December 31, 2014

Cinema 2014: My Top 10 Modern Foreign-Language Movies

I'm loving this exercise and hope to do it at the end of every year. 

After sharing my favourite English and Foreign-Language classics among those I watched in 2014, here is the list of my favourite modern foreign-language films.

In this category I have considered only those movies that are less than five years old, that is released in or after 2010. 

From a list of about 45 such movies, here are the top ten. It's great to see that they are from ten different countries:

  • Coming Home (2014/ China) by Zhang Yimou. What a name to start the list with! One of the most reputed directors of today came up with this extremely moving film about a family caught in the turmoil and aftermath of a revolution.
  • A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014/ USA) by Ana Lily Amirpour. This film features in several top movies lists this time of the year. A Vampire-Western-Romance in the Iranian language, this is one of the biggest surprises of the year, and one of the most stylish films you will see.
  • Ida (2013/ Poland) by Pawel Pawlikowski: One of the strongest contenders for the Foreign-language award at the upcoming Golden Globe and Oscar. This B&W film shot in Academy Ratio may not affect you immediately. But it will grow on you and its stunning cinematography will make you revisit it. Read this post of mine where I discuss the radical compositions used in the film.
  • The Intouchables (2011/ France) by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano: The only film in this list that features in IMDB-250. This can be an indicator of how popular this film is. If there is one film in this list that I'd recommend to anyone and everyone, especially to cheer you up, it's this. Heard they are remaking it in Hindi. They better do a good job of it.
  • In a Better World (2010/ Denmark) by Susanne Bier: Won Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Foreign-language film during its year. Powerful and brilliantly cinematic. This has some of the most thrilling moments I saw on film this year.
  • The Little House (2014/ Japan) by Yoji Yamada. This sweet, little film proves how a moving story can be a film's greatest virtue. Directed by the Japanese master, it left me with a wistful smile on my face that refused to fade away much after the movie ended.
  • Mommy (2014/ Canada) by Xavier Dolan. Outrageous. In every way. What an inventive use of aspect ratio! What dialogues, music, and of course - the characters! I was disappointed that it could not make it to Oscar's list of top 9. I was rooting for it.
  • The Skin I Live In (2011/ Spain) by Pedro Almodovar. The Spanish master surprises me yet again. I could never imagine he could make a sci-fi film, and yet reverberating with his recurring themes and his personaly style of mixing crime with drama and comedy. 
  • Stations of the Cross (2014/ Germany) by Dietrich Bruggemann. The only weakness of this film would be its unoriginal theme and premise. We have seen so many films that question the orthodox faith. But its writing otherwise, and directing, makes it an unforgettable film.
  • Winter Sleep (2014/ Turkey) by Nuri Bilge Ceylan: Winner of this year's Palme d'Or at Cannes. Also my last film of the year. Reminds you of Ingmar Bergman and of Bela Tarr. It is demanding and rewarding. And its handling of characters and exposition is so effortlessly brilliant that it leaves you overwhelmed.
Honorable Mentions:  Kon-Tiki (2012/ Norway/ Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg), for being that rare non-Hollywood film that is grand and gloriously entertaining, Gloria (2013/ Chile/ Sebastian Lelio), for its moving portrait of ageing, and Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014/ China/ Yi'nan Diao) for its stunning cinematography and for being a really impressive and stand-out genre film.

Note: I just realised that I did not recommend any modern foreign-language film as a must-watch-before-you-die. I think it's difficult to select a film so recently released to feature in that list. May be the re-watch of one of these movies in the subsequent years may prompt me to do that.

December 30, 2014

Cinema 2014: My Top 10 Classic Foreign-Language Movies

After the first list on my favourite English-language classics, here are the top ten among the foreign-language films I watched this year.

I have taken into consideration about 50 movies that I watched in 2014. I have defined 'classic', as in the last post, as movies which are at least five years old, which have released before 2010.

