Archive for April, 2014

This post is by Salik Shah whose twitter bio says his location is Milky Way and he is addicted to speculative fiction. Once in a while, when he remembers us, he sends us a love note like this one. He also added this bit with the note – I use the first 600+ words to talk about ten thousand things related to filmmaking, before making the point that I haven’t ‘made’ a single film.

We love his blabbering. But if you get bored, scroll down a bit, please. Over to him.


ग्नि के काष्ठ
खोजती माँ,
बीनती नित्य सूखे डंठल
सूखी टहनी, रुखी डालें
घूमती सभ्यता के जंगल
वह मेरी माँ
खोजती अग्नि के अधिष्ठान

मुझमें दुविधा,
पर, माँ की आज्ञा से समिधा
एकत्र कर रहा हूँ
मैं हर टहनी में डंठल में
एक-एक स्वप्न देखता हुआ
पहचान रहा प्रत्येक
जतन से जमा रहा
टोकरी उठा, मैं चला जा रहा हूँ

टोकरी उठाना…चलन नहीं
वह फ़ैशन के विपरीत –
इसलिए निगाहें बचा-बचा
आड़े-तिरछे चलता हूँ मैं
संकुचित और भयभीत

–  मुक्तिबोध, एक अंतर्कथा

After a screening of Pather Panchali at National Film Archive of India in early 2009, I told Satish Bahadur sir, “I love this film.”

“You’re a poet,” he replied.

I didn’t know what to say. How did he know my guilty secret? Bahadur sir was kind enough to lend me a book about the making of Apu trilogy and invited me to his house and taught me to break down films into scenes and scenes into shots—although I wouldn’t understand him fully or his gestures until many years later. I didn’t know at the time that he was the one who found the month-long refuge for film enthusiasts at FTII, Pune.

Two months ago, one of my poems was accepted by Strange Horizons—a top US speculative fiction magazine—for publication. Was it a great poem? I don’t know. My little brother with a greater appetite for science fiction fantasy liked it more than my other poems. I have had submitted a poem about Afzal Guru to Granta (UK) in early 2013 (they haven’t responded yet) and to Poetry magazine (US), which sent me an encouraging rejection letter. (I didn’t know Poetry doesn’t publish political work.)

Straw-fitted Elephants was my first sale to a literary magazine in twenty-six years. (Strange Horizons is a great platform for poets. Strange Horizons is probably doing more for speculative poetry than any other literary magazine in US.) I started writing poetry when I was twelve and discovered coding soon—and then fell in love with films, and shot and cut my first video on Youtube in 2007.  There is a strange quality to the video—it’s dark, mysterious, simple and beautiful. Simple is not ‘easy.’ There is a lot more going on here in this weird music video than other hundred plus videos I have produced for the great Indian audience.

In 2010, I co-wrote and helped launch directorial career of a friend (he is now making his third feature). I helped him set up his office, participated in meeting with producers and then moved on to lead Tata Tea’s Jaago Re! campaign. I sold a lot of tea, and helped Tata Tea establish its earliest digital footprint on social media—perhaps a first by Webchutney, now and then ranked as India’s No 1 digital agency.

In 2011, I was on the set of Ra. One with a camera in hand, following its making. I cut many videos for a popular entertainment portal and saw the business side of videos more closely than ever before. We would receive tapes from film and celebrity events, night after night, and I would write short two-to-five minute scripts, direct the motion graphic artist and oversee the editing. Once in a while, I couldn’t resist getting my hands dirty—in order to produce a new special effect or change the pace or tone of the videos, which would then litter the Internet.

In 2012, I wanted to join my friends and colleagues to receive an award for Why This Kolaveri Di!, but the road journey the previous night was nauseating and kept me confined to bed during GoaFest. (As an adman, I was writing copy for five prominent brands every day at one point, and coding for websites and Facebook apps—before Jack in the Box Worldwide got its new recruits: business managers, content writers, web developers, creative directors and project managers.)

