(Disclaimer : Some patience as this is long and because not every Indie film follows the crisp and tested 3 act structure. Nor every film gets to it’s conflict very quickly and I make sure is it not fast paced or laced with dynamic songs and dramatic situations, the only Indie tools used here is RAW writing, cuss words, unconventional grammar, spelling mistakes and refusing to cut unnecessary material that’s not a part of the story. Why am I writing this? Fuck knows!)
Lot of us here are the children of the 90s. Fed on some privileged liberal Door Darshan censorship days, VHS tapes and the good old Single Screen Cinema Halls. We have also been privileged to be a part of the worst times of Cinema in India and have also seen the post 70s hollow, hopeless middle class languish till Internet hit us.
In 1989 mainstream Cinema halls had yet another South Superstar make his attempt at Bollywood but beyond that another guy changed a lot for mainstream audiences. Ram Gopal Verma. The languishing non-South Bombay middle-class suddenly found a voice. It was making some sounds but nothing audible or palpable. Maybe after repeatedly losing mainstream validations in 1995 with Rangeela and in 1998 with Satya he became a bitter man and lost his way. Who knows? Who cares now? We all moved on. We had to.
Then there were these classes. North Bombay, South Bombay, Central Bombay, all finding various reasons to validate their cultural significance and how the other is spoiling the fabric. Then again there was the Small Town, Small City, Big Town and Big City bickering that was throwing shit at each other blaming it’s the “OTHER GUY” who is fucking it up not us.
The fight in all this was to come to Bombay and make that film we all dreamt we should be making. The 40s and the partition shaped the 50s – 60s of Cinema , the Emergency and Indira Gandhi in many ways lead to the late 70s being what it was and with the Mills closing in the 80s and the underworld and unemployment on the rise, it fucking changed it all. Disparity, black money, blood money and also Dawood’s brother trying his hand at lyrics writing in some Bollywood movie. How insignificant a point is that, Exactly that it what it was. A joke. But on the other hand it is also now is a treasure of some fantastic B-Movies where the Roger Corman’s of India slummed films out in a week or two.
The 90s, our most vivid memories of Jhankar beats and the rise of NRI fluff. Till this time there were the film literate and the NFDC who were very quietly in a non-media savvy way commissioned some films. No one ranted. No one thought anything was unfair.
Somewhere around 5-6 years into the new Millennium when the Internet was being discovered for a little more than just porn, some angsty filmmaker started ranting. And I am so bloody sorry all references to anything new goes back to him, but you like it or not, it somewhere started there.
2014 ! BOOM ! What the FUCK happened? A word INDIE being drilled in. It sounded accessible with technology and economics supporting this. Anyone could push the record button without going through the BOLLYWOOD DRILL. I did too.
Of course things changed but the” other guy” fucking it up shit is of course there. The small town, big town, small daddy, big daddy, small Indie orphan, Big Indie Daddy. They are still on. One often forgets the freedom the digital medium has given us is not necessarily a tool to override the idea of finding an audience. It only says you can make a film not you can show it and make money. If only finding an audience was the pure noble purpose all films would have been on Youtube or Vimeo.
Indie or otherwise films cost and everyone who has made movies on borrowed capital needs to pay back. Just like to counter the big manufactures and the huge industries some bright people made some pretty unessential tools and marketed them in innovative ways. We know them as infomercials and some more recognise it as the “main bahut pareshan tha” dubbed voice.
The Indie scene too seems like this space now. We need not set up huge factories but we can make machines. For whatever the utility being there is a space. Some made “post its” and some “ad rollers” and some “hair curlers”. All built in the great spirit of innovation and engineering. Some work some don’t and some are not even considered to be a part of the great Infomercial parade.
Similarly new and stubborn ideas need to burst out in the form of movies too. Big Networks pump in all the monies to eventually get wider distribution and extensive screenings to make sure, immaterial of the content the weekend is a money spinner. Their method and order has been formed after years of brain storming and study by moviemakers, con-artists, middlemen and businessmen. Some genuine artists too sporadically contributed unassumingly but since “they” knew it was more the exception than the thumb they ignored. They know their game. They knew when an old horn commissions “A” project she/he knows what they are getting into.
