It is said that the Mahabharata was written over a span of 200 years, between 100 BC and 100 AD. It was passed on orally and therefore, underwent many modifications. But these modifications did not change the central story of the Bharatavamsham much. These were additions made by the common folk to depict parts of their lives, subplots that emerged over time to make the Mahabharata truly the story of India. This is not my original idea though, the first time I heard it was when Sashi Tharoor talked about the Mahabharata in the BBC Documentary, The Story of India. But to anyone who has read the Mahabharata will agree to the fact that it reads very much like the story of people who lived in that day and age – their dreams, their perceptions of the world, their society, and their ‘humanness’.
And this is not just peculiar to our subcontinent. All over the globe, you’ll find that stories form the core of culture and society. And as time passed by, the way we told and recorded stories got better – from paintings in caves to the silver screen, we’ve come a long way. And it is this craft of storytelling that Faraway Originals is working to perfect.
Faraway Originals began one and a half years ago when Naveed Mulki, Pankaj Singh, Shaktiraj Singh Jadeja and Rishabh Malhotra realised the opportunity to tell real and authentic stories. They had met in the advertising industry close to ten years ago and as they travelled to do brand films, they stumbled across many incredible stories across the country. So the four of them decided to start a storytelling portal called Untold.in. The portal was a success and they told quite a few untold stories over 2 years, but because of investor issues, they had to leave Untold and start something new. And hence, Faraway Originals was born. But along the way, Rishabh had to leave due to personal reasons, but the other three kept their vision alive; three independent filmmakers self-funding projects to tell stories that move them greatly.
We came across Faraway Originals when we were researching for an article about Biju Ibrahim’s effort to capture the communities that live in Mattancherry. Faraway Originals had created a video with Biju Ibrahim to portray Biju’s story, and it moved us to tears and gave us goosebumps at the same time. Here’s the video if you haven’t seen it already.
As you can see, they spend a lot of time with their protagonists and deep dive into their lives. They then find a concept to tell the many stories that lay hidden in plain sight. They say that “a letter from India” was a challenge as there were so many amazing stories in Mattancherry; stories that will take a lifetime to tell. Stories that will be impossible to fit into a 11-minute film. So after many conversations, Biju briefly told them that his father had come to Mattancherry 40 years ago and he had found it to be a special place. So they took that little nugget and told the wonderful story of Mattancherry through a letter from Biju to his father.
And that’s the beauty of the films made by Faraway Originals – they are subtle, thoughtful, and real. They take real stories and carefully craft interesting ways to tell them, in voice and visually.
Their visual style and vision even led to the name ‘Faraway’. When we asked Naveed why they chose ‘Faraway’, he said, “Faraway to us is not just a place but a dream, a desire, an idea, a person, anything and everything you need or want, but could never get for reasons untold or unseen. This version of ‘Faraway’, we believe, is only a single step away. Now it might take someone a single moment or an entire lifetime to take that one step, but it is always one step away. That is the filter in which tell all of our stories. All of our stories are taking that one step as we tell them. Even our logo has a full stop before faraway. The idea is that ‘Faraway’ starts right after where you stop.” And this explains their unique style of storytelling -all their videos have the camera following the protagonist as he/she takes us through their story.
Aren’t you intrigued? We sure are!
Go check out their channel on YouTube for they have many more stories coming out soon; a conservation story from Ladakh and a story of an unlikely Kalaripayattu warrior from Kerala. They have also started working on a story of a 60-year-old woman who had been through domestic violence and has not only survived but blossomed after the violence ended, another story about an incredible 80-year-old couple from Kodaikanal who saved and created many species of roses and honour their heroes in a very unique way, a series of conservation stories with the Sanctuary Asia: Mud on Boots program, and a series on South Indian languages.
It is amazing to see such brilliant films depicting stories of common folk from various parts of India coming out. But the journey for self-funded filmmakers is tough. Naveed tells us that they have been told many times that their stories will have no audience, that nobody has the time to see longer format films. And sometimes because of these pressures they aren’t able to find investors for their stories and films, they have had to give up on a lot of stories. But eventually, they developed resolve and decided to keep telling these stories no matter how hard it got. They learnt that the story needs to be told, that it needs to be shared, that it needs to survive. And that’s passion that deserves support.