Buy a lottery ticket and hope the numbers align in your favour, bringing you money and the promise of a different future. In a city in south Goa, Cuncolim, an old man Alfred D’Souza clutches on to this dream. Then he wins the lottery and his life turns into a nightmare.
In a nutshell, this is the story of the Indian film, Welcome M1LL10NS. Beyond the numerically aligned name, what makes it special is its Oscar ambitions. The film is one of many selected to contest the Academy Awards 2019 in the general category. At the end of November, it will have its Los Angeles release at Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills, US.
“We took a chance sending the film for consideration, not imagining we would get a response,” says director Milroy Goes. The process was a long one. “It takes six months for the Academy to check all requests. We received an email saying we qualify to contest in the general category. We submitted the film and they assigned us a distributor (Double Exposure Distribution) in LA.”
It’s quite an achievement for a film that’s still relatively unknown. Chances are, you haven’t heard of Welcome M1LL10NS. It isn’t backed by Bollywood or A-list stars/producers. It has been produced by UK-based Manna Mohie Films. It hasn’t released in India, its only publicity is on social media and its stars haven’t been linked to any pre-release controversy.
Welcome M1LL10NS began to take shape in 2014. Goes took plot inspiration from con artists he met and stories of scams he heard from people and read about — such as people pretending to offer jobs to unsuspecting locals, taking commissions and then escaping with the money. “Everyone reads about scams in the papers. No one knows what happen to people after they get duped — how do they go about their daily lives. Do they seek revenge?” He worked all these thoughts into the film, which follows the life of a retired old man after he wins the lottery. D’Souza (Les Menezes) deposits Rs 10 lakh as taxes for his winnings and then doesn’t hear back about his money or his Rs 5 crore lottery. He files a police case but nothing comes of it.
The story begins from his moment of loss. A French relative, Kuski Braganza (Joanne Da Cunha), on a visit to Goa convinces him to reopen his case. The film features the cyber crime department of the country and other key characters include a corrupt police officer, a taxi driver and a Punjabi millionaire.
“This is a modern-day story. It talks about real issues and how con artists find ready prey for their scams. Though it’s a suspense thriller, there is much to learn from it. Everyone wants to get rich quickly but you have to remember that greed always has consequences,” says producer Manpreet Singh, aka Manna Mohie, who essays the role of one of the suspects.
Goan actor and singer Sohan Borcar plays a lazy and corrupt cop forced to open the case. Though reluctant at first, he soon realises he can pocket some of the money. “I enjoyed working in this film because the story is inspired by real events. Such stories always come with a strong sense of place and emotion,” he says.
The late Razak Khan, who essays a pivotal role of taxi driver Brake Bones or Brian Rodrigues, died a few days after the completion of the film in 2016. The film went on hold for some time after his death.
It took two years to produce the film, another eight months for post-production. Welcome M1LL10NS was shot in Goa, Punjab, the UK and LA, and the characters speak English, Hindi, Konkani and Punjabi.
There are no songs in the film, though there’s a bit of Khaddyan Padlo, a Goan parody of that cult-craze Despacito. National Award winner and playback singer Shashaa Tirupati has sung the track for the end credits and that last scene, filmed in LA, hints at a sequel. The title track is Danish band Michael Learns To Rock’s Someday It’s Gonna Make Sense, with guitarist Mikkel Lentz scoring for part of the film. Lentz provided the background score, pro bono, and was one of few people to see the film’s first cut.
For now, the focus is on its international release, followed by the voting process. Then, the team will look at a worldwide and India release. “I’m happy we got selected to contest and not worried about getting a nomination. Making it there is a huge step,” says Goes.