Also, I have not considered those that I re-watched in 2014, and hence 'Three Colors: Blue' or 'Breathless' do not find mention in this list. 
So here they are:

  • About Elly (2009/ Iran) by Asghar Farhadi. For creating Hitchcock-like suspense in a 'L'avventura' like setting. Extra-ordinarily moving. Won 'Best Director' at Berlin. I'm definitely going to revisit it to take lessons in directing.
  • Cache (2005/ France) by Michael Haneke. And when it comes to directing, can Haneke ever go wrong? What a haunting mystery! Won 'Best Director' at Cannes
  • The Class (2008/ France) by Laurent Cantet. Beautiful setting. A sincere teacher and a bunch of difficut teenagers. This film will connect with everyone. And al the time. Won 'Palme d'Or' at Cannes
  • Enter the Void (2009/ France-Canada) by Gaspar Noe. The only film in this list that I recommended as must-watch-before-you-die. An unforgettable film-trip. More vivid and stimulating than most experiences of your life. I watched it at Devprayag, the place where the tributaries of Bhagirathi and Alaknanda merge to form the Ganges!
  • Eyes without a Face (1960/ France) by Georges Franju. The French always did it so well, even when it came to noir, or sci-fi. What a brilliantly involving film!
  • Grave of the Fireflies (1988/ Japan) by Isao Takahata. A rare animation film that I loved. It brought a lump to my throat. 26 years, and it is still so fresh. Also, the only film in this list that features in IMDB-250.
  • Hero (2002/ China) by Zhang Yimou. I unconditionally oved the indulgence. The choreographed action sequences are something I would love to watch again and again. Also, it was a pleasure to watch this ensemble of amazing actors.
  • My Life as a Dog (1985/ Sweden) by Lasse Hallstrom. A bitter-sweet fable. One of the best films on childhood. This was the surprise winner this year for me. Back then in its year of release, apart from winning the Golden Gobe for Best Foreign Language film, it had the rare achievement of bagging Oscar nominations for Direction and Screenplay despite not being in English. Lost to 'The Last Emperor' in both categories.
  • Vengeance is Mine (1979/ Japan) by Shohei Imamura. The story of the antagonist. Unapologetic. Super stylish. And brave structure. The portrayal of daughter and father-in-law was especially intriguing for me.
  • Woman in the Dunes (1964/ Japan) by Hiroshi Teshigahara. One film where texture is as important as other elments of images. Also, very strange and mysterious. Also earned its director an Oscar nomination the following year. He lost to Robert Wise for 'The Sound of Music'.
Honorable mentions: Show Me Love or Fucking Amal (1998/ Sweden/ Lukas Moodysson), Train of Life (1998/ France/ Radu Mihaieanu), Offside (2006/ Iran/ Jafar Panahi), and Elite Squad (2007/ Brazil/ Jose Padilha).

December 29, 2014

Cinema 2014: My Top 10 Classic English Movies

This, and the three posts to follow, might be a futile exercise in comparing movies to create a list. But I'm excited to do this - to summarise my cinema experience of the year. 

This first list is composed of the ten favourite classics in the English language. I have considered close to 75 movies released more than five years ago, that is before 2010, for this exercise. 

Also, I have not considered re-watches. Hence 'Vertigo' and 'Psycho' don't feature in this list. 

So, here they are, in alphabetic order:

  • The Best Years of Our Lives (1946/ USA) by William Wyler: The oldest film in the list. And as relevant as ever. A war epic that does not have a single battle sequence. And emotionally so powerful that it left me teary-eyed more than once. Winner of 7 Oscars.
  • Forrest Gump (1994/ USA) by Robert Zemeckis: I watched it for the first time this year, on IMAX screen. A film that designs itself as life, and in that glorious effort turns into a box of chocolates surprising us at every turn. 
  • The Green Mile (1999/ USA) by Frank Darabont: Another Tom Hanks movie to feature in this list. I had no idea about the fantasy elements in it. So imagine my shock when the film turned magical. Also features one of the most unforgettable characters of all time.
  • Judgement at Nuremberg (1961/ USA) by Stanley Kramer: It has a running time of more than three hours. But you don't want it to end. As it questions moralities of wars and atrocities in a way that goes beyond the Nazi genocides. Also, what a performance by Spencer Tracy.
  • Once (2007/ Ireland) by John Carney: The most modern film in the list. I think it would make into my top 10 even several years from now. The most pleasant surprise. The biggest underdog. One film that most effortlessly makes you smile. And lets that smile stay.
  • Out of Africa (1985/ USA) by Sydney Pollack: This film features in the top 10 favourite movies of all time of a friend whose movie-taste I really admire. So, I watched it urgently. And as soon as it opens you know you are watching some great cinema. The only problem with this film is that once you've watched this, you won't be satisfied with something lesser the next day.
  • The Piano (1993/ New Zealand-Australia) by Jane Campion: The only film in this list that made it to my must-watch-before-you-die recommendation. Need I say more?
  • Sideways (2004/ USA) by Alexander Payne: For the wonderful drama-comedy only Payne can create. For its characters and the dialgoues. And for Paul Giamatti.
  • The Verdict (1982/ USA) by Sidney Lumet: Perhaps my favourite screenplay of this entire list. This is another Lumet film that is nothing less than a directing text-book. Also, it made Paul Newman my favourite American actor of all time, over Robert De Niro.
  • Young Frankenstein (1974/ USA) by Mel Brooks: One of the most absurdly hilarious movies I've seen. I ended up using it in one of the promos I directed for Mumbai Film Festival. And yes, the fact that I watched 'Frankenstein' and 'Bride of Frankenstein' before this really helped. Otherwise you won't get all the jokes.
Other honorable mentions: 
The Seven Year Itch (1955/ USA/ Billy Wilder) for the irresistible Marilyn Monroe, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962/ USA/ Robert Aldrich) for its timeless horror, The Untouchables (1987/ USA/ Brian De Palma) for being a text book in film editing, and What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993/ USA/ Lasse Hallstrom) for proving yet again that it is the characters that make a film unforgettable.

