With the spate of suicides on its campus, it could well be a scene playing in the mind of a troubled student. Only, it's all happening on screen as Director Anshul Singhal's (B.Tech., Chemical, 2006) film Deja Vu deals with an issue that's simmering on IIT campuses.
The protagonist of Deja Vu, Dhananjay, is desperately seeking stability in the exam-riddled, career-concentrated four years at IIT-Bombay. He keeps stumbling, the tests are stressful and his failure at getting a girlfriend are all taking their toll.
With Singhal being an IIT passout himself, Deja Vu is an insider's view. But as the young director puts it—the film is of the IITians, by the IITians, but not necessarily only for them.
"There was a sense of urgency to portray what I felt about the suicides that were shaking the IITs. We have tried to show the kind of stress and pressures any IIT student faces here, but the way he copes with the problems can actually be universally emulated,"said Singhal, a chemical engineer from IIT-B, after the film was premiered at the Powai
campus on Saturday, 14th April 2007.
Singhal's main lead, Dhananjay, is played by an undergraduate IIT-B student, Ankur Gulati, from the aerospace engineering department.
So impressed was Bollywood screenplay writer and actor Ranjit Kapoor (of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron and Kabhi Haan, Kabhi Na fame) with the film that he said after the premiere, "With a little bit of trimming, the film can actually be sent to Cannes. I thought I would view Deja Vu a bit patronisingly, but this film has taught me a thing or two."
The young filmmakers are planning to send it to various national and international film
fests with the active support of IIT.
IIT-B Director, Ashok Misra, stated, "I hope we've seen the last of suicides at IIT. The film has the ability to touch students as it talks in their language."Despite the dark theme, the film captures the campus humour that keeps the viewer engaged throughout.
Professor T Kundu of IIT-B who backed Singhal's efforts to make a full-fledged film on the suicide issue, "I am pleasantly surprised that despite being complete amateurs, the Deja Vu team has done exceptionally well,"said Kundu, whose friendly character also
finds a place in the film.
IIT spokesperson Aruna Thosar Dixit added that they planned to send the film to other IITs as well as various other colleges where students face similar problems.
There were two suicides (one in Kanpur and another in IIT-Bombay) even while the film was being made. This gave the team an even more compelling purpose, said Singhal.
He added that an IITian start-up of Jikku Abraham handled the production quite efficiently. Singhal says he learned the ropes of editing from friend Kapil Limbad, while the background score was done by Pushpendra Halped. The one-hour-45-minute film, which cost Rs 2.2 lakh, was funded by IIT-B and took one year to be completed.
(This article appeared in the Times of India dated 17 Apr, 2007)