Miditech's Pria Alva films Mangalyaan's journey for Nat Geo

MUMBAI: Detailed interviews, extensive research, narrations, advanced animation and modeling will orchestrate Miditech executive director Pria Somiah Alva’s documentary on India’s Mars triumph Mangalyaan. The successful landing of Mangalyaan drove Alva to document the voyage.

“India is the first country to succeed in the first attempt and just news headlines were not enough to describe such a great journey. So we decided to film a documentary on the entire journey,” Alva tells

The research started in 2014 when Alva and her associate director Shivani Muthanna approached the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) with the proposition. ISRO's reaction was fascinating for Alva and her team at Miditech. “Normally private bodies don't get permission to film in ISRO, it's always Doordarshan. But we got superior cooperation from them and we accessed many important properties of the research organisation,” says Alva.

The project was commissioned by National Geographic Channel and will be aired on 5 November, 2015 - exactly two years after the entire mission was actually successful.

Working on a tight budget, Alva and her team did the best they could with the means available to them for the Mangalyaan documentary.

With ISRO's nod, Miditech received access to archival footage, which Alva used in the documentary to explain the journey. “This is a post launch documentary so we had to narrate and create the dramatics of how it all came together and happened. In the documentary we have used archival footage as well as some live footage, which we shot,” informs Alva.

The camera that was attached with the spaceship only had features of clicking imageries of its surroundings and not itself. Hence there were no images available of the scientific vehicle that travelled the distance and that’s where Alva made use of Computer Generated Imagery (CGI).

“We went for CGI, special effects and 3D modelling to give viewers an idea of how it was. We imagine the space vehicle to be a something humongous in size, but in reality it’s not even as big as an auto-rickshaw. We have left no stones unturned to make the images look as exquisite as possible,” Alva emphasises.

Through the course of the hour long documentary, interviews with various stakeholder will narrate the on screen occurrences more often than not. However, wherever required, Andre Williams’ voice will chip in to educate the viewers.

Alva had her share of memorable moments while directing the  documentary. Describing one of them she narrates, “I has asked the ISRO spokesperson if there were any women involved in the entire journey. He replied saying please don’t ask us stupid questions. We are scientists and we do not discriminate between genders.”

It is said “We be what we see” and hence it was important to showcase women involvement. When asked if there are substantial presence of women in the documentary, Alva says, “We will see the Eves working in the background throughout the documentary, be it navigations, communications or in any other depertments their presence is prominent. Moreover, we have a few women in the list of people that we interviewed. We did not interview them because they are women but because of their noteworthy role in the success.”

When a documentary is created on scientific projects, it becomes a presentation, which only people with immense knowledge in the field can interpret. And therein lay the biggest challenge for Alva and her team. Making the documentary easy to follow for people with basic knowledge of the happenings and at the same time factually correct and scientifically perfect was what kept Alva and her team on their toes.

“We have kept it in such a way that people from across the stream can understand and enjoy the documentary. The dramatics will get people involved with the documentary and we have engineered a suitable sound to back that,” she informs.

In recent times people flocked to the theatres in India when Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity were screened. Now it remains to be seen how the nation reacts to this one of a kind documentary - Mangalyaan - filmed on a one of a kind voyage marking India's first venture into the interplanetary space.

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