Abhay Kumar, whose 2014 film Placebo is still making waves, on the cause and effect of hybrid cinema. Placebo saw a world premiere at IDFA 2014, won the jury nomination for Best Debut, and got a standing ovation at the recent Dharamshala International Film Festival.
How did you take it?
The entire team had been waiting for the Indian premiere since we first screened at Amsterdam in November 2014. It took us one full year to bring the film to an Indian festival. The standing ovations at MAMI and DIFF proved to us that this is where the film has it’s home.
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What was the build up to the film?
It was a film born out of circumstance. There wasn’t even a film to begin with. It began with an observational experiment to simply follow four students for a period of time. However, sometimes stories choose their own tellers and from the documenting process, which was really long, the story emerged.
Your three shorts won at MAMI. Just That Sort of a Day became the first Indian film to compete in the animation category at Tribeca Film Festival and also won at Busan, New York and Regensburg, besides a National Award back home. How have short films helped you as a filmmaker?
My three shorts — Udaan (2009), Mera Ghar (2010) and Life is a Beach (2011) — were all reflections on Mumbai since they were all made for a theme for the competition. Just That Sort of a Day, which I made along with my batchmate Archana Phadke, was my breakout film. In fact, it was through short films that I found my voice. With shorts, at least the way we made them, the stakes were not that high, since we did everything ourselves. It allowed us freestyle through form, narrative and storytelling techniques.
What were the challenges you faced while making the film?
The challenges we faced were similar to anyone wanting to make their films independently and the way they want to- lack of funding, resources pitted against a desire to make something cinematic which holds its own amongst the finest from world cinema. However, we were luckier than most in finding champions for the film along the way – Deepa Bhatia, Anurag Kashyap, the Finnish producers, Vijay Nair, and the entire team which stuck with us throughout. We were very confident of making the film with sheer will and brute force. However, now comes the real challenge of bringing it to the Indian people.
So how do you plan to bring to audiences in India?
That is a question which has had us at our wit’s end. We are trying to come up with an impact campaign strategy to ensure how this film can be accessed by it’s target audience- a limited theatrical, a pan india campus tour etc. We are partnering up with the relevant organizations to make sure this happens. Though to be honest, we do need a champion for the film again. Lets see if somebody stands up for it.