Nilesh Khandale’s debut short movie, ‘Ambuj’ seeks to shed light on some of the most pervasive but less talked about elements of the Indian caste society. Working as an Event Manager, and belonging to the Matang community in Maharashtra, Nilesh has always led the struggle of Phule-Shahu-Ambedkarite thought on social media where his presence has been influential. Now, he has chosen the medium of film to reach out to the public and spread the revolutionary thoughts. Gaurav Somwanshi talks to Nilesh Khandale about his movie and about himself.
Gaurav: Hello Nilesh, it has been more than a couple of years since I have known you on social media. Though I’ve not had the chance to meet you yet, I’ve followed your posts and interacted with you on facebook. Could you tell us about your ideals, your activism and your motivations?
Nilesh: I come from a town near Baramati, where my father runs a small business. The thoughts of our anti-caste leaders have always influenced me. As you very well know, I have used facebook extensively in order to spread the Phule-Shahu-Ambedkarite thought. In fact, I have tried to use every medium available to me to do this, even on my bike I use stickers that has a quote by Babasaheb saying, “Castes are anti-national” and I change these stickers every 3-4 months. Along with the trio of thought leaders who stand as pillars of the modern democratic setup, I’m also inspired heavily by Loksahityik Annabhau Sathe and Ustaad Lahuji Salve.
I am also a part of numerous student organisations, and am deeply connected with grassroots activists, and have ran agitations to solve the issues of scholarship and hostel of our students.
Gaurav: Could you tell us more about your decision to use a short movie in order to spread this message?
Nilesh: Social media is fascinating but it can’t be the only medium. Movies allow us to deliver a message more powerfully that can last longer. And people always connect with a story more than they connect with a theory, and hence I felt that depicting the anti-caste thought in the form of a movie would help me have a larger impact than before.
Besides, since I work as an Event Manager I have always felt close with this medium and have known its potential. And for ‘Ambuj’, I have directed, written the screenplay, and also composed music for it all by myself.
Gaurav: That is such an exemplary feat in itself, Nilesh. Could you tell me what is the impact you’re trying to achieve via ‘Ambuj’?
Nilesh: Through Ambuj I want to reach out to the bahujans to ask them to not be proud of their caste. Castes and breeds belong to animals and not human beings. And unless and until we drop our pride in our specific caste we won’t be able to achieve anything. That is the message I want to deliver via ‘Ambuj’.
Babasaheb has said that the root of caste is in the religious beliefs, and we must see each other as humans before we can proceed ahead.
Gaurav: What do you think are the main obstacles in fighting caste today?
Nilesh: I think that the main obstacles for fighting caste among our people is that they are happy and comfortable living where they are now. And they must be brought back to reality. As Babasaheb said, we must ensure that the prisoner is aware of his chains, and that is what ‘Ambuj’ is primarily aimed at.
Gaurav: Where and when can we watch Ambuj?
Nilesh: Currently, I’m entering various competitions and events and hence I have not released it anywhere. But it will soon be available. You can watch the trailer on YouTube:
Nilesh Khandale is a filmaker, media & event manager, and social activist.