Some of you might already know about this project that I have been engaged in for last few months. I directed a film “One Last Question” (40 mins long) in Assam, inspired from a true story.
It all started with a story on a blog in July 2013. It talked about how four friends in 1998, in a small village (Agia, Goalpara) of Assam were influenced to join an extremist militant outfit in all their innocence. It was my friend, Manjit Nath’s real life story, who is studying Public Policy at University of Oxford right now. By the time I completed reading the whole story, the film had already taken shape in my mind.
But the question was, shall I make this movie? Why should I? There are hundreds of other better scripts lying around with producers interested to invest in it.
Why should I make this one? Which required me to go out of my way, travel to State of Assam in the region where it was infested with political unrest, riots and bandhs. And why should I make a film that a producer might not dare to put his money in.
Honestly, there was no practical reason to take the decision on logical grounds. The only reason I had was my intuition. I just knew I had to make this film. For the love of story. For the love of the idea it conveys. But I was not even remotely ready for what was to come.
As my team mates can recall, we decided to pack-up and leave for Assam. Planning to come back after 15 days of shooting. But it never goes as planned, does it. And destiny decided to take me for a roller coaster ride.
You do two things in such a situation, sit quite, close your eyes, and hope the roller coaster stops. Or you open your eyes, scream the hell out and challenge the roller coaster to give you more. I was running to and fro between these two attitudes.
The Roller Coaster Begins!
We reached Agia (the place where real story happened) at 3 in the morning and the sun was already on it’s way. I never knew sun rises earlier in Assam than rest of India because of time-zone shift. We had already started working. The very day we arrived, we met one of the greatest man I’ve met & my mentor, Sukracharya Rabha. He chooses to stay low profile, but he is arguably one of India’s greatest theatre director alive. We started narrating the screenplay to him. And like any dynamic personality, he started putting colors of emotions to life. Making us realise that the scope of this film is greater than we imagined.
The evolution of the concept and the story was so rapid that even Charles Darwin might scratch his head. With time; we realised a few things,
1. There are hardly any films on stories based in North East India that are made for the national audience and secondly made in Hindi. Apart from a few characters, the whole movie was in Hindi.
2. It was going to be a challenge to work & communicate with cast & crew who are majorly Assamese speaking lot.
3. Assamese & Hindi languages are inversely proportional when we try to speak the other language. Only to make us realise a huge cultural diversity we have in our country adding to immense respect for each other. This led to a lot of funny moments. Like in Hindi “Mein gaadi pe baithata hu” in Assamese it is “Mein gadi pe uthata hu” or even better in Hindi, “Me chai peeta hu” in Assamese it is “Me chai khata hu”. Just this miscommunication added to a lot of fun & frustration on the sets. At the end of schedule, we started speaking Assamese.
4. “3 Idiots” is the most penetrating & impactful Bollywood movie of all time. (totally out of context, but worth noting)
Days passed, we auditioned almost 200 kids, finalized the 3 key characters, finalized the locations, costumes, look, technicalities, set and everything. We realised all this “taam-jham” is getting bigger, people all over the village started pouring in with their helping hands.
For me, this project has to be considered one of the most epic attempt of “Jugaad” – frugal innovation. There are some examples of jugaad that I can’t even speak of. I can assure they were of an epic proportion than a major production studio could ever manage. Though I wish I could share all my stories in this one blog, that is not possible.
Bump In The Ride!
But the epicness was yet to be reached. We began the shoot but the most important character of the film, our protagonist, Tultul, was yet to be casted. Imagine this, we have ordered light, camera & sound equipments on rent. The money has started leaking out and we haven’t got our key character, the protagonist & even more important, his father.
But we can’t wait and watch either; as staying longer would mean exhausting all the money in the ‘stay’ itself without any film in our hand. What ‘face’ shall me & my crew (who put their faith in me – pro-bono ) show to all those who knew about our “insanely risky” project.
