Films have grown bigger past year, in everything from budgets to scale of exhibition and distribution. But it was also a year of small films made by a select few who chose to swim against the tide and made films on their own terms, with their own means.
Perhaps Indian cinema’s biggest success story this year was Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox. Five years in the making, it started off as a documentary and was funded by eight investors from across the world. But it has wowed audiences at every major international festival this year and earned nearly double what was spent on making it.
Anand Gandhi’s Ship of Theseus, Hansal Mehta’s Shahid and Ajay Bahl’s B.A.Pass are other films which faced their share of challenges, but got made because their filmmakers were passionate about them, and have had enthusiastic screenings at international festivals.
Others had it tougher.
Despite a commercially successful film behind him, Kannada writer-director Pawan Kumar could not find any backers for Lucia. But he discovered a relatively new way of financing his film — crowd funding — and managed to raise Rs75 lakh from 110 investors. Lucia has since won accolades at international festivals, got an all-India release, turned a profit and been picked up (the Hindi language rights) by Fox Star Studios.
Many, however, did not even have a budget as big as Lucia’s: Kenny Basumatary made the Assamese action-comedy Local Kung-Fu in under Rs1 lakh, and nearly half of it went into hiring a camera. Using amateur actors who were martial arts students and locations which didn’t require shooting permission, the movie managed a pan-India release.
Distribution and exhibition are the other big hurdles faced by indie projects. And here UTV Motion Pictures and PVR Director’s Rare have stepped in. While UTV Motion Pictures supported projects such as The Lunchbox and Ship of Theseus, PVR Director’s Rare had a slew of indie movie releases from across the globe in 2013 and turned its attention to little-known regional Indian films.
As I write this, another of India’s independent films is trying to impress the global audience — Gyan Correa’s The Good Road, India’s official entry to the Oscars. Basumatary sums it up best when he says, “The budget doesn’t matter. If you have the drive, you’ll make it happen.”