In late 2013, I was commissioned to write a festival film for a FTII veteran by a film enthusiast and architect—a talented but troubled friend with training from IFS, Paris and Whistling Woods. In 2014, a filmmaker with two Bollywood features behind him, got in touch with me to understand digital platform and develop a business model for his next film.

I have already spent 600+ words and I could go on and on about how I have done ten thousand things related to filmmaking, but I haven’t ‘made’ a single film.

Poetry is a lifestyle, like filmmaking. I never submitted any poems—speculative or not—until the hanging of Afzal Guru tormented my soul. It isn’t easy for me to write. Poetry is pain—I can’t use words to hide. I like my poems bare—I love Gu Cheng and Li-Young Lee. (Last week, I got in touch with Neel of Tadpole to expand/adapt one of my short science fiction stories to theater. In case you are wondering what is speculative fiction, see Shlok Sharma’s Tubelight Ka Chand. Yes, it could be that simple.)

“A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet.”—Orson Welles

Is Anurag Kashyap a poet?

Is Vikramaditya Motwane a poet?

What about Shlok Sharma? 

What about Vasan Bala?

When you look at their movies, you can tell the difference between their films—or poetry.

Randeep Hooda in Highway is a poetry-in-motion by Imtiaz Ali—even though the film fails (according to one friend). There is a thin line between masterwork and mediocrity.

The Indian cinema is changing, and though I don’t get time to watch as many films these days, I can tell you films like Kai Po Che! and Chillar Party are like beacons of light—poetry—for a generation growing up with short films, advertisements and pirated movies. (I saw both films at multiplexes—Kai Po Che! in Dilli and Chillar Party in Calcutta.)

I was attending a two-day seminar or something at NFAI with Atharva Gupta, and somebody asked Motwane about the “Indianness” of our films. I don’t remember what he said exactly right now (it was so many years ago), but he said that our films could remain Indian without being “touristy.”

I agree with him, though his next film upset me. It was an unfinished work—like most poems—a flawed ‘masterpiece.’

Are you into audiobooks? Or BBC podcasts? What could audio teach Indian filmmakers, poets and writers? Listen to the BBC podcast of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, or RTÉ’s Ulysses, or several master short stories here onThe Guardian.

Why should films be epic long? Why not make short poetry?

Have you ever wondered why Indian publications don’t even send a rejection slip?

Are you into science fiction—and feel let down by Hollywood sci-fi movies?

Have you ever wondered why we can’t make independent science fiction films like District 9, Moon, Upstream Color or Monsters?

Are you a writer-director in love with Wes Anderson?

Why can’t we teach cinema to children?

It is difficult to be a science fiction fan and not get disappointed by sci-fi movies that rely on usual tropes, clichéd plots and mindless action. For every I, Robot, there is probably ten After Earths.

These days, a good sci-fi film is tough to make, hard to find, and come in short length online. The teams behind these short sci-fi films might lack budget, stars and time, but they make up for it with their creative talents. If you have a huge appetite for good science fiction films but can’t seem to find enough of them, you are in for a treat!

I am aware that for some of you this might be a totally new experience—like it was for me.

The operating principle behind the following selection was: Gravity is good, but Moon is better.

#10 Alive in Joburg (2006)

Yes, Neill Blomkamp’s Alive in Joburg is still one of the best sci-fi shorts of all time. The unique premise and documentary-style presentation of the movie has already become a part of film history.

Based on Alive in Joburg, Neill Blomkamp made District 9–the cult sci-fi commentary on the state of human societies around the world. The poverty of aliens was an unexplored theme for me until District 9. But its follow up, Elysium, was a total let down. The distinction between the poor and rich is never so simple. Nevertheless, Joburg is as relevant to the world right now as it was back in 2006.

Witness the birth of a cult. 6 minutes.

#9 Robots of Brixton (2011)

Kibwe Tabares’ Robots of Brixton paints a grim picture of humanity. The student film blurs the line between people and robots, and then goes on to effectively replace reduce us to the status of the robots. There is no God here and certainly no people.

Violence is a meditation on the nature of humanity, and perhaps the existence of God. That’s why riots and rebellions make a constant fixture in sci-fi films. Can machines feel guilt or have conscience? (Joshua Oppenheime’s The Act of Killing might provide an answer.)