Thanks to Director Simple Gogoi to instantly help out with the casting at the end moment. She saved my day. Our protagonist came in the next day.
And the shoot began, and we still had the father of protagonist to be casted. By the end of September 2013, our shoot was almost done, except for the ones that involve the father. The soul of the whole movie. It is like we made the whole bike, the only thing missing was an engine. Not proud to say, but who makes movies on such a ‘bleeding’ edge? Things happen for a reason and all the obstacles led us to something good that none of us saw coming.
Reaching the peak!
As circumstances rapidly changed along with the scope of the film, it became eminent that we were drowning under the heap of expenses. One fine day, something happened that made it all worthwhile. When we were almost at the end of our schedule, back at our base, wondering where to get in the right cast for the fathers role, I got a call from none other than Adil Hussain Sir (Life of Pie, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, English Vinglish, Agent Vinod). I still remember that feeling. He said he read the mail (Thanks to Sukra Da), and gave me a call. We talked for a while and he said YES to play the father’s role. 😀 (Expect another nice blog on lessons I learnt from Adil Hussain & Sukracharya Rabha)
The whole crew began preparing as if it was again the first day of shoot. Everybody was proud of what they were doing. We finally completed the whole shoot that was to be done in Assam. Now that’s goes to 70% of the total film done.
Janta Ki Adalat! – The MARATHON Continues…
What about the remaining? To complete the remaining shoot & post production we had to come back to Pune. But the shooting was not possible because we had exhausted all the funds we had in Assam shoot, which we already knew. We knew we had to raise funds to complete the film. Producers was not an option.
Then we went on for our next best option, crowdfunding. So we have launched this “crowdfunding campaign” that will allow us to gather funds which will eventually help us in completing the film. After we launched, we were successful in gathering 50k in 50 hours. But life is short, clock is ticking & the time we have to raise funds for this project is extremely limited.
Here is the link to campaign page @ Wishberry: https://www.wishberry.in/campaign/one-last-question/
I request you to ‘spread’ the message among your friends and relatives. Whatever amount pouring in this campaign is going to make a huge difference for a greater good and eventually make all the blood, sweat and tears worth it.
If we manage to exceed the target amount, the surplus funds will be used to screen the film all over Assam, and we hope this will inspire at least a few new generation Assamese towards a constructive future.
If you liked the trailer/campaign and the efforts our team put in, please; Post, Tweet, Share and help us spread the word. A word from a Rodinhood, for a Rodinhood.
The bandh that was happening in Assam ended just a day before we arrived in the state and started again within hours after we left, that lasted a week. All the 45 days, when we were present there, the region was peaceful than usual. Destiny has it’s own way of working. I believe we just have to give our best with a pure intent.
As I often do, here I conclude my post with a beautiful quote by Mother Teresa – “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples” Let us all try to create our own ripples.
If you want to talk with me, please do email at firstname.lastname@example.org . I would love to hear from you.
Also comment about your experiences on what was the most memorable/bleeding-edge marathon of your life?
UPDATE 1 July 2014:
On the last day, last hour of our 45-day long campaign, on the night of 21st June 2014, we successfully reached our target Rs. 5,00,000/- for our film- One Last Question. And it was your contributions that made this possible.
When we started one and half month back, we had foreseen the risk in the timing of the campaign. It spanned across 45 days which saw one of the most talked about and biggest elections in the World, IPL Matches and ended while Argentina won against Iran in the FIFA World Cup in the First Round.
Amidst all the heap of buzz, it was amazing how so many people managed to give an ear to our campaign.
Our decision to crowd fund the project was not to simply to raise money, but to validate whether meaningful cinemas are appreciated by the current audience. The fact that I am writing this email, proves the optimism I have been carrying for film-making.
We have also created this Facebook page dedicated to the movie, One Last Question here: https://www.facebook.com/onelastquestionmovie , please like it for continuous updates.
KriSang! Over and Out! 🙂 😀
Our Page: www.facebook.com/krisangpictures