The Indian middle class has always taught their children to stick to secure jobs and not take any risks. The movie, Shuttlecock Boys revolves around the lives, successes and failures of four friends who hail from lower middle class backgrounds in Delhi. The question that four friends often ask is whether they should accept what life offers to us on a platter or should we try to chase our dreams, taking the path less taken, i.d. ‘startup’?
The debut film by Hemant Gaba who moved from US to start Pennywise Films is made on a shoestring budget of INR 35 lacs, took 22 days and 18 locations in New Delhi to complete the shoot. Hemant went through rough patches during pre & post-production phase and figured out low cost solutions to finally have the movie premiere on multiplex chains such as PVR Director’s Rare.
Here is an interview with Hemant on challenges he faced and importantly, state of indie movie producers in India:
Pi: From a corporate life to producing a movie. How did this happen?
Hemant Gaba: Unfortunately, I was never content with my corporate life. But at the same time; I wasn’t sure either that what exactly I want to do. The day I figured that filmmaking is my calling; decision to quite corporate life came easy. Pankaj Johar & I produced the film together. Pankaj was also a qualified Chartered Accountant and worked for a big IT Company. And we had been friends for 15 years and now business partners for last 4 years.
Pi: How did you manage to make the movie in a low budget?
Hemant Gaba: It needed planning, convincing people to work for almost no money and just by asking for favours. Pretty much, same stuff that we would do to make a start up work 🙂
We were thrown out from a park on very first day of the shoot by the police even when we had permission from them. Shooting on 18 locations in just 22 days with a crew of 30 people was the major hurdle. The challenge was managing time because time was essentially money which we didn’t have. We kept our focus on performances of the lead characters instead of investing time in creating good looking visuals. We shot the film on Super 16mm camera keeping a close eye on the raw stock that was getting used. 10 minutes of raw stock cost us some 5,000/-. So we tried to show the maximum with minimum number of shots.
For the home locations; we decided to use some of our friends & relatives’ homes. For office locations; we sent more than 500 cold emails and then some 7-8 companies invited us for a meeting. Two of them ended up giving us locations against film credits.
Also, we used sync sound over dubbing in order to have organic performances. For lights, we used very few hired lights and mostly used inexpensive Chinese Lanterns!
There aren’t any post production labs in Delhi and also we didn’t find any sound technicians to handle the post production; so we moved to Mumbai for the POST. After offline edit & sound design; next step was to go to the lab again where our film negatives got screwed by the film lab editors. This was a huge blow for us. It took us 9-10 months to fight with the lab and get our film digitally restored.
After the film completion, we didn’t know how to go about showcasing it. We were naïve, so didn’t know how film festival circuit functions. Started approaching Film Distributors, we figured that the entire struggle to make the film was nothing. There is a saying in the film industry that it’s easier to make a film but very difficult to release it in theaters which is indeed true. A celebrity endorsement or deep pockets do help but we didn’t have either.
So we became like door to door salesmen, went to every film corporate and film distributor. During the meantime, we got some opportunities to showcase the film in film festivals in India & US. The response to the film gave us confidence to keep pursing for a theatrical release. And it took us 1.5 years after film completion to get this theatrical release that is scheduled on 3rd August.
Pi: Tell us about rejections/challenges you faced while making the movie.
Hemant Gaba: More than external challenges, it was a test of (3 Ps) persistence, patience and passion which is a challenge with ourselves. An average independent film takes approx takes a minimum of 2 years from being on Paper (i.e. Ready Script) to come alive on screen (if its lucky enough). We took 4 years to see the light of the day……so the 2 years in between was a challenge 🙂
Pi: In general, Indie film producers do not get accepted so easily. How did you manage to get the release @PVR?
Hemant Gaba: It’s true, in fact a lot of indie films never get to reach theaters for a commercial release. I myself know at least 10 indie film that are ready but still trying to get a release for more than a year.
Shuttlecock Boys was screened in Siri Fort Auditorium last year as a part of a film festival, where we had invited Mr. Shiladitya Bora from PVR Director’s Rare. He liked the film and then we were in queue for a long time to get a release date… So our turn came only now.
Pi: Growth of social media usage. How has social media helped you in promotion of the movie?
Hemant Gaba: We of course don’t have budgets for TV Promos… in fact not even for Print Ads. Social Media, so far has been our prime tool to reach out to people. Even news articles online and in print are re-circulated on social media to enhance the eyeballs. We have mainly relied on organic growth than Facebook Ads.
Pi: Why not release the movie on Youtube?
Hemant Gaba: Releasing the film on Youtube sounds fancy but it doesn’t really pay a dime. Imagine getting some $100 for 1 Lac views plus. We will be more than glad to do a Youtube release if any advertiser can pay us even INR 5 per view.
Pi: Last but not the least : Do indie-film makers lack ambition and patience to make it big?
Hemant Gaba: Actually sometimes indie filmmakers become a part of the studio system when they become big. And there has been a tremendous change in the Independent Filmmaking since last 3 years because of the inexpensive and accessible digital technology. Give this space another 4-5 years; you will be hearing some of the small indie-filmmakers making it big.
The movie is releasing on August 3rd by PVR Director’s Rare across 5 cities including Delhi, Gurgaon, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai.
Watch the trailer: