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Crowd funding offers regional cinema a global platform
NIDHI GUPTA  13th Jul 2013

A still from Lucia

hen filmmaker Pawan Shrivastava took his new script to producers in the Bhojpuri industry and in Mumbai, he did not find the support he was looking for — a bilingual film (Hindi and Bhojpuri) that tells the story of a Bihari migrant dealing with the loss of identity apparently doesn't sound like it would go on to become a blockbuster at the box office. Dejected, but not disheartened, he, along with a 10-member film crew, decided to make the film on their own.

But the matter of funds remained unresolved; they needed Rs. 12-13 lakh simply for production, remembers Shrivastava. "We decided we'll ask people we know to start donating money towards are project. I initially borrowed Rs 50,000 from a friend for a recce of locations. Only then did I feel that I was in this for the long haul," he says, talking about his first, tremulous, step into the world of crowd-funding.

Over the next few months, he and his team set up a Facebook page, sent out mails to everybody they knew to help them bring them closer to their goal. "Luckily for us, it worked — we set donation limits between Rs. 5,000 and Rs. 35,000 and about 60 people responded. These were mostly friends and ex-colleagues who were acquainted with my work and believed in this project," he says.

With film director Onir setting the precedent with I Am, crowd-funding came as quite the boon for independent filmmakers and cinema a few years ago. For the upwardly-mobile, technologically advanced metropolis-dwellers, this is no less than a movement to do their own thing, outside the tightly controlled, commercial film industries. Crowd-funded short and full-length features in Hindi and English and documentaries are dime a dozen these days, but interestingly, regional filmmakers are also entering the fray.

Bangalore-based filmmaker Pawan Kumar, whose latest film Lucia has made history by being the first Kannada film to be completely crowd-funded, says that he was hesitant to go down this route but unwilling producers, who had supported him in the past, left him no option. "We raised Rs. 51 lakh in 27 days after a blog post I wrote about Kannada cinema went viral online. We did this through pre-selling tickets, DVDs and Blu-Ray discs of the movie," he says.

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Crowd-funded short and full-length features in Hindi and English and documentaries are dime a dozen these days, but interestingly, regional filmmakers are also entering the fray.

"Project Lucia eventually became more than a movie — it transformed into community activism which helped me in that a lot of other things like locations, props etc. were also given to us by them," he laughs. What made 610 people contribute to his film? "Firstly, the name itself created a lot of buzz — not many Kannada films have a name like this. Then, a lot of them have seen my earlier work and like it a lot," he says.

A number of regional language filmmakers are looking to crowd-fund — while Assam-based Khanjan Kishore Nath has found ample support in NRIs for his upcoming film Saknoia, Chennai-based Karthik Ravi funded his Tamil film Kurai Ondrum Illai with the help of 60 friends; and Bombay-based Sumit Kakkad's Marathi film Aaina ka Bayna managed to market itself Bollywood-style, such was their budget. But this growth story is not without its failures.

Priyanka Agarwal, CEO at Wishberry.com, one of the country's leading crowd-funding portals says that of the 100 campaign requests they receive every month, about 10% fall in the film category. "While we have had the occasional request for support on a film in Bengali or Marathi, most of the projects that come to us are indie, local, and generally in Hindi or English," she points out. COO Anshulika Dubey says this might be due to the filmmakers' own inexperience with social media and the kind of audience their films are catering to. "One Marathi filmmaker actually refused to collaborate with us, saying that his target audience is not well-versed in technology. It comes down efficient marketing — which is what regional filmmakers are not adept at," she opines.

Despite this, the number of regional filmmakers looking to crowd-fund is on the rise. Not only does this offer them newer audiences, but it also provides them with a global platform — a phenomenon that runs parallel to this democratisation of filmmaking. Lucia, for instance, will be screened as part of the London India Film Festival on 20th July; while Shrivastava's Naya Pata will travel across cities in the coming weeks.

 
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