National Award-Winning LGBTQ Film ‘Dal Bhat’: A Triumph of the Fearless Ambition of College Friends

National Award-Winning LGBTQ Film 'Dal Bhat': A Triumph of the Fearless Ambition of College Friends

A Remarkable Journey of Purpose-Driven Cinema in India, Forged by Budding College Filmmakers

‘Dal Bhat,’ a National Award-winning LGBTQ-themed film, stands as a testament to the vibrant spirit of independent, purpose-driven cinema in India, thanks to the vision of a young director and a team of college friends. Zest and a sense of purpose helped them overcome many challenges, including the loss of Aditi Bohra, the beloved screenplay writer, and a cherished friend during the making of the film.

For Nemil Shah, Aditi Bohra, Vinayak Chhabra, Senain Sawant, Dharmaj Joshi, Mitali Solanki and Rishab Joshi, ‘Dal Bhat’ was simply about telling a relevant story and putting all their learning as young twenty-something students of filmmaking to practice. The National Award was far from their mind.

Director Nemil Shah shared, “Winning the National Award is bittersweet, as it reminds us of our dear friend and collaborator, Aditi. ‘Dal Bhat’ demanded our all, and this is our tribute to her.”

‘Dal Bhat’ unfolds in the arid expanse of Kutch, Gujarat, telling the poignant story of a new lake’s emergence after a prolonged drought and the journey of 10-year-old Mukti, who grapples with his identity when denied access to the lake. The film features a talented ensemble cast, including Sanjay Mishra and Jinay Haria. During the making of the film, the ‘Dal Bhat’ team ventured into Saurashtra, where they immersed themselves in the lives of transgender residents, finding inspiration in their courage and struggles.

The search for the perfect actor to portray Mukti was a formidable task, with eight hundred auditions and parental hesitations. Nemil Shah recalled, “We persevered and also assembled a remarkable ensemble of young actors from Mumbai and Kutch and this wouldn’t have been possible without a dedicated crew. “

Vinayak Chhabra, 1st Assistant Director, and a vital team member, said, “It was formidable to work on a theme as powerful and honestly some of us were fairly naive about the impact of the film.  All of us worked as a team and gave this film everything we had. It feels surreal that the film has won a National Award.”  

What began as a labor of love for cinema evolved into a profound mission as the college friends realized the narrative’s immense impact. Vinayak reflected, “Our journey with ‘Dal Bhat’ has filled us with immense pride.”

Assistant Director Senain Sawant credits Nemil and Aditi for the vision of ‘Dal Bhat’, “I always knew that this was an important film even though on the surface, it is a simple story about a little boy. But we knew we wanted to treat the story with the sensitivity it needed. The bitter winter of Kutch and the challenges brought about by our tight budgets only made our resolve stronger. We’re still coming to terms with the fact that a project we did as young adults reached the right audience and made the impact that it has.”

ranjita shalgar
About S Ranjita 405 Articles
Ranjita is a seasoned writer on a variety of topics. She has been writing for 8 years now on various international publications. Entertainment and current news topics are her favorite. She can be reached at

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