May 8, 2013 2:45:21 am
Few filmmakers can claim to be living their childhood dream of making movies,especially when they grew up in Africa without much exposure to cinema. However,Amit Kumar director of Monsoon Shootout,selected for a midnight screening on a beach during Festival de Cannes makes this claim convincingly. To back this,he recounts his first brush with the world of make-believe. When I was around eight years old,my elder brother Anish and I used to play a game called Continue. I was the narrator making up situations and superhero characters and my brother was the sidekick. When my parents would interrupt the game,we would stop playing with the understanding that it would continue. Somewhere around that time I knew that I would be a storyteller, says Kumar,who spent his childhood in Botswana and Zambia.
This conviction drove Kumar to quit a cushy job at a multi-national company and eventually study direction at Film and Television Institute of India (FTII),Pune. Though Kumar considers his time at FTII highly under-utilised,the exposure to films was excellent. Its at FTII that I met Rajeev Ravi,my cameraman,and Asif Kapadia. London-based Kapadia had come to shoot his graduation film and Kumar helped him on that.
When Asif returned to shoot The Warrior in 2000,we travelled to Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan,developing the script. During those days,I pitched ideas for The Bypass and Monsoon Shootout to him. I was keen on pitching the latter for Cinema Extreme,but Asif insisted that I develop The Bypass first, he says. In hindsight,Kumar is happy that he followed Asifs advice. The Bypass (2003),a short film produced by Trevor Ignman,bagged a BAFTA award,and later,the UK Film Council gave him a go-ahead to develop Monsoon Shootout.
But locking the script took five more years. During this period,Kumar went on to assist director Florian Gallenberger on Shadows of Time and had his first baby. The years 2009 and 2010 were spent looking for finance. We had a French and a Dutch producer on board. But as per the rules,we needed an Indian producer since it was going to be an international co-production, he says. The producers he met in those years wanted a star in the cast. His search ended when he ran into Guneet Monga at a party in 2011.
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Its about taking decisions and I am not very good at it, says Kumar,who admits to have taken a long time to decide on the cast. He had Nawazuddin Siddiqi in mind to essay the role of a gangster in Monsoon Shootout ever since The Bypass days. Vijay Varma,as a rookie cop who faces the dilemma of whether he should shoot the gangster,Tannishtha Chatterjee and Neeraj Kabi joined the cast later.
I dont think my film is art-house enough. But then its not a masala film either. I look at it as best of both worlds. The fact that its having a midnight screening shows that its gripping enough. The Cannes officials do not put an art-house film for it, he says.
The Cannes outing,hopes Kumar,will give a boost to his future dream project. Its a movie set in the backdrop of World War II. Some years ago,I read about an incident in Burma where the Indian Army was involved. That got me interested. After much research,the script is ready now, he says. Kumar is hoping to find an international collaborator and producer for his project soon.
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