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Indie film project finds mucho moolah online
NIDHI GUPTA  16th Sep 2012

A still from Greater Elephant.

fter the success of The Untitled Karthik Krishnan Project, filmmaker Srinivas Sunderrajan is preparing for the release of his second film, Greater Elephant, which has won many accolades abroad. He talks to Guardian20 about being indie in India and taking to crowd-funding with open arms.

Q. What inspired Greater Elephant? How was the process of writing / making it?

A. I was standing at a bus stop when I saw a mahout driving his elephant towards a fruit seller. At that time, I just had this thought — what if his elephant gets lost in the city? What thoughts would race across the mahout's head or what is the implication of this loss? 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. Greater Elephant is basically a story about such a character who enlists the help of many colourful characters (Dracula, Lord Shiva impostor etc) to help him find the pachyderm! It was initially written as a 'serious' film but with the involvement of writer Omkar Sane, we made it more of an 'existential black comedy'. We shot Greater Elephant in 10 days around Mumbai and Pune.

Q. You've been travelling to a series of film festivals abroad. How has the response been?

A. It won the jury award for best film as a working cut at the South Asian International Film Festival in New York. The final cut of the film has so far been screened at festivals in San Francisco, Copenhagen and is scheduled to play in Netherlands as well. The reception has been great. The West has a very different thought process and perception. They seem to find interest even in a single line of dialogue, which would usually be ignored by us (maybe because the subject matter might be too common to us).

Q. Why is the India release taking time?

A. Though the independent movement is on the rise, the case of distribution is still a big cause of concern. Since there are no 'stars' in the film, it becomes difficult for distributors to engage their networks in releasing a film like ours. In this system, script or story is not of importance — it's all about the numbers. So we decided to crowd-fund the release. Usually, crowd-funding is done for shooting or post-production, but we already had a finished product in our hands. A chance meeting with Anshulika from Wishberry gave us the idea of using crowd support to raise funds – not for ourselves, but to get the film out to everyone! Hopefully we should be releasing it latest by October.

Q. But your target of Rs 6 lakh on Wishberry hasn't been met, till last Sunday, when your offer closed down.

A. In a utopian world, we would have reached our target and all 'release strategies' would have been implemented as planned. But we did come really close — we raised Rs 5.26 lakh in all. This is the first time that an Indian crowd-funding site supporting an independent film has gotten so close to achieving the target. We will just have to re-modify our strategies and make the most of the amount that we have raised; which also means there'll be some compromises somewhere but hopefully it shouldn't be grave.

Q. How's the 'indie' tag treating you? How do you see this panning out in the near future?

A. Given the recent explosion of 'indie-ness' in every other media, it's a challenge to keep your head above the 'indie currents' and keep swimming ahead. Also, the constant battle to keep your bank balance above 'negative limits' is the biggest motivator of them all! Tags can be untagged anytime or replaced by newer ones. I personally have no particular affinity for a 'certain tag'.

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