Bringing cinema home

Director Sandeep Mohan

Director Sandeep Mohan  

Independent filmmaker Sandeep Mohan takes his second film Hola Venky closer to the audience by holding special screenings

On Friday evening, independent filmmaker Sandeep Mohan loaded a .mov file, a high-definition print of his new feature film on his laptop, connected it to a projector at a corporate office in Bangalore and played it for a group of 50 people. After the screening, he interacted with the crowd, took questions and feedback.

Sounds like just another screening? Except that this was the premiere of Hola Venky, shot with a three people crew, with a shoestring budget of Rs. 10 lakhs in India and the U.S. Uncensored. No studios, no distributors, no theatres, no middlemen. Just the filmmaker directly dealing with the paying audience.

The Great Indian Traveling Cinema, as Sandeep Mohan calls it, had kicked off its journey. On Saturday, he was all set to play Hola Venky for a wedding gathering. Sandeep will leave to the U.S. for 14 weekend screenings in San Jose and San Francisco on January 25-26 and February 1-2.

Tired of negotiating cuts over his debut film Love, Wrinkle Free, Sandeep had decided that that he wasn’t going to even take his film to the Central Board of Film Certification for his second film. “I wanted to do something quickly instead of waiting for things to happen. Also this was a light-hearted story that the censors would never allow. Hola Venky is the story of a techie’s journey — from his groin to his heart — after he loses two per cent of his... manhood, you can say. It’s about how easily we take things for granted until we lose them,” says Sandeep.

But Hola Venky is not a reaction to Censorship alone. Sandeep sees it as a way out to beat the system that offers very little to independent filmmakers. “The Government cannot control what you watch at home and office. Of course, I am responsible enough to know what kind of content I can show corporates, especially if I want them to play it. There are very few avenues for independent filmmakers to show their films,” he explains.

Which is why he kept the cost low. Sandeep raised a total of Rs. ten lakhs — five lakhs from his friends in the U.S. who decided to pre-sell movie tickets and another Rs. five lakhs through a crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo.

“We are self distributing it. I got a digital print done for the U.S. and hired theatres in San Jose (Towne3 cinemas) and San Francisco (Opera Plaza). Since the film is only 86 minutes, we are putting two shows in a slot. If all goes as per plan, we would have recovered the budget and also made a small profit,” says Sandeep.

Sandeep had shot the film there less than a year ago with actors Roger Narayan and Sonia Balcazar. Sandeep directed, Avantika Nimbalkar did location sync sound and Prashant Sehgal, who had a Canon 5D camera doubled up as the cinematographer. And they shot mostly with natural light. “We shot at houses of friends and outdoors where we didn’t need permission and at times used the documentary approach. Roger has done a lot of TV there... he was wonderful, and super professional.”

Hola Venky was shot in 22 days in the U.S. and three days in Mumbai. “A lot of the music we got was free. Vivek Philip did the music. I put together the whole film over Facebook. Facebook was my first assistant director,” he laughs.

Sandeep makes corporate films to survive. “Indie filmmaking does not pay much. The last two years have been a little tough for me but it’s a gamble I have taken. Hopefully, The Great Indian Traveling Cinema will work.”

If you want to watch the film at your office (of over 50) or film club, email

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Printable version | Apr 9, 2020 7:43:28 AM |

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