December 19, 2014

In Search of Aesthetic Emotion

After watching Rajkumar Hirani's 'PK' this morning of its release, I was instantly reminded of some concepts explored by Robert McKee in his wonderful book, 'Story'. Without spoiling the plot for you in any way, here follow the words of McKee that precisely illustrate my view on the film. All the words are his, but I have edited and reordered sentences to keep it brief and still as powerful and insightful.


In life, experiences become meaningful with reflection in time. Because in life idea and emotion come separately. The two realms influence each other, but first one, then the other. If you see a dead body in the street, you're struck by a rush of adrenaline. Perhaps you drive away in fear. Later, in the coolness of time, you may reflect on the meaning of this stranger's demise, on your own mortality, on life in the shadow of death. In fact, in life, moments that blaze with a fusion of idea and emotion are so rare, when they happen you think you're having a religious experience. 

But whereas life separates meaning from emotion, art unites them. In art, experiences are meaningful at the instant they happen. Story is an instrument by which you create such epiphanies at will, the phenomenon known as aesthetic emotion - the simultaneous encounter of thought and feeling. You might forget the day you saw a dead body in the street, but the death of Hamlet haunts you forever. A story well told gives you the very thing you cannot get from life: meaningful emotional experience. In this sense, story is, at heart, nonintellectual - it does not express ideas in the dry, intellectual arguments of an essay. But this is not to say story is anti-intellectual. We pray that the writer has ideas of import and insight. Rather, the exchange between artist and audience expresses idea directly through the senses and perceptions, intuition and emotion.

(Excuse me for interrupting Mr. McKee for a very brief illustration of the above-mentioned concept. Watch any movie directed by Rajkumar Hirani, who is perhaps the only filmmaker in the commerical Hindi movie space constantly exploring the communication of ideas through very basic emotions of joy and pain, all through well-crafted stories. Four movies, and all have this in common - the artist's pursuit of aesthetic emotion. Now, read on, for McKee has more to say.)

The danger is this: When your premise is an idea you feel you must prove to the world, and you design your story as an undeniable certification of that idea, you set yourself on the road to didacticism. Misusing and abusing art to preach, your screenplay will become a thesis film, a thinly disguised sermon as you strive in a single stroke to convert the world. Didacticism results from the naive enthusiasm that fiction can be used like a scalpel to cut out the cancers of the world. The finest writers have dialectical, flexible minds that easily shift points of view. They see the positive, the negative, and all shades of irony, seeking the truth of these views honestly and convincingly. This omniscience forces them to become even more creative, more imaginative, and more insightful. Ultimately, they express what they deeply believe, but not until they have allowed themselves to weigh each living issue and experience all its possibilities.

Master storytellers never explain. They do the hard, painfully creative thing - they dramatize. Explanations of authorial ideas, whether in dialogue or narration, seriously diminish a film's quality. A great story authenticates its ideas solely within the dynamics of its events. Failure to express a view of life through the pure, honest consequences of human choice and action is a creative defeat no amount of clever language can salvage.

December 18, 2014

#10: My Film Playschool

"You know, places are like people. Some shine, some don't." – Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’ (1980)

Through my previous posts in this series, you know that I left my home at the age of eleven for a hostel. Out of all the beautiful things that life has given me, that might just be the most significant – eight years of my adolescent life in this ashrama, because it was, among different things, my first film-school. Or playschool, to put it more correctly.

