Girish Makwana – Film maker, musician par excellence

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Photo: SAT

By SAT News Desk

IN OUR SERIES ON PROMINENT SOUTH ASIAN PROFILES IN AUSTRALIA, SOUTH ASIA TIMES (SAT) PRESENTS TO ITS READERS THE PROFILE OF Girish Makwana, Melbourne based film producer/director, music composer/performer and leading Tabla player/exponent. Makwana’s movie The Colour of Darkness is streaming on FoxtellGo, Stan and Amazon Prime.:

Girish Makwana is an Australian-Indian filmmaker. He is considered a pioneer of the new Indo-Australian cinema and a highly acclaimed director, writer, music composer and producer. Makwana started his career as a performing music artist. He then ventured into film direction with two short films and one documentary. He gained recognition, critical and commercial success for directing his first Indo-Australian feature film – The Colour of Darkness. He is currently working on his new film – Sadhu, which is slated to release by 2021. 

Early life 

Makwana was born on March 6, 1970, in Tundel village of Gujarat, India. His mother, Sharda Makwana is a retired Principal of a primary school, and his father Kanti Bhai Makwana is acclaimed writer, social activist, lawyer, and retired Principal of DP Desai High School, Nadiad. His father is author of several Gujarati books. He received accolades for authoring the book – Jeevan Sangharsh – 1975 (Struggles of Life), based on renowned Indian freedom fighter and writer of Indian constitution – Dr. B.R.Ambedkar. 

Makwana was born in Bunkar (weaver class, Dalit) caste, who were treated as untouchables. He faced socio-economic discrimination right from his childhood. Early in his life, he suffered a polio attack on his entire body, but survived. His left leg is still polio-affected for which he wears a caliper. He spent two years in a disabled hostel when he was 10. 

At an early age, he found inclination and passion for music and film making. As a result, he started reading literature and watching films of different languages. 

Education

After high school, Makwana studied Bachelor of Science (Microbiology) from the Gujarat University in Nadiad. He then applied for Drama and Performing Arts at M.S. University in Vadodra (Baroda) but was rejected because of disability. The University offered him a course in music. He took the offer and chose Tabla as a musical instrument and vocal singing.  During the course, he established himself as a performing stage artist and toured East and South Africa for his performances. He successfully completed the Bachelor and Master of Performing Arts in Music from M.S University in 1996. 

In 1999, Makwana became the first Indian person to be selected for a Ph.D. in Music Composition in the prestigious Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Australia. He was a recipient of an academic scholarship from the Gujarat government but his scholarship was withdrawn due to a change in the government. During his Ph.D., Makwana collaborated with several international musicians and performed with them. He had to go back to India in 2002, during the last phase of his research work, and could not complete his Ph.D. He returned to Australia 2005 to submit his thesis. He continued to give musical performances and relocated to Melbourne. From 2010 to 2012, Makwana pursued Diploma, followed by a Masters in Film and Television at the RMIT, Melbourne, Victoria. 

Career

2010: Early work
Makwana’s film making career began in 2010. He produced, directed, and wrote his first short documentary – My musical journey, followed by a short film – The Gift. Both of these works were highly appreciated and showed Makwana’s talent for narrating stories. 

2011: Documentary film
In 2011, Makwana produced, directed, and wrote a documentary film - Tihai3. The documentary was about journeys of the lives of three artists from completely different countries with nothing in common except the passion for music. The documentary narrated the journey of three individuals coming together to form a band and using their creative and musical inputs of complete diverse flavors.  

2012: Breakthrough
Inspired by real-life socio-political events in Australia and India, Makwana started shooting his first feature film – The Colour of Darkness in 2011. The Indian part of the film was based on Makwana’s own family’s experiences in Gujarat. For the first time in Indian or international cinema, Gujarati ‘Charotari’ language was used. Makwana faced several challenges during the making of the film yet his determination helped complete the film without compromising on the script. 

The film opened to rapturous response, leading a flurry of opinions in India and Australia.  Makwana’s ability to narrate a story and establish common ground between two cultural and politically dissimilar nations was applauded. The film was invited to several festivals and won several acolytes. 

2019: Sadhu
Currently, Makwana is working on his new film – Sadhu. The scripting of the movie is complete. The Principal photography is expected to begin soon with a target release by 2021-22. 

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