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Betting a thousand on an indie

CREATIVE TRYST Shrihari Sathe. Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.

CREATIVE TRYST Shrihari Sathe. Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.  

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Indie film producer Shrihari Sathe, has produced American and Pakistani films and is on the verge of an Arabic one. He makes his directorial debut with a Marathi film Ek Hazarachi Note

What does a 1,000 rupee note in your hand mean to you? What does it do to someone in a village in India? “In a city we deal with a Rs. 1,000 note so easily. What happens when the note comes into the hands of someone in a rural area? There is a passiveness in rural India, where they are always waiting for something to happen to them…,” says Shrihari Sathe, producer-director of the Marathi film Ek Hazarachi Note (1000 Rupee Note).

“In cities we take money for granted. But the Per Capita Income is so low in most of rural India…it’s the depiction of these characters that has won audience appreciation,” he says. Ek Hazar… traces the incidents in the life of a poor woman from a village in Maharashtra’s Amravati region (part of Vidarbha), who, during a political rally receives a largess of several 1000 Rupee notes from a politician. This is Sathe’s directorial feature film debut.

The film released in May this year, and is all set for a re-release after the momentum it has gathered — it won the Special Jury Award and The Centenary Award for Best Film at the recently concluded International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa. “Film festivals are an amazing platform for independent films. At festivals people come with a mind open to all kinds of films. It also generates great word of mouth publicity. And awards are a validation for the hard work we put in!” Sathe is in Bengaluru with this film at the Bengaluru International Film Festival (BIFFES), and another Pakistani film Dukhtar, which he has co-produced. Dukhtar is Pakistan’s entry for the Oscars. “Most independent filmmakers just want to make their next film!” he quips. Two of his films have already been released online, and so will Ek Hazar…, he says once its run its theatrical course. Dukhtar is set for a U.K. release soon. Next on the cards is an Arabic feature film set in the West Bank — Solitaire King — that he’s producing, and being directed by Bassam Jarbawi.

Born and raised in Mumbai, Sathe majored in Film and Video Studies and Global Media and Culture from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He also has an MFA-Film Degree from Columbia University’s School of the Arts in New York. Sathe produced It Felt Like Love which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and 2013 International Film Festival Rotterdam. Pervertigo, another American-indie he produced premiered at the 2012 Warsaw and Mumbai film festivals. His selected short film credits include Breaking the Chain, Golden Palm Award winner at Mexico International Film Festival (2010), First Day of Peace, Grand Jury Prize winner at Slamdance Film Festival (2010) and Off Season, a BAFTA (2010) nominee.

Why did he want to debut then as a director with a feature film in Marathi? “I wanted to make a film in India as a producer. The simplicity of journalist-scriptwriter Shrikant Bojewar’s script of Ek Hazar… attracted me. I wanted to direct as well. Language was secondary. I’m making a film. It is in Marathi because the story is set in Maharashtra. Content is important; you can’t make a good film without it,” says Sathe. He believes the multiplex audience does not distinguish between language and the urban-rural divide. “The multiplex audience is interested in any kind of film,” he concludes.

Producing in India is a totally different affair, he admits, as compared to New York, where he is currently based. His production house, Infinitum Productions, works out of Mumbai and New York. “I have no money. I am a creative producer,” he smiles. As a director/producer for the first time with Ek Hazar… he says he went through the “left brain – right brain, producer-director conflict. Each time, one won!”

Sathe travelled in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region — infamous for its large number of farmers who have committed suicide because of large debts — while researching for Ek Hazarachi Note. He didn’t want to make a film on farmer’s suicide, he says simply because many have been made so far and the stories well told. “I wanted to create cinematic content out of a social cause. I wanted to show that there is humanity. I wanted to tell the story of an old woman, who, despite her sorrow has the drive to survive, and shows the resilience and will power of the women of the Vidarbha region.”

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 1:26:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/betting-a-thousand-on-an-indie/article6676048.ece

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