Prior to India’s first film that has been produced with the help of the masses, with over 400 stakeholders, Antariksh Jain caught up with filmmaker Onir for a little chat about the project and other such things.
Onir will be in town tomorrow at Landmark, Camp along with Juhi Chawla and Sanjay Suri for the launch of film, My Brother Nikhil’s, screenplay at 5 pm.
TheTossedSalad: How did you manage to organize and co-ordinate this unique way of producing a movie? Gathering stakeholders from across the country and convincing them to invest?
Onir: We had around 400 volunteers who worked on the film and a lot of them contributed financially. Initially, because a lot of it was done through social networking, a lot of time was spent daily on the internet, primarily on Facebook – at least 2 to 3 hours every day… Talking to people, convincing them, and making them understand the entire thing… But once the production started, once people realized that it was actually happening, people were much more forth coming into joining this. It’s like once the train starts everyone jumps in. It was perhaps only the first story which was difficult. Well, even that, coming to think of it, after I put my first post on Facebook, it took my about one and a half months to start shooting, which is probably faster than if I would have approached any corporate house or production house. So, it did start off very fast. Well, of course being a director, writer, and co-producer, handling is tough but then when you really want to do what you want to do, you have to go through that, and it’s worth it.
TTS: The cities that you have chosen, what relevance do they have in your life and the life of the characters in the movie? And why did you choose those cities?
Onir: Well some of them had to be situated where it had to be, and they were also based on real life stories. For example, the story of Megha was about a Kashmiri Pundit going back to Srinagar after several years, so that had to be shot there, the story demanded that. Also, shooting it in Srinagar was very important to me, because I identify with that place, and feel that Srinagar has many untold stories. And the whole concept of homelessness is something I identify with because I was myself born and brought up in Bhutan, but I had to leave it because of the unsteady political situation. So it’s a personal connection.
For the longest time I’ve wanted to shoot something in Kolkata because of emotional reasons. I’d done my college from there and for the longest time I wanted to go back to the city from where I had learnt to love cinema.
And also I thought, why not shoot in one city from different parts of the country, north, south, east, west and also in different languages, because India is about different foods, different languages, different cultures… and to try to get that in one film.
TTS: What you have chosen are very sensitive topics…
Onir: For me what is important is first the story has to move me, the concept, again, because these are real life stories, these are interesting, compelling stories – not that I pick up an issue and decide to make a film on it. For me, it’s a story which I want to tell, which is interesting, which has not been told, and which is a compelling story to experience. And as a director, I’d like to approach these stories, these concepts, as a good listener. I like to listen to what my characters speak/ feel and I don’t like to be judgmental and provide answers. You won’t find me preaching anything, and the whole thing about it being a message oriented film – you’ll never find anyone giving any ‘bhashands’ (lectures) in my film. It is just that whatever I believe in, is there subtly. I believe in letting the characters speak for themselves through their actions, and dialogues underlining things.
TTS: What would you define as your kind of cinema?
Onir: (laughs) I think cinema, which respects the audience, saying that the audience has brains, and the audience is a thinking audience, and it’s an audience that wants to take back home something, it’s a film that you take back home. So I would call it as sensible main stream cinema.
TTS: And in comparison with Bollywood?
Onir: I would call it (Onir’s Cinema) sensible, main stream, Hindi cinema, rather than the word ‘Bollywood’. I think I belong to the industry, I don’t think I’m totally art house, I feel I’m a part of the industry and not outside it. It’s also because the industry provides a lot of support. Be it My Brother Nikhil, it was supported by the mainstream industry; similarly a lot of actors in I AM are from main stream background. They believed in it, they knew they were doing something different. So again, I don’t feel like I’m an outsider, earlier I did, but not I feel I’m very much a part of the industry. There are (in the industry) different shades and colours.
TTS: How do you feel the audience has reacted to the film?
Onir: What is encouraging is, over the last year, the audience keeps opening up to new kinds of stories, new cinema, a lot of small budget, good films have done exceptionally well last year, so I feel that slowly there’s a growing audience which is different, and which is looking forward to different kinds of cinema. Just like how our mouth has different taste palettes, the mind also has different regions which need activation, so sometimes it’s nice (for the audience) to be able to think. It’s also that there is youth of the country which cares, and there is a lot more participation.
TTS: So where do you plan to go from here, what’s next?
Onir: I think the most important thing for me right now is the release of the film, it’s releasing on 22nd April, I’m going to return everyone’s money, and once things are set, the road opens up for collaborative, social, film making.
TTS: Your further projects would also involve this kind of production?
Onir: Well, right now, they’re all excited about the film’s release and success, and once I return everyone’s money I know that they’ll come back with double the money (laughs).