Documentary filmmaker, Anu Radha, has been working with various national and international social sector organizations including BBC World Service Trust, Bill Gates Foundation’s PSI (India) to name a few. Her subject of interests often varies from human rights, empowerment issues to cultural partnerships. Her latest film project titled A Little Poland in India is the first Indo-Polish film production, which was screened at the KINOTEKA Polish Film Festival and in Doordarshan. Pandolin in a candid chat with Anu Radha learns more about the making of A Little Poland in India.

Documentary Filmmaker Anu Radha

Documentary Filmmaker Anu Radha

How did the idea of making A Little Poland in India strike you?

In my discussion with Mrs. Monika Kapil Mohta, the Indian Ambassador to Poland, I learnt about the historical relationship between India and Poland which dates back to World War II. The story is about Jam Saheb Digvijaysinhji Ranjitsinhji Jadeja of Nawanagar (a princely state in the Kathiawar Peninsula, off the land of Gujarat, India) adopting around 1000 Polish children from war-torn Poland during World War II. Jam Sahib took personal risks to make arrangements at a time when the world was at war and India was struggling for its independence. He built a camp for them in a place called Balachadi beside his summer palace, 25 km from his capital city Jamnagar, and made them feel at home.

Today, every child of every family in Poland knows about what Jam Sahib did. When we came to know about this story, we thought of it as a good idea to be told. When we began our research online, we found around 500-600 research papers already done on this subject. Then I contacted Embassy of Poland, and they provided me the bible book called ‘Poles in India’, written by Mr. Wieslaw Stypula, who is also one of the Balachadi Polish survivors.  That’s how the journey began.

What went into the research for the film?

Around eight to nine months of research was involved for this film. Firstly, we did primary research in which I read all the books written on the relationship between Poland and India during World War II, which also includes Mr. Wieslaw Stypula’s book called ‘Poles in India’. Then I also had to get Polish survivors an interpreter, who translated their language for me. I also went to Poland to get my collected facts right. Initially, nobody was ready to start this project unless I generated funds. Raising funds took me almost a year.

Historian Dr Andrej Kunert & Anu Radha

Historian Dr Andrej Kunert & Anu Radha

What was your approach towards raising funds for this film?

The idea was developed and now the funding had to be done. First the government of Gujarat came forward followed by Doordarshan, which resulted in an audio-visual agreement with them. After we raised 50 percent funding from India, I decided to go on a study tour to Poland for my research as a focus on my presentation. Since the film also deals with the cultural aspects of Poland, Ministry of Culture, The Republic of Poland agreed to fund some portion of the money and we also signed an audio-visual agreement with them too. National Audiovisual Institute (Nina) and Telewizja Polska (TVP) agreed to support us technically and have telecasted the film in Poland.

What was the method adopted towards shooting?

We used different methodologies of story-telling in the film be it art, films, pictures, features, graphics etc. Since writing is my passion, story-telling comes naturally to me. My co-director Sumit Osmand Shaw has been a great support. He is extremely creative and has been my partner for many years. When I write and visualise, he puts that visualisation into creativity. Film making is a team effort and no single person can take credits for it.

Mr. Wieslaw Stypula visits Balachadi. The Plaque is gifted by the Polish Survivors.

Mr. Wieslaw Stypula visits Balachadi. The Plaque is gifted by the Polish Survivors.

You have connected the stories using ‘Sand Art’. Can you talk more about it?

The sand art was done by Ms. Mayura Datar, a former student of NID (National Institute of Design), Ahmedabad. She did gulaal art, which is gulaal mixed in sand. I believe that students have immense potential and are enthusiastic about what they do. That’s what we need as filmmakers as we have to constantly think of innovative ideas and such enthusiastic talents just make the tasks easier.

Polish kids were deported to many other locations in India, but you focused only on one location i.e Balachadi. Why?

Firstly, there is a certain duration of the film, which I had to keep in mind. Secondly, there was a constraint of funding. So I could shoot only on one location. Thirdly, all the Polish children were of the same age, when they were taken to Balachadi. Now, they all are in their 80’s. So, there was no point going to different locations for a single film as it would cost us much more time. Late survivor Mr. Jan Bielecki passed away just few days before the shooting of this film. My story revolved around them. The crux of the story is the connection between India and these Polish survivors. I was reeling two love stories which include Mr. Wieslaw Stypula’s love with India and the love story between Mr Jerzy Tomaszek and Mrs Jadwiga Tomaszek, who met in their days at Balachadi.

(Archival picture) Polish Survivals in Balachadi

(Archival picture) Polish Survivals in Balachadi

What were the kind of challenges faced while filming?

Major challenge was the language, since nobody speaks English in Poland. Secondly, budget was the constraint since funding was generated through government partnerships. I had the vision to translate this idea into a feature film but could only make a documentary.

I also believe that challenges are learning in disguise. We as Indian filmmakers have a lot to learn when we do international productions. We need to know how agreements are done besides the technical aspects of  filmmaking.

How long did it take to shoot the film?

The shoot process was short but edit took us long. We shot at Balachadi, India for about 20 days and Warsaw, Poland for again 20 days. It was winters there and we worked under -23 degree Celsius. It was a very tight schedule. We spent two days in every survivors home and they gave us immense support, which was beyond my imagination.

A still from the film 'A Little Poland in India'

A still from the film ‘A Little Poland in India’

Do you think that funding for an independent film project is difficult in India?

I think if you have a good idea and can present it well, you can get the support. We have to understand the budget constraint that Indian government have for filmmakers. We  feel that low budget results in compromising the quality of the film but as filmmakers we must develop the kind of concept which can fit into the government budget and can be made into quality films. It is not only about Indian government but internationally too you will face the same problem. It was not easy for us to get funding from Poland government either.

What is your message throughout the film?

We live in one world. So there are no boundaries where human heart is concerned. Despite different languages, we all can communicate to each other. Dr. Andrzej Krzyszt Kunert rightly said in the end of the film that every grave is a cry for peace. Peace is what human mankind should strive for.