Have film, will screen: indie movies are finding their way to audiences

How indies are fighting to release films any which way

August 26, 2017 04:24 pm | Updated 06:36 pm IST

Reaching out Indies are finding newer avenues. (Above) A still from CRD.

Reaching out Indies are finding newer avenues. (Above) A still from CRD.

Kranti Kanade’s CRD is one of the most eccentric, deliberately random and baffling films one has seen of late. One that in tenor swings between the intense and the flippant. One that talks as much about the tyranny in a supposedly liberal world of arts as it plays with the larger notion of the real and the pretend. One that tries to break away from linearity and realism in storytelling even as it speaks of real issues — from Narendra Dabholkar to the idea of a ‘bahujan ka Shivaji’, from the fascism of language and of Bollywood, to the politics of the national anthem.

Its outrageousness, audacity and self-conscious referencing — from Uday Prakash to Foucault via Dravid, Bose, Antonioni and Bergman — can leave one either riveted or piqued but certainly not indifferent.

Beyond cinema halls

It was this ability to polarise the viewers and the intriguing trailer itself that led three students of Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Goa — Shantanu Sharma, Ishmin Singh and Clyde Bailey — to come together to showcase it on alternative platforms, before it made its way to the screens commercially. And Cinetic was born.

After having shown CRD on their own campus recently, they held two screenings in Mumbai alongside college workshops conducted by Kanade. The show continues, in the same format, in Delhi, Bengaluru and Kolkata and, hopefully, with more indie films (independent not necessarily in their funding as much as in the spirit and the aesthetics, they clarify) in the future. The wishlist of the fresh-faced youngsters has Payal Sethi’s Leeches , John Upchurch’s Mango Dreams and Devashish Makhija’s shorts. They even want to bring back older films — Anup Kurian’s Manasarovar , Karan Gour’s Kshay , Sabal Singh Shekhawat’s Fireflies .

In their third year of college, the three are also interning with companies in Bengaluru and Hyderabad while developing Cinetic on a revenue sharing basis with the viewing platforms and the filmmakers.

A few months ago at Cannes, I had bumped into another bright-eyed youngster, Nivedita Siddharthan, 27, who, along with Priyadarshi Rishiraj, 30, co-founded Moviesaints, a curated website for indies from around the world. To view a film, you pay a fee, of which 60% goes to the filmmaker and the rest to the platform. If you like a film, you can lend additional support to the filmmaker.

There is 10 minutes of free trial during which, if you don’t like the film and stop it, the money is refunded. The personally funded start-up has Loreta Gandolfi from the University of Cambridge helping with international curation. Siddharthan herself travels, reads and scours the web as much as she can to keep the standard high. Some on-ground events are in the pipeline: retrospectives of Ulrich Seidl, a selection of Iranian films, and a Cannes collection from this year and the last.

It’s not just finances, but also reaching out to the right audiences that has, for long, been the bane of indie filmmakers. Consequently, such alternative models and experiments emerging in indie film distribution and monetisation are worth taking note of. A couple of years ago, Bardroy Barretto made the Konkani film Nachom-ia Kumpasar with contributions from 101 family members and friends.

Non-conventional

Instead of taking the multiplex route, he decided to personally organise ticketed screenings across venues in Goa. He wanted to reach as many viewers as possible and gain critical mass steadily. The staggered, non-conventional release was not just about screening but ensuring it stayed in audience minds.

Sandeep Mohan’s Shreelancer may have released commercially last week, but he has been travelling with it, and with previous films, from city to city, across India and the world, screening shows for willing audiences in any space available, whether office or café. He calls his experiment The Great Indian Travelling Cinema.

A couple of years ago, in Kerala, Kazhcha Film Forum, a film lovers’ and filmmakers’ collective, started ‘Cinema Vandi’ (a cinema van equipped with projection equipment) that is literally all about movies in motion. It travels to villages and towns and screens films wherever invited — film societies, clubs, colleges. Initiatives like 1018mb have been helping organise on-demand screenings — of not just indies but popular classics as well. Most significantly, newer community spaces are emerging, where intimate group screenings can be organised. Not that it’s all rosy yet, but where there’s a film, there has to be a way to see it.

namrata.joshi@thehindu.co.in

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