Crossroads, crisis and Indie Cinema
Nov 01 2013
Award-winning producer and director, Onir , on the need to tell stories and his upcoming project, Chauranga
Award winning director, producer, gay activist and brave storyteller, Onir talks about his need to tell these stories, stronger support for indie cinema, his upcoming project, Chauranga to his acclaimed movie, I AM.
Q. What makes you choose such a project?
Most of the films I have done are inspired by real life stories. As a filmmaker, it was important to me to share stories that are honest. Through each film I have grown as a person. I don’t make films so they will do well at the box office or tailor make them according to recent trends or a low budget copy of some Bollywood film. I find the ‘Friday, Saturday, Sunday box office collection’ talk quite depressing. Making a movie should be more than revelling in its run during the opening weekend. It should be timeless.
Q. Tell me about your production house, Anticlock Films?
Anticlock is not going against the clock but about being timeless. Till recently, Sanjay Suri and I mainly produced films that I have directed. But we want to be more than that. We want to help struggling and brilliant new directors by producing their films. Whatever I have learnt through producing and directing, I would like to pass that on to debutant filmmakers. Take films such as Lunchbox or Ship of Theseus, if it wasn’t presented by big names like Karan Johar or Kiran Rao, these films would have struggled to make it to the big screen.
Q. What is the current state of indie cinema?
It has gotten worse as good content continues to take a backseat. Many commercial movies without a good script continue to get funded. Those tagged as “artistic” face an uphill fight for distribution. We don’t even have a recognition that cinema is a form of art. We are filed under Film and Broadcasting.
Q. What was your experience with I AM, which won national awards?
I AM got two national awards, but sadly no satellite release despite the recognition. It shows that our society is becoming increasingly intolerant and closed. Interestingly, Bombay Talkies which was released recently had a similar structure, but got much more visibility because of the production clout behind it.
Finding a distributor for the international markets is also quite difficult for indie films. Movies such as I AM are lost to a global audience who can definitely relate to the stories and the themes.
All four stories are powerful, thought provoking and make us question the bias that exists in our society.
Those short yet connected stories were based on real life incidents and we shot the entire film in 24 days. The Omar story and the archaic Article 377, which criminalised homosexuality, deny basic rights in the world’s largest democracy. Similarly, for Abhimanyu’s story of child abuse, it was a conscious decision to make it about a boy. It was important to change the gender because I wanted the male audience to start understanding how abuse starts and how those abused can become abusers themselves.
Q. We have heard much about Bikas Ranjan Mishra’s Chauranga that you are producing.
I am really excited about Chauranga and working with Bikas who is a first time filmmaker. Sanjay and I have also helped pull the cast together and provide a support system. For the first time, I was on location as a producer and I felt a little jealous that I wasn’t directing the film. Chauranga has a rural backdrop and however much I wanted to, I could not have directed this movie as I am from the city. I didn’t want to pretend I knew this space. For a film to be authentic, the vision has to come from a director who is comfortable with his own style and knows the story well.
Q. How do you crowd source talent for your films?
My movies are always within budget and on time. I tell new directors that when you are working for indie cinema, you have to be able to multi-task and it is about teamwork. I have found a lot of new talent including costume designers and art directors for my films through the social channels. The song for Abhimanyu in I AM was crowd sourced through Facebook. 70 per cent of the talent for Chauranga is through FB. In fact, I am thrilled that there are people who are coming down from different parts of India for the shooting of Chauranga.
Everyone involved in the making of a film is a co-owner and that is where community forms and grows.