Then in a scenario where anyone can hit the record button and slam their doors. The doors were too Big and Strong to break. Maybe with the technology the commissioning barrier has been broken but distribution? Distribution is not to fulfil any artistic aspirations. Distribution as a fundamental is only for economic gains. The crowd at the doors grew exponentially, a few sneaked in. Some dehydrated with all the banging, some were given a backdoor.
Just like the infomercials if you cannot play your product during the IPL on Prime Time go for the afternoon hours. That was the same slot given to most innovations. “Main bahut pareshan tha”, no one saw. Sadly the more ideologically driven films rise pertinent questions and don’t give solutions really. It does not say you’ll grow hair or your teeth will sparkle or you will develop six pack abs. All it says is (mostly) this is the place we live in and this is the truth or rather my honest perspective. Who the FUCK wants the truth, we need HOPE. In most cases were the reality is presented harshly as the maker felt that she/he can express himself as she/he wants, the ”INDIE” perishes even without an Indie sympathizers glowing review.
What they are essentially saying is ideas can be limited to looking low end without songs but at least say it’s not that bad, the world we live in that is. At least say Green Tea will reduce cholesterol and has no fat. OK, we agree don’t say all people look good and wear high fashion but at least say old people also have a chance at love. Some geniuses with bad aesthetics and the same old story to say and who suck at that too also sneaked into with their INFOMERCIAL. PHOTO-BOMBED! So other than the usual distribution and other expression hassles INDIE was being Photo Bombed too.
In the ever-crowing space the smaller gate to the bigger distribution gate got stuffed. Any space that gets stuffed gives rise to the MIDDLEMAN. Many will claim, many will depend, many will get conned. Safe guard your film. Safeguard yourself. If you were stubborn enough to make the film, be strong enough to knock the door straight, the sound will reach. If you have the courage and innovation you don’t need a middle man.
Then many forget no one is saying you are my angel, the Kashmiri apple of my eye, I have all the money to spend and launch you like star sons as I am now a star Independent Orphanage. No one asked Arun Bhaiyya from Mr. India as to why he did not adopt 50 more children. Areee aab to wo formulaaaaaaa bhi mil gaya, then why the fuck leave us out. No, because Mr. India’s story ends with Mongabo being killed, post that who knows what happened.
But post the 5Ds and the Black Magic 4Ks being launched everyone who hit the record button wants to know what Arun Bhaiyya will do for them. But many forget Arun Bhaiyya made his own choices and decisions and did what he had to, he found his way and many have to find their own way and become their own Mr. Indias. Maybe he killed his Mogambo and moved on. He never set out to kill Mogambo till he was being evicted from his house. It was a personal fight and not a public one.
Again we come back to the “OTHER GUY” fucking it up. He got the formula so he has become the high priest and has left us alone? Lets fuck him! Lets break his gadget and make him visible! Lets not find our own formula. Because the opponent is not the DISTRIBUTION network we have to crack but the one who was with us on this side of the door is now on the other. He is the traitor as we need company to stand outside and not the inspiration to become the person who walks through that door.
I am on the other side of the door too knocking. Still knocking hard. I am tired too. But now I am going back and have resolved to learn how to knock better with my material and not with Mr. India holding my hand.
As most Indie films also have abrupt endings, I take that liberty too here. I will not round of characters and find no resolutions. It’s a bleak one here, lot of people lose and perish. Even more play spit ball and spit at the other guy. The only difference being I am not too thrilled with my last draft. I’ll try and improve, I’ll go better prepared this time and knock it better. If I fail this time too, I’ll go back and do it all over again. And for the “OTHER GUY” who fucks it up always. I wish him good. He is trying hard too and not really floating in heaven with all privileges. Maybe he has a bigger house and a new Apple gadget, nothing more. He has to knock the door too if not bang it like us now.
– by Vasan Bala
(Vasan’s debut feature Peddlers premiered at Cannes Film Festival in International Critics Week and his latest script Side-Hero is selected for Sundance Lab)
(ps – pics added for some dramatic effect. Not sure if he endorses them. We are the culprits for the pics)