Spread over thirty-three acres in the holy town of Deoghar, run by the Ramakrishna Mission, it was a world in itself. Vast green football-fields – two for every grade, pitch-white hostel buildings with wonderful, little front gardens maintained by us, a majestic temple at the heart of the plot, dense mango orchards, and ancient banyan trees, the school that started with three students in 1922 had grown up to house boys from all over Bihar, Bengal, Orissa, the North-Eastern states, Bangladesh, and even Delhi and UP. Run on the ethos of the ashram-culture, where all seniors and teachers were referred to as dadas (‘elder brothers’ in Bengali), it was an English-medium school providing modern education under the CBSE curriculum. We were not allowed to step out of the campus except during semester breaks. It had a dairy with over a hundred cows, a giant dining hall, an auditorium, a small hospital-cum-dispensary, an extremely well-maintained and versatile library, a general store, barber shop, cobbler and washer-men. Our daily routine included, apart from attending lectures and hours of supervised self-study, chanting and meditating – twice every day, cleaning our dormitories, attending compulsory PT and evening games, and serving food in the dining hall. There were several outdoor activities and sports, as well as training in fine arts and vocal and instrumental music. Not all of us enjoyed all these different activities and most of the above-mentioned details were nothing but torture for us. Add to this the restrictions we had – all of us were supposed to dress very simply, and alike, even in dormitories or in the play field; we could not talk to our parents over phone – writing and receiving letters was the only source of communication; and we were not allowed to keep comic books, magazines, video games, or portable music systems. Two hours of TV every Sunday was all we had in the name of recreation. I believe it was growing up in an environment like this that shaped my taste, and my sense of pleasure and joy. I also would like to attribute my ability to switch between solitude and working in a team to the formative years in that school, as well as my growth as a storyteller.

After watching ‘Satya’ in October1998, I was eager to share its story with my friends – as most had not watched it. That gave birth to this frequent ritual. Whether it was during the lecture of a teacher who failed to turn up, hiding away from our supervisor during self-study hours, or while having our meals – I was often busy narrating stories of films to some eager audience. The most common exercise was the Sunday afternoon story session that was often ‘pre-booked’ by friends. Those who belonged to a different dormitory could not join us inside the room as it was prohibited. So they would stand outside the window to enjoy these narrations that went on for hours, complete with songs and background score.

Despite the traditional ashrama environment, our school provided me with something that I could not have experienced at home – exposure to English movies. Occasionally, the entire school assembled in the central hall of the library to watch movies played through VHS tapes on a big color TV. ‘Jumanji’, ‘Commando’, and ‘Predator’ are the titles I can instantaneously recall. But the most remarkable experiences were to watch the ‘Star Wars’ trilogy and ‘The Matrix’. I also remember how excited we were to watch the old Western ‘Mackenna’s Gold’ (1969) only because there was one shot of a woman’s nude behind, or how we anticipated that ‘The Godfather’ would have something titillating but turned it off after its long opening sequence that for us was the most boring thing we had seen in our lives. At times, we also managed to watch the latest Hindi releases and I remember watching ‘Gupt’, ‘Dil Se’, and ‘Sarfarosh’ among others. By that time I had a diary of mine where I wrote lyrics of dozens of Hindi film songs during vacations. It was also the time when ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ and ‘Refugee’ had made me fall in love with the use of Hindustani semi-classical music in films. The romance was ripening and the next post in this series will illustrate how around end of 1999 it turned into a singular obsession. I hope to write that special post soon.

However, I have to briefly narrate a really amusing story before I wrap up this current post. All of us unanimously and strongly feared one person in the school – our Chief Warden. A senior monk, but more of an administrator and a disciplinarian, he single-handedly maintained the decorum in the campus where we hundreds of monkeys lived. Despite his strict manners, he allowed the occasional screening of movies, especially during a holiday, as mentioned above. He did not really endorse these movies but some senior students managed to make him accept their request. One such holiday, it might be holi, and we do not know what exactly triggered it, he got furious at our ever-growing demand for movies that he did not really approved of and decided to retort in the most imaginative way. He called for a black-and-white movie from the 60s, one that according to him was a rare good film, and made it compulsory for everyone to watch it. I still remember what horror the incident had created, when every single kid was chased out of dormitories, even those who hardly cared about movies, and those who wanted to spend the afternoon studying or sleeping, and we had to endure that movie under his watchful eyes. It was Bimal Roy’s ‘Bandini’ (1963), the only film that was made a compulsory watch in my eight years of stay there!

