Independent filmmaker Shailja Gupta talks about her film ‘Walkaway’ and the journey so far

With an experience in the film industry as a marketer, country head of Red Chillies entertainment in the US, Shailja Gupta donned the gloves of an independent film-maker with her film Walkaway which released in the US in 2010. New York-based Shailja hoped that film distributors in India would pick it up for a theatrical release. “Unfortunately Indian distributors don’t even give a second glance to indie films,” says Shailja. But this roadblock didn’t stop her; she decided to release the movie this year right on her website. “I got tired running after distributors so I just decided to air the film on own website,” she says. The two-year-long journey from the completion of the film to its online release has been eventful for Shailja, as she got busy with Ra.One’s digital marketing.

It’s her long association with the film industry that made Shailja get into film-making, “It was impulsive. The idea of making a film always existed, but living in New York and having done enough on the technology side, I just decided to take the leap,” she says. Walkaway tells the story of four couples, albeit from different backgrounds. The one thing that brings them together is their identity of being from India. The film gains from expressing a deep understanding of the dilemmas experienced by a group of people who are at ease in the society they live in, yet can’t really brush off their upbringing and the culture that lies deep within. According to Shailja, the film is based on snippets from her friends’ life. “A lot of people go to IITs and IIMs and get absorbed by big investment banks and then whether it’s an arranged marriage or a love marriage, it always like its progressing from one template to another,” she says. This movie traces intersecting stories exploring different aspects of love and companionship, as four friends in New York struggle to find their way through Indian matrimony and the importance of unshakeable tradition while trying to fit into a contemporary society.

The film also has a subtle feminist perspective. Shailja says that the true inspiration for the film came from all her married friends. Born to a Marwadi family from Kolkata, she claims to have seen it all, “The opening sequence with the middleman and talks of packages, I have actually seen it happening to my cousins. With education we see dowry taking on the subtle shade of ‘gifts’ and ‘welcomes’. I have actually heard someone say, “She will be a good return for your investments!” she says.

Shailja has a long list of people to thank her for the completion of her film. Having known Shahrukh for over a decade, she admits to being surprised when a casual chat with him resulted in Red Chillies doing the post production work. Shailja tracked Resul Pookutty through the ‘friend-of-a-friend’ route and the Oscar award winning sound designer mixed the sound for Walkaway, at no cost. Ram Sampath and Vishal-Shekhar, music-makers from Bollywood saw the film and told Shailja that they’d be happy to provide the music. Technically Shailja admits that it might not be a gold standard film. “It’s supposed to be a slice of life, light hearted feel good film that drives home a message, technically I might want to change a lot of things, but the heart will remain the same,” she says.

Currently Shailja is working on two comedies; one of the films is touted to be a quirky woman-oriented film while the other is going to be a road trip comedy film.

Check it out

Visit www. walkawaymovie.com or facebook.com/walkawaymovie and for Rs. 150 made through online payment, gain access to the film for 24 hours.

Cast: Manu Narayan, Samrat Chakrabarty, Manish Dayal, Saniv Jhaveri, Deepti Gupta, Carrie Anne James, Pallavi Sharda and Ami Sheth