A biological term for the final stage of an insect’s development becomes a metaphor for a coming-of-age tale in Karan Chavan and Vikram Patil Marathi production Imago.
The duo’s debut feature, which had its world premiere at the Mumbai Film Festival in October this year, follows Namrata (Aishwarya Ghaydar), a bright but reclusive teenager in Kolhapur who has vitiligo, a condition that results in loss of pigmentation in patches of skin. Imago, which was in the running for the Oxfam India Best Film on Gender Equality at the festival (the award went to Ivan Ayr’s Soni) has been co-produced by Aispais productions and 3F Aviraj Films Entertainment.
The intent was to give an honest account of a teenager with vitiligo, Chavan and Patil told Scroll.in. “We wanted to depict the psyche of people with the skin condition and how beautiful they are,” Chavan said. “We did not want this to be information heavy, but we wanted it to be a journey tracing their psychology.”
The film captures a range of Namrata’s experiences and emotions, from bullying and self-doubt to infatuation for her teacher (Amol Deshmukh).
Chavan and Patil, who studied Fine Arts together, began their collaboration in 2011. Their credits include the award-winning shorts Dagadful (2012) and Pollute (2013). For their debut feature, they drew from the experiences of their friends who had vitiligo.
“One of our subjects in college was to click portraits,” Patil recalled. “I also knew one friend who had vitiligo, who was very beautiful, but she kept refusing to let me click a portrait because she did not feel beautiful. We later decided on this subject for our debut.” The duo began working on the project in 2014 and shot the film in Kolhapur and Panhala over 30 days.
Their preparation involved detailed conversations with doctors and people with the skin condition. “We wanted to understand the psychology of these people,” Patil said. “We did not want to make it a documentary, but just a film about how they live their lives and how people react around them.”
The filmmakers also wanted to capture the simplicity of life in Kolhapur. “We spent our childhood in Kolhapur and all of our other films are from this city too,” Chavan said.
One of the biggest hurdles they faced was casting their teenage lead. “Although we first wanted to cast an actress with makeup, we soon realised that the actor might not actually feel and emote how vitiligo patients actually feel,” Chavan said. “So we decided that we wanted a character who had the condition. But most of them were hesitant to play the role.”
After much deliberation, the directors finalised Aishwarya Ghaydar for the role. She also attended workshops to get used to the camera. “We wanted the film to be very realistic and did not want to fake anything,” Patil said. “People with vitiligo and their moods and silences cannot be replicated on screen. Only people with the condition might be able to depict it accurately.”
Funding emerged as the film’s next big hurdle, until a local producer from Kolhapur came on board. The filmmakers are also working on a theatrical release.
“When we decided to make the film, we hunted for producers for over a year and narrated them the story,” Chavan said. “But most of them rejected it as an art film. But through Vikram’s contact we got the contact of a local producer. We narrated our story and he was very open minded and gave us a go ahead. We had one more producer who came on board following post-production.”