Dvandva: The Duality of an Independent Filmmaker

Dvandva PosterDuring second year of my PG in WIMWI (Well Known Institute of Management in Western India), I was quite aware that I made wrong career choice. Not only grades, attendance and most importantly my interest was “land low”. I just could not see myself as a Manager working for some multinational company. I was deep in identity crisis. And that point of time filmmaking was definitely not the choice.

MBA is very analytical, and it is not that I can’t analyze but some other things overpower my analytical mind. It is feelings. I like to feel people, places and emotions. So naturally I was suffocated in very analytical world. Creativity in management does exist but I just couldn’t feel it. Sadly I was unable to identify my needs and source of motivation, so I was highly depressed and started watching lots of films. To be very frank, films never excited me before, because I mostly saw so called commercial Indian films. Thanks to P2P, (I was unaware about its harms, now I am a legal viewer of copyrighted material) I was able to access, lots of unknown films from world over and I was awestruck by the stories and characters. I never imagined films to be so meaningful medium of expressions, expressions of thoughts and emotions. I came across the stories which moved me and during a short span of time; it made me feel, travel, amaze and wonder.

One fine day, one of my professors, suggested that I should visit a psychologist. He might have had a point. Because I started to relate so closely to those fictitious characters, sometimes I was felt like lead actor and even sometimes as an actress. Many times I started thinking and behaving like one, sometimes I was villain of the film, sometimes I was just a passer-by, or person standing in the crowd. No wonder my attendance was record low, grades were God’s gift. But for the first time, I tried to manage time so as to devote maximum amount for watching films. I used to watch 5-6 films a day, any film which could hold me, was good enough. I might have watched thousands of films. I never counted, it went on for two years, and it was films which kept me alive in the jungle of budding and talented mangers.

There were lots of students who used to download films and distribute among others. Trick was to beat, log at the computer center which used monitor the internet traffic. And I was one of them. But I wanted to differentiate myself from the rest. So I started making trailers for the films, I used to download. People liked it, and I made more and more.

And then there was a advertising course, when my study group was busy making advertising plan, I was making visual ads, without thinking about any management bullshit that should precede making of an AD, using all Jackie Chan films as a footage. There was somebody from a top advertising agency who was a visiting faculty, he told me that making advertisement is a work of common man and you should better make advertising plans and not worry about its visual execution. In simpler words, please don’t do what you are doing now.

I somehow completed the course. It took me 3 years and 3 months to complete the 2 year PG course. But it was inevitable, but being a type 2 error and suffering from cinematic fever, I think I did great just to complete it. That day I received the call from chairperson of the institute and he told me that I was worst student ever, I felt bad.

I still had an option to scout for a job. After all it was Well Known Institute of Management in Western India. But I did not sit for placements, packed my bag and came home,with absolutely no idea as what to do, most importantly why do it? One day I was drinking with my best friend, a childhood buddy, I told him that I wanted become a filmmaker. He encouraged me a lot. It was real morale booster. I borrowed a camera, placed an order for filmmaking books on my credit card (bank recovery guys still looking out for me), made a small editing setup at home. And I started shooting and editing. After few days I came to know that my best buddy was already an alcoholic and caught red handed encouraging a dog to share some. But then accidents happen in Filmmaking.

So I was reading filmmaking books and trying few things with the camera and then editing the material and showing it to people. My father called a holy “baba” to make me sane, but I bribed him and then obviously he predicted that I will become great filmmaker. He was cheap, I overpaid him. But apart from that “baba” nobody was sure, because I was making crap after crap. I then shot a short film; I was the only actor and only crew. It was horror in genre (for me) and experience (for people). But still I never wanted to give up. I kept trying to make short films. But somehow I could not complete any. But then I was working with untrained actors and crew, anybody who has any kind of filmmaking experience can feel my mental state.

Friend’s Mom-“What you do?”
Friend-“He is photographer?”
What the Fuck! I am filmmaker.

Brother-“He is my bro, he makes documentaries”
What the Fuck! I am interested in Fiction

Unknown smart ass-“Filmmaking in Nagpur … come on, you should go to Bombay”
I-“Uncle, during my engineering days we used to have super-duper seniors, on wholly sponsored educational trip by their FIL’s, are you game?”
His daughter was sex bomb though, anyway.

Fathers Friend-“What does he do?”
Father-“He is scientist. He is committed to turn himself into an ass”
Speechless

After making lots of incomplete short films, I suddenly had the idea. I decided to shift to Mumbai and start a production house and make corporate films and cross subsidize that money for making short films. We did make one. Yes I had a partner in crime. We did it for few bucks. It might have been good. Because lots of people got interested; but we never managed to convert anybody. My partner left, went back to become assistant director in a Marathi Film. I tried hard but could not find any takers. Later one friend of mine, who owes a production house, told me I was under quoting. Probably it gave the impression of a bad production values. God is great.

