An oil spill, a cover-up and three eco-conscious bandits. Neehar and Mansi talk about their indie ‘The Green Bandits’

When you think of films on environment, one expects short films and documentaries. Feature films are few and far between in this arena. A one-hour feature film, The Green Bandits, finds itself in this niche area. It took producer Mansi Gandhi and writer/director Neehar Cherabuddi three years to make The Green Bandits, as they did a balancing act between making this film and their day job at Oracle, San Francisco.

The idea for the film triggered when Neehar observed people waiting for the elevator at his workplace. “A huge number of people used to wait for the elevator than taking the stairs even to the first floor, which would have been quicker. I thought of a short film where bank robbers use the stairs to escape while cops waited for the elevator,” says Neehar.

As he wrote the story, Neehar weaved in larger issues of the aftermath of oil spill and the politics that plays in the background with which a large company manages to go unscathed. Neehar chanced upon an incisive feature on Union Carbide and the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, used elements of it while writing his own story. Initially, The Green Bandits was a 20-minute short film after which he set out to make a larger film.

For Mansi Gandhi, who had produced Neehar’s previous shorts, this meant more responsibilities. The film stars actors auditioned from San Francisco bay. “The indie film scene is vibrant in the area and many actors and crew members work for independent cinema for a small fee or free of cost,” says Mansi. A sum of $5000 was pooled in from friends and family members and later, Mansi and Neehar shelled out $20,000 from their savings. “This was a shoestring budget for a 60-minute film,” says Mansi. As they set out, there was help. A mask maker from Berkeley, who had worked for The Phantom of The Area, designed special masks for the three bandits. A mime actor stepped in to train the actors to emote with their masks on, with emphasis on body language. Once the film was done and Mansi and Neehar had screenings in San Francisco, they resigned their jobs and moved back to India in March 2013. “We needed the job until we made the film in order to stay in the US,” explains Neehar. An alumnus of Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Technology, Hyderabad, he pursued higher studies at Brown University. “I got bored with software engineering. Since I used to write stories, I took up screenwriting classes from Stanford University,” recalls Neehar. The next couple of years were spent in building his confidence by making short films.

Mansi and Neehar had their first screening in Hyderabad over the weekend. They plan to have more screenings and submit the film to international film festivals.

What is it about?

It is a 60-minute work of fiction, written and directed by Neehar Cherabuddi and produced by Mansi Gandhi. The story revolves around an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the big cover-up attempted by a UK-based company World Petroleum responsible for it. Three environmentally conscious gangsters, unable to take the hoodwinking of World Petroleum anymore, attempt to look World Bank of America, which funds the company.