The seeds for the movie Patang were planted in 2005, when director Prashant Bhargava traveled to Ahmedabad to experience the city's annual kite festival. "When I first witnessed the entire city on their rooftops, staring up at the sky, their kites dueling ferociously, dancing without inhibition, I had to make this film."
Inspired by the spiritual energy of the festival, he returned the next three years, documenting his experiences with over a hundred hours of video footage. Slowly immersing himself in the ways of the old city, he became acquainted with its unwritten codes of conduct, its rhythms and secrets. Prashant would sit on a street corner for hours at a stretch and just observe. Over time, he connected with shopkeepers and street kids, gangsters and grandmothers. This process formed the foundation for developing the characters and story. As he began to write the script, Prashant realized that capturing the spirit of the festival and the city-its beauty and flow, joy and strength, healing and transcendence-would require multiple narratives. And so Patang found its shape as three interwoven stories centering on a family that reunites for the kite festival.
Shot on location with a cast of both non-actors and professionals, Patang draws from the neo-realist tradition. Preserving the naturalism of the environment guided every decision during filming, from shooting style to crew size to the process with the actors. The owner of the camera store, who ended up playing Bobby's father, continued to conduct business during the two days of shooting at his shop. Having become a familiar presence in the old city proved indispensable in other ways as well. Prashant recalls, "We had a rapport and support from the politicians, police officers, gambling bookies, the shopkeepers and the grandmothers from my years of research."
To encourage that naturalism and immediacy for the family scenes, Prashant inspired both his cast and crew to just live together-eat, talk, laugh, fight. Rooftop sequences were created with a group of friends, non-actors who had been flying kites together for thirty years. Renowned actor Seema Biswas co-hosted these celebrations in character, actively helping to prepare meals. Prashant had the cast improvise, shooting them in long takes. With the cameras rolling, he would whisper their objectives to them, to bring out the dramatic elements of the scene. Shanker Raman, director of photography, and Prashant shot simultaneously with two small HD cameras. Both would approach shooting as actors themselves, quiety dancing between the actor's performances.
Patang's joyful message and its cinematic magic developed organically from the deep roots in the life of the old city that Prashant had so carefully cultivated: "The sense of poetry and aesthetics became less of an imposed perspective and more of a view that emerged from the pride of the people and place."