Then finally it happened, I completed my first short film and I again wrote, directed, acted, edited, even composed music and also tried some VFX too. Really I didn’t have any choice. To be very frank it was badly directed, but it was a good learning and most importantly a complete thing.

Then I decided to make my next short film in Nagpur. Mostly because short filmmaking in Mumbai is costly, I was relatively new to the city and also I was planning a short film based on a local global issue.

Here is my short film “A Cheque of Death”, filmed in December 07

It won an award at Filmaka India. That time I worked with very good actors and some young and smart crew and concentrated my efforts on direction and little bit of cinematography … and then did editing also. You know … I just could not find any better person in those departments.

The award money was my only food before hibernation, I hibernate and I think every filmmaker should hibernate and let his mind and body shut down for a while, because during certain days food is scarce and especially in the land of oranges and suicides, filmmaking food is very scarce. Once I also considered farming. But on second thought; I preferred to remain a nomad.

But then I met another nomad in this very unusual place. Anurag K … Kulkarni, who also happened to be music director of “A Cheque of Death”, he asked me if I had any feature length script in mind. I narrated the idea. He liked it. So he and another friend Adil, decided to produce an experimental feature film called as “Dvandva” which I co-wrote and directed. It is a crime/drama film and non-linear in structure and time. You can say it is an experiment in storytelling, especially screenwriting.

Home made Jimmy Ji

Home made Jimmy Jib

Dvandva, is the continuous duality of right & wrong that engulfs the daily lives of everyone. Five seemingly unimportant events weave a fabric… And this fabric unveils the story. In other words, the film is a mesh of interleaved stories & inter-related characters. And it revolves around the search of a mysterious contract killer. Dagadoo leads a gang of street-dacoits… Anand supports his wife to recover from the trauma…, Roy, owner of an NGO, is trying correct his problematic account books … Vijay is a lonesome druggist hallucinated by his troubled past… Rahul & Prashant are spoilt brats planning a big theft… Pandey is a corrupt cop, pressurized by seniors and the media to resolve infamous contract killing case… 116 mins devoted exclusively to life of all these characters, almost everybody is engulfed in duality of action, thoughts and ultimately duality of life. It was actually duality of my own life. It was duality I faced trying to live as an independent filmmaker.

Making “Dvandva” was the biggest challenge till date. As Rasik puts it, Dvandva is an “ambitious film for a debutante”. When I made Dvandva, Nagpur had no filmmaking culture. The last film made in Nagpur was 16 years ago. Hardly people used to shoot short films. So crew was mostly inexperienced. Equipment was mostly used for video shooting purpose. And this was before the DSLR revolution. There was no canon 7D and 5D. Even though it was already born, but yet to arrive in India and I was completely unaware about it. We shot on Sony HDR Z1, high definition camcorder. So there was lack of men and machinery. And old Hollywood saying goes like this “Men and Machinery rules the set”. There were no sets but all real locations.

Improvised Helmet Camera

Improvised Helmet Camera

I got very less time for pre-production as we were facing problems with casting. All good actresses in Nagpur, just didn’t want any “gali galoch” even if it is not directed towards the female characters in the film. So we imported one from Mumbai. But that is another story.

We shot the film, in 22 days in Nagpur, May-June 2008. It was hot Nagpur summer, and though most of the film involved night shoot, short summer shooting nights were tough on the schedule and hence on our tight resources. It was very challenging to work under constraint, duality of aspiration and reality of cost. And sometimes it was very frustrating. You have to think some out of the box solutions. We built our own car rig, jimmy jib, even for that matter $14 steady cam. All DIY things, directly copied from all the independent filmmakers on the internet.

This was the first time that I was communicating with 48 actors and at the same time keeping an eye on the technical things. I also worked as part time light man. Production guys were young with no experience of production. So I had to keep an eye on them, because I did not want my actor to do murder with kitchen knife. Though we screwed sound a little bit but later we dubbed. I could find just one person as an assistant director, who did more production work because of the lack of resources and experience.

I ended up doing lots of things other than direction. Now if I look back, it sends shivers down my spine. I don’t know how I did the film. It was passion, pure passion.

Trailer of Dvandva

Well this was an old post I wrote on PFC, which has been edited a bit. Many people even today ask me what it happening with “Dvandva”. Well this was all I went through making the film, but it was just tip of an iceberg. Real struggle was finding the audience. I think I will write another post on it i.e how I met Anurag Kashyap and other tales of Indiana Jones.

6 thoughts on “Dvandva: The Duality of an Independent Filmmaker

  1. wow… it’s such a lovely post… and i could so related to every aspect of it.. hats off man.. pure brilliance.. loved the post..

    Like

  2. This is a really nice post. Quite hilarious too.
    Well Known Institute of Management in Western India was absolute ROFL term.
    It indeed takes guts to quit your normal life and follow your dreams. As i said brother, someday I hope a large number f people will see this film. Even if Dvandva doesn’t reach out to them, I hope your next few directorial ventures will definitely be seen and talked about.

    Like

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