Robots of Brixton is an abstract encounter with the mob. 5 minutes.


# 8 From the Future With Love (2013)

Science fiction is often an exaggerated expression of the reality, or the speculation about the fantastic. K-Michel Parandi’s short is a fast-paced sci-fi thriller set in a world where private cops sell protection plans in New York.

From the Future With Love holds a mirror to our society in 12 minutes.




#7 Lifeline (2010)

Andreas Salaff’s Lifeline is a film from the mind, for the heart, and with a soul! This award-winning student film can teach filmmakers a trick or two about the nature of simplicity and intimacy.

An old man keeps searching through various dimensions of time and space for his lost beloved. Can he turn back the wheel of time? Yes, but there is a price.

This is Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love in 6 minutes.


# 6 Memorize (2012)

Imagine a world where everyone is forced to wear a Google Glass and record everything they do. Sound horrible, right? Two childhood friends, Eric Ramberg and Jimmy Eriksson, took the idea one step ahead to come up with a stylish action film.

In Memorize, every person is implanted with a chip that records everything. But of course, it cannot deter techno-savvy criminals from committing crimes. Rest assured, Agent 007 will never be out of job!

Memorize is fun because it doesn’t pretend to take itself seriously.  7 minutes.


# 5 Grounded (2012)

An astronaut can’t escape the loop of a crash in a strange planet. Grounded is a beautiful piece of filmmaking even if you don’t consider the nerdy intentions of the superb director.

Kevin Margo said he wanted to tackle “themes of aging, inheritance, paternal approval, cyclic trajectories, and behaviors passed on through generations… against an ethereal backdrop.”

Grounded is a short metaphor, which captures the essence of films like Stanley Kubric’s 2001 Odyssey, Andrei Tarkovksy’s Stalker and Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life.

It is a speculative poem on the film. 8 minutes.


# 4 The Final Moments of Carl Brant (2013)

Duncan Jones’ Source Code starts to look like a cliché after you watch Matthew Wilson’s The Final Moments of Carl Brant, loosely based on The Singularity is Near by author Ray Kurzweilwhich.

When Carl Brant is killed, his memory stored on a hard drive is summoned to help solve the murder case. This one is probably the longest short film in this list but I’m sure no one is complaining.

Do machines have souls? You have 16 minutes to find out.


#3 Cargo (2013)

What is science if not the ability to think, rationalize and come up with creative solutions for difficult problems?

Cargo directors Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke have found a novel way to turn the cliché-plagued zombie genre into a visual treat. Finally, a zombie film which breathes fresh life to the genre of the living dead.

Cargo is a hi-res definition of fatherhood in 7 minutes.


#2 The Flying Man  (2013)

Forget Zack Synder’s realistic Man of Steel. Watch the super-realistic Marcus Alqueres’ The Flying Man. While Man of Steel was tedious at times, there is never a dull moment in The Flying Man. It keeps you hooked right from the beginning.

Shot in eyewitness video style, The Flying Man makes us want to believe in the possibility of the premise and the existence of a superhero. I think Alan Moore was the last person who pulled it off so convincingly in the first few pages of Watchmen.

Marcus Alqueres has worked in Hollywood blockbusters like 300 and Source Code, while his partner João Sita has movies like Avatar and Twilight on his belt.

The Flying Man is 9 minutes of cosmic orgasm!

#1 R’ha (2013)

R’ha could be for Kaleb Lechowski what Alive in Joburg was for Neill Blomkamp: the short film that launched his Hollywood career, a wild ticket to his dream run.

In R’ha, we see something totally unexpected: aliens vs machines. Kaleb takes the usual tropes of science fictionfantasy and turns them into a groundbreaking film.

It’s hard to believe that he’s just a 22-year-old German bloke studying digital film design when you watch this epic short film.

R’ha is 6 minutes of youthful, confident and unrestrained tour de force.


