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Updated: February 8, 2014 20:50 IST

Notes from Neeraj

Harshikaa Udasi
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Neeraj Ghaywan
Neeraj Ghaywan

Neeraj Ghaywan talks about what forms the crux of his 'Fly Away Solo' which won the Sundance Institute/Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award

Neeraj Ghaywan, well-known for his award-winning film Shor (which was eventually released theatrically in India as one of Anurag Kashyap’s S.H.O.R.T.S.) and The Epiphany (released online), has recently been conferred the 2014 Sundance Institute/Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award. Instituted to recognise and support emerging independent filmmakers from around the world, the award has been shared this year by Hong Khaou, Monsoon from Vietnam/UK; Tobias Lindholm, A War from Denmark; Ashlee Page, Archive from Australia; and Neeraj Ghaywan, Fly Away Solo from India.

Each of the four winning filmmakers will receive a cash award of $10,000, attendance at the Sundance Film Festival for targeted industry and creative meetings, year-round mentoring from the institute staff and creative advisors, eligibility to participate in a Sundance Institute Lab, and ongoing creative and strategic support from Sundance Institute’s renowned feature film programme.

Fly Away Solo is a story based in Benaras about four lives that intersect along the Ganga. A lower-caste boy in a hopeless love, a daughter torn with guilt, a father sinking in greed and a spirited kid craving for a family, each one is yearning to escape the constrictions of a small town.

Great opportunity

For Neeraj, this is a great opportunity to get worldwide production support. “Of course Guneet (Monga) and Anurag (Kashyap) have been very supportive all along my journey,” he says. Neeraj has worked with Anurag on the director’s two-part opus Gangs of Wasseypur and as the second unit director on the forthcoming Ugly. His first short film Shor won the Satyajit Ray Foundation Short Film Award 2012 at the London Indian Film Festival. Chronicling the struggle of a migrant couple from Benaras in Mumbai, the film was named the Best Short Film at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) 2012 and South Asian International Film Festival (SAIFF) in 2011. He says that Fly Away Solo is essentially the story of people trapped and trying to escape homegrown values of small town India and its existential and moral limitations. “It is also the story about the loss of someone very close to us. When I had gone to Benaras during the shoot of Gangs Of Wasseypur and spent close to four months there, the sight of people being cremated on the ghats didn’t ever leave me. I had a story on corporate life in the big city but I junked it in favour of Fly Away Solo,” says Neeraj, adding that his writer-friend Varun Grover and he will share the prize money and credits. “I haven’t really left Benaras and Benaras hasn’t really left me,” says the filmmaker-writer. “I feel sad whenever I have to say bye to it.” Neeraj’s Shor was also about a couple from Benaras. He hopes he will be able to work on the new film and get it rolling this year. “We are living in a time when sponsorship and mentorship is very important and is changing the dynamics of filmmaking. If Dibakar (Bannerjee) can team up with Yash Raj Films and Anurag Kashyap with Karan Johar’s Dharma (Productions), it’s time we celebrate,” he signs off.

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