Say hola to a new way of reaching films to niche audiences. Director Sandeep Mohan takes his film Hola Venky to the doorstep of techie workplaces
It’s back to the old days of the travelling talkies, with stories new.
Director Sandeep Mohan is taking his second feature film Hola Venky through the “travelling cinema” route — he’s literally carrying a projector, his film on Blue Ray, and a screen, to people’s doorstep, and interacting directly with his audience. Who wants to battle traffic to get to a multiplex? It’s another new branch off of the Indie movie surge in the country.
His journey begins in Bangalore, which apparently is the new test market for everything. Hola Venky being a film about a techie, Sandeep felt there could be no better place than Bangalore for him to gauge audience reaction. Over the last weekend, he screened his film at two tech companies, in private screenings. Sandeep himself lived in Bangalore for about five years, working as a copywriter in ad-agencies.
Kerala-born and Mumbai-settled Sandeep’s maiden film Love, Wrinkle-Free, was a take on the world’s obsession with the role our looks play in a relationship. The director had many issues with the censors, who labelled it an ‘adult’ film, and, which therefore cannot be screened on cable/TV. “I wanted a theatrical release for Hola Venky too, but I didn’t want to take a censor certificate. I didn’t want to go through that route again for a so-called ‘adult’ film,” says the director, just minutes before his film’s screening in the city. Moreover, he argues, Indie films, when released in theatres, barely get an audience, he believes — about 30 to 40 people on a good day at a single screen. “But here, I may get 60 people of a company to watch the film together… I hope I can reach out to a tleast 2,000 people like this.”
Hola Venky, says the director, is much deeper than what the basic plot suggests — “a journey from the groin to the heart” when the hero loses a part of his sexual organ. “It’s about what it means to be a man today. It questions our notions of masculinity, macho-ness… There is nothing wrong with sex! I mean when friends sit down to talk, or there’s a corporate crowd sitting around for a chat, it’s a subject no one minds talking about. It’s not such a touchy topic, and this is how you talk in the real world,” says Sandeep.
Shot in Guerrilla mode in English, Hindi, Spanish, Tamil, the 85-minute film was made in San Francisco and Mumbai with a three-member crew — Sandeep, the cameraman, and the sound recordist. “We used a Canon 5D camera, and two lapel mikes… no boom mikes even,” he laughs. Except for the lead pair — Roger Narayan and Sonia Balcazar — all actors were techies, friends, and friends of friends. Sandeep’s friend Giju John put in five lakhs, hosted the crew in his home in the U.S. The cost of post-production, another 4.8 lakhs, came from crowd-sourcing through Facebook and a campaign on the fundraising platform, Indiegogo.
The film releases in theatres in the U.S. on January 25, and in the video on demand format in India on February 24, where you pay per view.
It sounds a bit jarring though, to know that Sandeep’s been an assistant director before with Sanja Leela Bhansali on one of his grand big-budget productions Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. “I love love stories. Hola Venky is also a love story. But love doesn’t have to be one way alone. Love has many shades to it. After HDDCS I got lost in that world a bit… I worked in an ad agency, wrote TV scripts…”
The whole idea of taking cinema to people came when he was sitting at a coffee café in Mumbai. He felt these guys milling around him were the ones he wanted to show the film to. “That’s when I thought of the travelling cinemas in villages…those that were screened at the end of the day during religious festivals. Such a thing hasn’t happened in urban spaces. Office is the new temple everyone goes to…so I thought why not take my films to workplaces? I wanted to democratise movie watching… the audience can tell me on my face how my movie was.”