presenting the film concepts and vision to potential investors, distributors and audiences. He adds,

As a lawyer, understanding copyright laws, licensing agreements and intellectual property rights has been invaluable in safeguarding my creative work and ensuring that my films reach audiences through proper channels. Thus, the skills of advocacy has helped me in more than one way with my new experience of filmmaking."

As far as Zindagi Kashmakash is concerned, he prefers not to disclose the specifics as it would give away the plot of the film. 

All I can say the film addresses an issue that deserves significant attention and discussion. The other subject that my film tackles, and that I am willing to discuss, is the issue of mental health. Far too often, we overlook the warning signs, which can have devastating consequences not only for the individuals affected, but also for their loved ones.

I genuinely hope that my film receives a wider platform so that the issues it raises can become points of conversation and contemplation within society,” he adds.

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