Shamjibhai Ahir, a Kutchi truck driver by profession, can’t understand such hullabaloo over India’s official Oscar entry of the Gujarati film The Good Road in which he is playing an important role.
Other important roles are played by Ahmedabad-based Priyank Upadhyay and Sonali Kulkarni, a veteran Hindi film actress. The film is the story of the three characters whose lives unfold on the lost road in the beautiful Banni area of Kutch. The film is directed by Gyan Correa, whose wife is a Kutchi- speaking Gujarati.
Shamjibhai, 36, owns trucks and is engaged in the transport business. He stays in Sumrasar, a town in Bhuj district of Kutch. Sumrasar is known for its transport business and awesomely beautiful embroidery.
When asked if he was comfortable before the camera, he said, “I had to deliver the dialogues in my own style, so I didn’t find acting difficult.”
While talking to rediff.com Shamjibhai said that he worked in the film for some 35 days. He hasn’t seen the final film, yet. The Good Road is the first-ever Gujarati film to go to the Oscars as the official entry of India. The film has already won the National Award for the best feature film (Gujarati).
The film’s unique thing is that most of the characters are not trained or professional actors. The production team of the film met Shamjibhai on Bhuj-Madhaper highway where thousands of trucks ply daily.
He had shared the insight of life and plight of truck drivers. After the exchange of telephone numbers they parted. The next time the production team drove from Bhuj to Ahmedabad with Shamjibhai to know more about him.
By the time they reached Ahmedabad, Shamjibhai had won the contract to act in the film. After driving in real life for some 13-14 years he was selected to play a role of a truck driver in a Gujarati film, which may or may not make history in Hollywood.
Today, when the film has become India’s official entry into the Oscars, Shamjibhai was cool. When asked if he bought some sweets, he said smilingly, “What is there to buy sweets?"
Ahmedabad-based Priyank is a theater artist. This is his first film. He has acted in dramas such as Surajwali Raat, Saiya Bhaye Kotwal and Priya Mitra.
After graduating from H K Arts College he has done his masters from the Ahmedabad-based Centre for Development Communication. He plays the truck cleaner for Shamjibhai. He said, “I took training as a cleaner for some four weeks. I also went on some routes as suggested by director Gyan Correa.”
He said that the film was made with two breaks in 2010.
It is surprising that Correa does not know Gujarati and does not speak proper Hindi. He mostly communicated in English, and a little bit of Hindi on the sets. Priyank and Shamjibhai bonded with each other during the shooting. Shamjibhai even got lunch from home, especially for Priyank.
Shamjibhai plays a real-life role on screen, but the truck shown in the film is not his own.
Image: A still from the movie.