5 Indian Films That Found Their Voice Through Crowdfunding

5 Indian Films That Found Their Voice Through Crowdfunding

It’s no surprise that the majority of India’s films grow out from the deep pockets of fat cat producers. Nevertheless, India has a history of crowdfunded films that bypass this very phenomenon. Movies un-puppeteered by mainstream production houses, offering directors a true sense of creative control to pursue storylines that don’t need to be glittered or bedazzled at every plot twist.

We decided to explore this canon of Indian film and sift out a selection of India’s top crowdfunded films in an attempt to promote the nation’s independent film industry. The curated list below demonstrates that India and indie film have a strong relationship; however, a consistent trend with crowdfunded films is that they are all too often marginalized by their well-funded cousins in the blockbuster big leagues. Not because they are lesser in quality, but because their domestic reach isn’t large enough. Both sad and ironic, many of India’s better crowdfunded productions are more likely to be screened and succeed abroad.

The point of this article isn’t to wave the ‘big, bad movie industry’ flag. Its aim is highlight that independent films are usually the ones that exist closer to our reality. They stimulate thought, pose societal questions that deserve an answer and highlight societal issues. Massive blockbusters, on the other hand, usually reside in the land of ‘where everything’s a-ok.’ In this context it doesn’t matter which industry one perceives as superior or inferior. What matters is that India produces some stellar crowdfunded films, and a respect and love for them from domestic audiences should be garnered to help support this industry. Enjoy these wonderful films!

I. Manthan (1976)

This Shyam Benegal picture came to fruition due to Dr. Verghese Kurien, the man behind Operation Flood, otherwise known as ‘The White Revolution’. Dr. Kurien was the founder and chairman of Amul, who used his cooperative diary to increase milk production in 1970s India, which at that time was a milk deficient nation. Due to his efforts India is now the largest dairy producer in the world, as Dr. Kurien developed a system to cut out the middlemen who exploited rural farmers and inflated dairy prices seasonal.

He film was funded by 5 lakh Gujarati farmers pooling together Rs. 2 each to make this Rs. 10 lakh film. The film’s protagonist is Dr. Rao, a vet who comes to a village to start a dairy cooperative. His arrival disturbs the village’s existing socio-economic set up as its economy accelerates and the caste system begins to crumble. The film is full of Gujarati folk songs, including “Mero Gaam Katha Parey”, which got playback singer Preeti Sagar a National Award for her rendition in Manthan.

Source - Wikipedia

II. “I AM” (2010)

The producer-director combo of Sanjay Suri and Onira decided to leverage, “the medium of mainstream films to spread awareness while popularizing the culture of watching content oriented cinema.” Through social networks they were able to raise the money necessary to make ‘I AM’, the co-producers spanning 400 individuals across 35 cities globally. Their film is aimed as a direct combatant to the myopia people often express when it comes the racism, prejudice, caste craze, sexism and homophobia that is ubiquitous throughout India.

As the producer-director team put it, ‘I AM’ is a “tale of individuals struggling to find their identity, and uphold(ing) their dignity in a world that is callous, cold and unsympathetic.” The film follows the storylines of four people in four different cities across India struggling to survive in a world that oppresses the lives they want to live.

III. Greater Elephant (2012)

This crowdfunded movie only sought public funds in the post production process as the director, Srinivas Sunderrajan, realised he had insignificant funds to distribute his product and turned to Wishberry for aid. Its reception in India was lukewarm, however it did much better in international film festival circuits. One can chalk this result up to the zany artsiness of the film, co-written by Omkar Sane, who funneled a healthy amount of wit and surrealism into a plotline revolving around a Mahout who has lost his Elephant in Bombay.

The film was intended to be a sad saga revolving around the Mahout’s loss of purpose without his elephant, as Srinivas Sunderrajan puts it, “it’s one of those existential thoughts about a ‘search’ for something set against a human society that is slowly losing its grip on reality.” This theme prevails after Sane’s writing, but the audience is plunged into a seriously weird storyline where the Mahout is joined by a motley crew of unlikely characters.

Renowned film reviewer Suprateek Chatterjee sums up the rest of the cast as follows: Lord Shiva (Naveen Kaushik) and Parvati (Saunskruti Kher), who claim to be members of a defunct theatre troupe; an Anglo-Indian Dracula (Rajeev Mishra), whose horrendous accent is a pinch of Tom Alter and a dash of Ashwin Mushran; and an incompetent cop who dreams of getting a promotion (Shreyas Pandit), among others.

We guarantee laughter and confusion. Enjoy!

IV. LUCIA (2013)

Pawan Kumar ex-IT professional and the director of this Kannada film is a serious talent. It is surprising he made the movie off a crowdfunded budget of 75 lakhs, as the movie comes off as if the budget was double, or even triple that. Tip of the hat to the 600 individual producers that made this movie happen. The movie follows Nikki an insomniac movie usher, who just wants sleep and a better life.

He often walks the streets at night, and one night happens upon two men to whom he professes his frustration at the lack of his sleep. The men offer him sleeping pills at no cost. From there on the plot-line is dominated by a seesaw of psychedelia, a place where dreams and reality seep into each other, whilst maintaining a fast paced cohesiveness that keeps the audience entertained. The acting, soundtrack and cinematography get two enthusiastic thumbs up. If you’re friends with Mary Jane, you might want to take her with you to this movie.

V. Placebo (2015)

This hybrid media, documentary film by Abhay Kumar is a chilling probe in the academic world of Aiims (Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences), a highly reputed medical school that is infamous for the unhealthy levels of stress it inflicts upon its students. Abhay Kumar decided to make this film after his younger brother, a student of Aim’s, punched a glass window in frustration, seriously injuring his dominant right hand. Abhay decided he would bring his camera to the campus and film undercover, motivated by the worrisome fact that his younger brother had never acted like this before.

Abhay’s project extended from a six month plan to a two year production that looked towards crowdfunding to help accomplish the various animated scenes in the movie, which are stunning. During the course of the documentary there are three student suicides and a student protest. Unlike Three Idiots there is no magical catharsis at the end, however, the film beautifully fleshes out the heartlessness behind the administration of Aiims through the anecdotes of four students, including Abhay’s brother Sahil.

Special Mention:

VI. WADE (2016-pending)

Wade’ is an animated short film still in production set in a time where climate change has caused the flooding of the sunderbunds and Kolkatta. The city is overwhelmed with man-eating tigers running rampant on humans. The short feature brings more to the table than an environmentally conscious theme, as the nine animators working on the film add painstaking detail into each frame.

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