Film poster for 'Pondicherry'.

The French city of India, Pondicherry, with its stunning beaches, vibrant French houses, and quixotic charm, has many interesting stories to tell. Perhaps, it is not surprising that after delivering super hit films such as Gulabjaam (2018) and Aiyyaa (2012), film director, screenwriter and Francophile Sachin Kundalkar chose to set his new Marathi film, titled Pondicherry (2022), in this city.

Through its aesthetic frames, the film beautifully captures the bright, vibrant colors of this picturesque city, complete with its stores, artwork, food, and music. It also skillfully captures the evolution and complexity of relationships. The film portrays the trials and tribulations of a new-generation relationship between Vaibhav, Sai, and Amruta. In addition, the film tracks the lives of five characters from different cities who are now in Pondicherry.

Brilliantly shot by Milind Jog using only a smartphone, the eclectic film is truly one of its kind.

It stars accomplished actors such as Sai Tamhankar, Vaibhav Tatwawadi, Amruta Khanvilkar, Mahesh Manjrekar, Neena Kulkarni, Gaurav Ghatnekar, and Tanmay Kulkarni. Presented by Akshay Bardapurkar and Planet Marathi, a Vistas Media Capital company, in association with Creative Viibe, Pondicherry is written and directed by Sachin Kundalkar, and produced by Neil Patel from Moh Maya Films.

In this exclusive interview, the film’s director, Sachin Kundalkar, tells us about his personal association with Pondicherry, the range of themes and subjects in the film, and his upcoming Netflix film Cobalt Blue (2022).

Milind Jog shooting the film on a smartphone while Sachin Kundalkar directs.

IC: Tell our readers about your latest film Pondicherry

SK: My latest film, Pondicherry, is written by Tejas Modak and myself. It’s the story of a Maharashtrian single mother, now married to a Tamilian. She has made the beautiful coastal town of Pondicherry her home, converting her house into a homestay.

A man with a very dark mind comes to stay there. Apart from being a story about Pondicherry, the film is also about the lives of a few other guests who also decide to visit the town and stay at her home at the same time.

I wanted to create a Marathi film in a more multilingual setup,  Hindi, English, Tamil, and French coexisting naturally the way they do in Pondicherry. In that sense, it’s truly an Indian film.

IC: What was the idea, the inspiration behind the film, and its story?

SK: Both Tejas and I travel extensively across the country. In the recent past, app-based homestay booking initiated by AirBnB helped us stay in beautiful homes, mix with the families who own them and hear their life stories.

We started finding hotels very antiseptic, formal, mostly colonial, outdated, and overly expensive. Economically and comfort-wise, this ratio is exactly reversed with homestays. The experience becomes very positive and pleasant when you choose the right one. Our passion for this effect inspired us, as we wanted to reflect that experience in a film.

IC: The film’s setting is an important element in the film. Why Pondicherry? What is your personal association with Pondy, and why did you decide to set the film here?

SK: My personal association with Pondicherry could possibly stem from the fact that I speak French fluently, love French food, and have many close friends in France.

When I first visited Pondy in 2005, and then in 2016 for the research of this film, my attraction and comfort level towards the city kept growing. I made new friends there and just loved the vibe and texture of the town.

IC: Tell us more about some of the subjects that you have touched upon in the film.

SK: There are many entangled and layered subjects in the film. On the face of it, it’s the struggle of a woman to save her beautiful house, and the memory of a husband she’s waiting for perpetually. But the film also talks about being a parent in India in today’s time, being a single mother, and the perpetual question of “do we need to have our own children, or can we simply love the children who are around us?” It also talks about loneliness and individuality, among other things.

Also, the fact that why anybody living anywhere in the world goes to Pondicherry to seek an answer. If you talk to anyone who has made Pondicherry their home, they will tell you very frankly that they found some kind of answer there. Similarly, in this film, the characters all come to Pondicherry where they find solace and some kind of answer. There are also many sub-themes running through the film.

IC: Tell us more about your upcoming film Cobalt Blue, an adaptation of your bestselling novel by the same name.

SK: Produced by Netflix, it’s a work in progress at the moment. I am the novelist, screenplay writer, and director of the film—a huge challenge. However, balancing all three roles was a real pleasure, because it’s my autobiographical story. Who gets to direct an autobiographical film in the middle age of their life? I’m very excited to bring it to the audience very soon!

IC: What else are you working on next?

SK: Tejas Modak and I have just finished writing our next Hindi film, an entertaining love story. I was so keen to make new songs and a few rocking dance numbers in the film. I have grown up watching all the great songs, and I cherish them—and my next film will have a few of them.

In Marathi cinema, we made a very successful food film called Gulabjaam, which was a huge hit. We are now developing its sequel.

Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Wanderlust for the Soul, an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world.

Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in Delhi. She has worked for over a decade in print, television, and online media. Her diverse interests in the culture beat include books, music, travel, films,...