Two new teasers of Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s new film Anwar Ka Ajab Kissa (Sniffer) has released online. Both the teasers don’t say much about the film but there’s a great mood there. The film stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Pankaj Tripathi, Niharika Singh and Ananya Chatterjee. Have a look.

Official synopsis

Master Bengali filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta teams up with India’s hottest indie actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui in this richly textured black comedy, set against a magical, surreal tableaux of the Bengali city and countryside that’s typical of Dasgupta’s eye. Anwar (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is a well meaning if clumsy private detective, or ‘sniffer’, who can’t help getting personally embroiled with the clients he is spying on. His only true companion is an old dog. His pet and his regular drunkenness put him at odds with the local orthodox Muslim housing block, who want him out. At the same time, Anwar increasingly struggles to cope with his small-time sleuth work that shows him that, in the modern world, even love is for sale. When a case takes Anwar back to his rural homeland, he’s forced to confront his own love tragedy. Siddiqui lights up the screen, displaying a talent for deft comic timing that makes Sniffer a joy to watch.

Duration :132 mins

The film premiered at London Film Festival last year and will be shown at New York Indian Film Festival this year.

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Amit V Masurkar, the director of “Sulemani Keeda”, a self-proclaimed “Versova indie” that was released to much acclaim at last year’s Mumbai Film Festival. More about the film here.

Four years ago, a friend shared his hard disk with me which had gems such as Whit Stillman’s ‘Metropolitan’ and Noah Baumbach’s debut feature ‘Kicking and Screaming’. Google and tastekid led me to more gems from a similar world- young, urban, scruffy, real and often funny. That’s when I discovered (pretty late in life) true blue American Indie Cinema. I’m not counting Jim Jarmusch and Richard Linklater, I’m not talking about Larry Clark, I’m talking about young people like you and me who were actually taking their cameras and telling their own stories. In most cases, their courage and honesty was more inspiring than the film itself.

Here amongst my fellow cinema geeks I would like to share my ten favourite mumblecore-ish films. I’m sure atleast three filmmakers here will object to being bracketed here but it is with utmost respect and love for their films that I present this list.  Hope you enjoy watching these films as much as I did! The numbering is random and not ranking.

Note1: I was tempted to add Noah Baumbach’s “Frances Ha” which in my opinion is his best but I’m desisting simply because he’s now a famous millionaire and his film cannot be considered low budget indie even if it is one!

Note 2: Also, I am not adding  some famous first-films made on celluloid which were my inspiration for my debut feature film, Sulemani Keeda. Films such as Kevin Smith’sClerks’ , Jon Favreau’s Swingers and Indian classics like Saeed Mirza’s Arvind Desai ki Ajeeb Dastaan’  and Awtar Krishna Kaul’s  ‘27 Down’. I want to limit this list to films made on the digital format in the last six-seven years.

1) In search of a Midnight Kiss (2007): Semi-autobiographical film by Alex Holdridge who made this film based on an experience of meeting a woman on Craiglist. Of course the other parts of them walking around the decrepit areas of  Los Angeles on New Years’ Eve seem inspired by the template of Richard Linklater’s ‘Before Sunrise’  but everything else is fresh. They chose to go with Black and White to avoid the ‘digital look’ that SLR cameras give if not exposed correctly and it works for this movie. Watchout for the slight twist in the end, something not seen frequently in this genre. Also, one of the first leading roles of Scoot McNairy who pitched in the money for the film and went on to get better roles in films like Andrew Kaulder’s ‘Monsters’ which is a sci-fi fantasy about an American rescuing his ex-girlfriend from South America when aliens come attacking.! Monsters was shot guerilla and the director and his friends sat at home and made the mindblowing CG that studios spend millions in making!

2) Computer Chess (2013): With his earlier films, Beeswax and Mutual Appreciation, Andrew Bujalski proved that he was a formidable player in this sub-genre. But Computer Chess is where his ambitions and skills are shown in full bloom. This period black and white film explores the subculture of chess nerds who are fighting computers in duels.

