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Swimming in the Hinglish tide

Manish Gupta, the latest in the ever-growing line of Hinglish filmmakers, talks about his debut feature `Indian Fish in American Waters.'

— Collage: S. Parthasarathy

Scenes from `Indian Fish in American Waters.' — Collage: S. Parthasarathy

MANISH GUPTA believes in going by roads less taken. After doing incredibly well as a software professional in New York for five years, Gupta decided one fine day to do something different and after discussing it with his wife, Malvika, decided to make films.

In the city wrapping up the post-production for his debut feature, Indian Fish in American Waters, Gupta talked of all that went into the making of the film. "I was bored with my nine to five job and wanted to do something creative," said the MBA from Kurukshetra University who has also worked in advertising agencies in Mumbai and Indore.

"I worked on ad films - concept, editing, scripting and as assistant director." Gupta is quick to point out that any similarity to a certain Tarsem Singh (the visionary ad film maker who made the mind-altering Jennifer Lopez starrer The Cell) is purely coincidental.

After graduating from the prestigious New York Film Academy, Gupta went into feature films full time. "Malvika takes care of the non-creative aspects and is executive producer of Indian Fish... At the Academy, we planned to make a film. When that did not work out, I thought why not make a film myself. And that is how Indian Fish was born."

Shot entirely in New York, the film "was made on a very modest budget. The cast and crew were all new. They were enthusiasts and were paid next to nothing. We tried to do everything by the book," says Gupta of the film, which took 30 shooting days. "Altogether the process from concept to execution has taken ten months."

Gupta describes his film as romantic comedy dealing with the two major Indian communities in the US - "the Gujaratis and the Telugus. There are also two kinds of NRIs - the ABCD or the American Born Confused Desi who I prefer to call compassionate desi and the FOB or the Fresh of the Board. Though both are Indian, there is a huge cultural difference between the two."

"I have tried to present a realistic picture and go beyond stereotypes. So there is no learning curve you know like the FOB being this totally nave guy and the ABCD being wicked and finally learning the error of her ways and the greatness of Indian culture."

ALLIED ARTS: Manish Gupta used his art background for the look and feel of the film.

Breaking stereotypes even as far as music goes, Gupta has used music composed by American artistes. "I have eight original songs that range from hip hop to jazz and soft rock. I am not targeting NRIs alone. My target audience is the urban Indian as well who is fairly clued in."

Gupta says it was a "conscious decision not to have song and dance sequences. I wanted the film to be realistic and you cannot have people breaking out into song and dance at the drop of a hat when you are tending towards a realistic picture."

The realism permeated every aspect of the film from the lighting to the sound and the sets. Gupta used his painting background for the look and feel of the films. Shot entirely in digital format, Gupta took care of the usual glitches associated with the process like the fact that one does not get depth of field in the digital format.

Describing the film as "Meet the Parents for ten minutes," Manish says it could also be described as a "chick flick, you know the kinds girls can take their boyfriends for." Gupta says he chose to comedy because they are well accepted and also he took a leaf from his instructor in film school's book.

"My instructor said, `when you make comedies, people laugh and when they laugh, they open their mouths and when they open their mouths, you can shove anything in."

Gupta said the most difficult part of film making on a shoestring budget is attracting talent and keeping them motivated. Counting Woody Allen, Mira Nair and Deepa Mehta among his favourite directors, Gupta says they have "hit on the winning formula of substance and entertainment."

Gupta chose to do post production work in Hyderabad, as "it is a developing market. People are too busy in Mumbai and one thing an indie film maker needs is time and lots of it. And I found that here."

Plans for the future include making movies for the international market. "I am reading scripts now but have not come across anything very interesting." With the film's release next month, Gupta awaits the audience verdict. Will it be a path-breaking genre bending venture? Watch this space!


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