Several years later, I met our Chief Warden in Mumbai, and he expressed to me his disappointment regarding my decision to quit medicine for the movies. “What if I tried to make movies like ‘Bandini’?” was my argument that made him nod in silence. Perhaps he got my point. By the time of this meeting of ours, I had watched almost all Bimal Roy films and the brilliance of ‘Bandini’ was more than evident to me. If, as a filmmaker, I could go even half way close to that, I would be very proud of myself. But for the film-buff in me, that movie, and the allegorical importance of it in the lives of all little brats who grew up together in that amazing ashrama, will always remain very, very special.

‘The Autobiography of a Romance’ is a series of post chronicling my love affair with the movies since early childhood. To read more posts under this label, please click here and read from bottom upwards.

December 08, 2014

A Wonderful Gift for True Cinephiles

Here is something that I discovered recently, a web-site for you to check all the movies you have watched! I am writing about it to share with all my fellow cinephiles this new-found gift to me from the world of internet. Because this, dear friends, is really awesome!

To be honest, if you have watched hundreds and thousands of movies from different countries and eras, after a time you do get confused about a certain title - whether you have watched it or not. It may appear lame - because it doesn't happen with the books that you have read, right? But it does happen with short stories. If you name a certain O. Henry story, chances are that I may not be able to recollect what it was and hence not be sure whether I have read it or not. Hence, a permanent and easy-to-sort checklist does help. Since October of 2006 I've kept a record of all the movies I've watched in the diaries of respective years, but it is in different diaries, and cannot be sorted. IMDB gives you options of 'checking' the movies you have watched, and until now the IMDB watchlist was the most efficient and easy way for me to keep a record. 

But iCheckMovies is several times better. For me, the best thing it has done is the time it saves every day that I spent on poring over my collection of 'greatest movies lists'. There are different lists that I had with me, as .doc(x) files: IMDB 250, Oscar winners, Cannes top films, Roger Ebert's list, AFI, Cahier du cinema, Sight and Sound, WGA, TSPDT, Guardian's top 1000, and so on. Every time I watched a film, I used to search for it in each and every list of mine and mark it as 'watched' in all of them. Plus, I had to keep a mechanical count of each list. If I discovered a new list, I had to spend a lot of time to go through each of its titles, one by one, to check my score. I was happy doing it, and I spent some minutes every day on them, but it did make me feel guilty - of wasting time over something that most would consider a useless and indulgent exercise. But the hardcore, true, sincere, obsessed cinephile won't. We know how much pleasure we derive from it. And hence I carried on with that mechanical checking and counting.

This website has suddenly made things extra-ordinarily easy for me. After watching a movie, if I check it, it is 'checked' in every list it appears in. And there are hundreds of lists there - more than I was aware of, and definitely much more than I could have managed on my own. Plus, there are awards!

The website awards you for your scores on different lists. If you have watched half the number of movies in any list, you get a Bronze, 75 per cent score earns you a Silver, and 90 per cent enables you a Gold. As on date, I have got 25 Bronze Awards on my shelf (Ebert's list, Sight and Sound etc.), 20 Silver (Rotten Tomatoes, AFI etc.), and 3 Gold (IMDB 250, 50 Greatest Crime Films and 50 Greatest Films from the 1960s). There are also Platinum awards - I have none of those. Perhaps it will be earned once I finish watching all movies in one of those lists. And one more thing. These lists keep getting updated (e.g. IMDB Top 250 changes regularly). So it is possible that your score on a certain list falls on a certain day. This also means, these awards are not to be taken for granted. They will be snatched back if your score goes below the cut-off for that certain award. Guess, that is to keep us on our toes and make sure that we keep watching, endlessly, forever! Isn't it amazing? So now go ahead and check all the movie you have watched. Like me, you may end up spending your first day on checking hundreds of them! Have fun, and let me know your scores and awards! :)

December 04, 2014

10 Questions to Understand What 'Indie Films' Are

Independent Films or Indies are widely abused terms a lot of people use without really understanding what they mean. I hope the post below helps you understand the concepts better. Do comment if you disagree with any of my opinions.

Q1. What are Independent Films?
A. Independent films are those that are produced (almost) without any funding from major film studios. Once produced, these films try to reach out to their audience on their own, often also involving alternate distribution channels like the internet, unless they are picked up by a bigger distributor, with or without the backing of a studio.