3) Drinking Buddies (2013): My absolute favourite from this list. This one attempts to answer the famous question that has baffled psychologists and philosophers: “Kya ek ladka aur ladki sirf dost ho sakte hai?” Made by Joe Swanberg- the Dadamoni of the mumblecore movement who has made more than a dozen films in half a dozen years. IMDb lists some six films alone under his name in 2011. Most of these are not available online but the ones which I thought were worth mentioning include ‘Uncle Kent’, ‘All the Light in the Sky’ and ‘Alexander The Last’.  After watching these films, like a fanboy, I had added Swanberg on Facebook and asked him for technical advice under the guise of making his acquiantance. Swanberg politely told me that he was quitting Facebook to focus on his films and asked me to check one of his many interviews on the web for the answers! I am ashamed to admit I haven’t watched his best known film, ‘Hannah Takes the Stairs’ starring the uber talented Greta Gerwig and if anyone has a DVD (since we don’t promote piracy here), I would love to do a swap.




4) Quiet City (2007): The most unassuming film in this list. Another film that follows the ‘Before Sunrise’ template- of a couple walking the talk, this time in New York, over two days. The film actually makes you feel how easy and free you feel when you shoot digital. However  Aaron Katz, the director followed up with the disappointing mystery, ‘Cold Weather’.

5) Tiny Furniture (2010):  Lena Dunham’s female (and better) version of ‘Wake up Sid’- ok, I’m not great at pitching, but this is a “I wanna figure out life after college” film and a masterstroke at that! I guess this is where she got noticed and got signed to make ‘Girls’ for TV.

6) Puffy Chair (2005): I’m tempted to add this handycam film! It’s grungy and the video quality is puke but the film purely works because of the underplayed performances by the lead pair. It’s about a guy played by the co-director Mark Duplass who goes on a road trip (another favourite template in this genre) to deliver a second hand chair to his father on his birthday. Accompanying him on this journey are his girlfriend and his good for nothing brother.  Directed by The Duplass Brothers—Jay and Mark, who are veteran gareebon ke Coen Brothers of Mumblecore, they followed up with a horror comedy, “Baghead”. Mark satisfied his acting urges with the hilarious “Humpday”, directed by Lynn Shelton where two buddies attempt to shoot a gay porn film for some critical acclaim. Post these films, Mark has become a bada aadmi with starring roles in  films such as “Your Sister’s Sister” and “Safety Not Guaranteed”.

7) August The First (2007): After its debut at SXSW and Karlovy Vary Festivals, Lanre Olabisi’s drama about a Nigerian father returning to New York at a familiy reunion with a hidden agenda has been waiting for the recognition it deserves. Lanre has now started The New York Film Collective and is directing ‘Somewhere in the Middle’- a crowd funded ensemble film.

8) Les Amours Imaginaires (2010): A simple French-Canadian story about a love triangle- M1 loves M2, F loves M2. But whom does M2 love? This one as wikipedia tells me was made on a budget of Canadian $6,00,000 (that’s roughly Rs. 3 Crores) and doesn’t qualify to be in this list. But STILL, I want it here because it’s a film you have to watch! I have no words to describe how beautifully it’s shot. My butt burnt (direct translation from the Hindi phrase) when I found out that the director Xavier Dolan was only 21 years old when he made this and… this was his second film. Such graceful direction and writing!

9) Gandu (2010): I went for a screening of Q’s Gandu at Film Republic which was cancelled as the manager feared an attack from some bigots who had found out about the notorious sex scene. But soon, I downloaded the film and watched it. I haven’t seen a better slacker film from India which puts the reality of our banal existence in a more brutal and straight forward way. It reminded me of another film with a similar theme which I had liked despite the poor projection quality at the MAMI festival, Srinivas Sunderrajan’s The Untitled Karthik Krishnan Project’.

10) Mumbai Cha Raja (2012): The most senstitive depiction of Mumbai’s slum kids after Salaam Bombay. What inspired me most was the fact that I knew Manjeet Singh for years and I never expected him (Sorry Manjeet!) to make such an amazing jewel. I saw him make it on a shoestring budget and directly hold him responsible for making me believe that good cinema can be made without big monies.


Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla have documented one of the most exciting political turn of events in recent times – the making of AAP and the rise of Arvind Kejriwal. They have just released the first look of the documentary titled ‘Proposition For A Revolution’. They are also looking for post-production funds. So do check this out and if you like, do contribute.

– To contribute, you can go to their official site here.

Anurag Kashyap’s two-parter Gangs Of Wasseypur has been animated by Ashutosh and Aditya Yadav. And it’s just 3.35 minute long. Good to see some fan art here in India too. The end credit with rhymes of Giridih-Jharia-Dhanbad will remind you of a familiar sound in Dhanbad – the way sharing autorickshaws call for passengers.

After doing the fest rounds, Nisha Pahuja’s critically acclaimed documentary, ‘The World Before Her’ is all set to release on May 16th, 2014. Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap is presenting it and PVR Directors Rare is releasing the film. Moving between the worlds of a Durga Vahini training camp and the beauty boot camp of the Miss India Pageant, the film is a powerful story that could not have come at a better time. Some of us managed to watch the film earlier and we have put it in MFC’s Must Watch recco list. Click here to read our recco post on the film.

We are posting two clips from the film – one from the film, and one that did not make the cut. We also got Nisha to write on these two clips.

1. Pooja’s story

Director’s Note – I remember when Pooja told me the story of almost being killed at birth for being a girl..that moment became a turning point for me in terms of the focus of the film. I knew it had to be about the struggles that so many Indian women continue to face. It also changed the way I looked at Miss India–suddenly it was no longer passe or just simply was so much more complex. I had to ask myself “Given the Indian context, can I disregard my Western prejudices and see a beauty pageant as “empowering.” It’s something I still grapple with..

2. Tulsi’s story

Director’s Note – When I began the research in 2008, I was determined to find a young woman from a village who harboured dreams of becoming a Miss India.  Somehow I did. Meet Tulsi – achingly lovely..a symbol of “aspiring India.” Tulsi’s story was incredible, she comes from a village in UP that got electricity in 2009, and that only intermittently. Her grandfather was a freedom fighter and and there was a temple that had been built in his honour. Tulsi’s mother did not want to get married but was forced to.  So in an act of defiance on her wedding night she chopped off all her hair and began to dress like a man. Somehow she was accepted. She decided she would allow her daughter to do as she wished. When Tulsi told her parents she wanted to move to Bombay and pursue her Miss India dream, they sent her off with the money they had been saving for her dowry.  The Miss India team never responded to her application or her pics and when I last saw her in 2010 she was having a hard time and it seemed clear to me that she was being exploited, but didn’t want to talk about it in too much detail. I still get the odd email from her but she never responds when I write her back. I had always wondered how her grandfather, who had fought for India’s freedom would feel about Tulsi’s dream of winning a beauty pageant. Was this the freedom he was prepared to die for?



The makers of the film are also running a kickstarter campaign with the goal of taking the film to a wider audience – schools, colleges, public screenings. Click here to read about their plan and do contribute if you want to support the initiative. The aim is to raise US$ 50,000 out of which they have already got $ 41,000. Now they have just a week left to achieve the target. So if you feel for it, do contribute generously. The film needs your support.

As we have done in the past, this year too we are trying to source the scripts of some of the best films of the year. As most of you know, the scripts of Hollywood films are easily available online, even the unreleased ones. But we don’t have any such database for Hindi or Indian films. So that has been the primary reason for this initiative. And it has been possible because some of the filmmakers have been very supportive about it. It’s only for educational purpose and much like the spirit of the blog, is a complete non-profitable exercise. Thanks to Abhishek Kapoor, Hansal Mehta, Vikramaditya Motwane and Nikhil Advani, we have been able to post the script of Kai Po Che!, Shahid, Lootera, D Day – hereherehere and here respectively.

Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox has been one of the most critically acclaimaed and successful film of the year. It’s still running in US and few other territories. It’s been a long time since an Indian film manage to go beyond the diaspora crowd and The Lunhcbox set a new benchmark in that regard.

Thanks to Ritesh Batra, we are posting the script of The Lunchbox. Since its US release was due, we could not post it earlier.