The Swiss-Indian filmmaker Kamal Musale obtained his degree in film direction and scriptwriting at the National Film and Television school in England. The director and screenwriter has made over 30 features, documentaries and short films produced with European broadcasters and showcased at festivals like Cannes (The Three Soldiers) and Locarno (Aline, Raclette Curry), and winning numerous prices.
His Swiss company – Les Films du Lotus Sàrl – and his Indian company – Curry Western Productions Pvt Ltd – produce movies with Indian content for western taste.
Bumbai Bird, a movie he shot in Hindi, was co-produced between his Indian and Swiss companies. It won the Best Indie Film at the European Cinematography Awards 2017, and the Best Screenplay at the Indian Cine Film Festival 2017.
He co-directed Millions Can Walk with Christoph Schaub, a feature documentary about the Yan Satagraya March which saw 100’000 landless Indian farmers marching for their rights. The film has been distributed across cinemas in Europe, and won the Best Documentary Award at the Stuttgart Indian Film Festival 2014.
His recent movie Curry Western, a dark comedy about property, was shot in India and in the U.K. It won the Golden Remi for best feature film at the 52nd Annual WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival in Texas, USA and a Remi Special Jury Awards for best coproduction between Asia and Europe.
Ten years of filming in India shaped my motivation and choices regarding the kind of films I wanted to make there. So when I was approached to write a movie about Mother Teresa, I immediately envisioned the central theme: it would be a film about compassion.
Mother Teresa has delivered a clear and essential message: “Go back home and love your family”. She believed that Love was the answer to misery, and it had to start with a simple step, one that anyone could take. I believe that this advice is still relevant, and I started thinking about the right way to communicate it to a contemporary audience.
Most people know Mother Teresa as a myth. But they usually have no idea of who the real Mother Teresa was, and that includes many who were closely associated with her. Through extensive research, I have developed this character not as “Mother Teresa”, but as “Teresa”, a woman who lost her lover, her husband, her intimate soul mate, and never recovered from it. She is very human, and through this experience of abandonment, she experiences some of the emotions that most of us can identify with.
I narrowed the time frame from the moment Teresa hears her calling from Jesus to her initial years working in the slum. During this approximate 12-year period, Teresa goes through a complete change, from the intensity of her epiphany to the disillusionment and the realization that her connection with God is lost. Narrowing the time period allows us to build a strong dramatic arc for this character. And it allows us to spend enough time within important scenes so as to feel the emotions that Teresa experienced, as opposed to having a quick illustration of her entire life. This density, I believe, is key to a deeper understanding of Mother Teresa.
To make Teresa’s example relevant today, I thought about finding find a character who could live emotions similar to Teresa’s: the feeling of rejection, the abortion, the adoption… I imagined a modern, non-Christian, non-religious young woman today, and as I saw her coming to life, I saw there were a lot of similarities between these two heroines. Thus Kavita’s character was created.
Kavita was born in India, in Kolkata, and her parents moved with her to the West when she was only 2 years old. Now in her late twenties, and a trained classical violinist, she is still a bit of a rebel. Kavita cannot pinpoint what she really needs, but is in constant rebellion and she’s not sure why.
When Kavita reads the letters that confessed Teresa’s lack of faith, she is impressed by the nun’s pain and loss, and eventually admires her determination. Working in the House of the Dying today creates in her ambivalent feelings about her own pregnancy. The western, educated, young woman that she is does not see any meaning in this world of misery, sickness and death. Yet she cannot help but be impressed by how everyone is doing their best to survive.
And when she eventually discovers the secret of her origin, she breaks down, overwhelmed with love, a feeling she fought against all these years; she is opening the door to the feeling of compassion. And this emotion fills the vacuum in her life.
Kavita represents the vibrant quest for meaning of a younger generation. Her story will be told in a modern style, with handheld shots, fast editing and music with an adapted cool beat. This fast rhythm will slow down as Kavita discovers her real identity and prepares for a fundamental change. When the angry young woman finds the courage to face herself, her smile will warm up the entire picture.
In contrast to Kavita’s contemporary story, this part will be shot in a colorless style, a reminder of the dark and brutal times in India as it gained Independence. At first moving in a slower and classic pace, the rhythm will develop and accelerate, as Teresa’s internal conflict gets deeper and deeper.
Eventually, both styles will merge toward the end of the film, as Kavita finds her emotional balance and Teresa, a new purpose in her life.
A film about love and compassion
inspired by the life of Mother Teresa.
A movie by Kamal Musale
with Banita Sandhu, Jacqueline Fritschi-Cornaz and Deepti Naval