Q2. Why the term 'independent'?
A. Movie-making has always been expensive. During the early decades of the last century, when cinema turned into a business, it were big production and distribution companies that soon started dominating the market. They were called studios. RKO, MGM, Warner Bros. etc were some of the major studios of Hollywood. It was almost impossible to make a film outside of the studio system and getting it released was even tougher. However, several factors around the 40s and the 50s, including the gradual weakening of the studio system and development of new aesthetics through film revolutions like the Italian Neo-Realism, saw the rise of film-makers who made their films outside of the control of the studios. These film-makers did not have to conform with the notions and formulae of the sudios and thus exerted greater control over their medium than even the most successful of directors working with the studios. This gave the feeling of a new-found freedom, to be able to make movies, and make them on your own terms. Hence, the term 'independent'.

Q3. Does 'independent' always mean low-budget? Also, if my film has no stars, is it an indie film?
A. Not necessarily. If you are a rich man (and not a studio), you can produce a big-budget film on your own, with your own money. That big-budget film will still be called independent. However, since not many are that rich to be able to make movies to fulfill their whims and fancies, and since several rich men are sensible enough to not get into this misadventure, most indie films are low-budget. And I think it will remain that way. It should. Similarly, if a studio funds and distributes a film that does not necessarily have stars, it is not an indie film. Gangs of Wasseypur (2012) was not a star-studded film. But it was not indie either.

Q4. Does 'indie' mean 'art-house' or 'experimental'?
A. Not at all. Most art-house and experimental films fail to attract studio financing and hence have to raise money on their own and thus be made independently. But an independent film can be as, if not more, entertaining and commercially viable as a manistream, studio film. Remember, Pulp Fiction (1994) was an indie film. It was super-successful financially, and is among the most watched films of all time, apart from being so critically acclaimed and a major landmark in film history.

Q5. Why do 'indie' films look poor and unattractive?
A. Not all of them look poor and unattractive. I just named Pulp Fiction. But since the production budget of these films is typically low, several of them cannot adopt the gloss that big-budget movies possess. In fact, the success of the indie movement is based on the conviction of the film-maker to rely on content, performances, and a new sense of aesthetic that goes well with the limited budget. The hand-held camera and shooting in natural light or with non-actors are widely popular trends in world cinema. These were all developed when cinema broke free from the absolute control of the studios. Most successful indie films either manage to look 'good' despite the low budget, or come up with an original and exciting design to please our senses. The really timeless indies, like all successful films, are big on content than anything else.

Q6. Is it easier to make an indie film than a big-budget film? If no, then why do some film-makers choose to go independent?
A. No way. How can it be? Arranging so much money on your own can never be easy. And even if you do manage that, making films on small-budgets is always tough. Most importantly, it is film-making at the end of the day, something that is a difficult job anyway. I don't believe any film-maker would choose to go independent if a studio/producer assures him of funding, complete creative control, and distribution. But since that does not always happen with all film-makers and with all films, going indie is the only way out.

Q7. What is the most important ingredient for a successful indie film?
A. The script.

Q8. I have managed to develop/acquire a kick-ass script. And I have crowd-sourced the funding for the film. Guess, now I am sorted, right?
A. That depends on how sorted you are in your head. Is it really a kick-ass script or your passion is too blind to judge it? Is the funding actually in place or these are just promises? Is your budget realistic? Is there a mechanism in place to use that funding in the most economical way? And most importantly, is your director (even if it is you) really capable of directing a film? Does he/she have the undertanding of the craft and the technique?

Q9. Why do so many indie films fail?
A. For the same reason why most films fail, indie or studio-backed. Because most of them are really bad films. Very few films, indie or otherwise, are really good. Plus, even several good indie films fail to reach out to the audience. Those that do manage that suffer from low publicity budget and fail to create awareness in the audience about their release. But the biggest reason is that most of them are bad.

Q10. When will we witness the prophecy coming true - a real indie revolution in Hindi cinema?
A. No one can really tell when and if it will happen. But I am hopeful that the change is already visible. To be honest, a real successful and long-lasting impact will be created only when we have a really handsome number of films that tell essentially good stories in interesting and involving ways, forcing the studios and the distribution model to take notice of us, backed by some important steps taken by the government, and the industry, to nurture the most deserving indie films. I very stongly believe that the easiest barrier to cross is support from the audience - reaching them might be tough, making them love a good movie is really easy. The toughest step in the entire process is to make that good movie. And finding the right script is the single biggest challenge film-makers are going to face, today and tomorrow, indie or not.

'Sulemani Keeda' is an indie film directed by Amit Masurkar and produced by Datta Dave and Chaitanya Hegde. It releases on 5th Dec in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Pune, and Ahmedabad. I have written a song called "Door" for the film. Please watch it and share your comments with us. Cheers! :)