Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Last two days!

If you haven't seen it yet, here are your last two chances to catch it in the theatres.

Thursday and Friday. 4.30 p.m.

We're still averaging about 85 per cent in terms of collections in five days though, in spite of having 'Eklavya' and 'Music and Lyrics' in the same slot as us.

Sathyam Cinemas had already committed to Warner Bros for The Departed for this week's release. Also, there's 'Ghost Rider' and Ram Gopal Varma's 'Nishabd' fighting for slots from Friday. Deepa Mehta's 'Water' is waiting in queue too but might not make it for this Friday.

So, they called me today to tell me that they are shifting TFLW to the weekend morning slot (That's so early that I'm sure no one in my target audience will bother waking up on the weekend but if you are an early riser, hey! You can still catch it during the weekend morning slot!)

For the rest of us normal regular people, it's the last two days to catch the movie.

You can book your tickets by clicking the banner on the right of this page. So there. Another classic example of how difficult it is for indie cinema to survive when big banners and studios are fighting for slots. We surely need more multiplexes, hopefully equipped with digital projection systems.

I should add here that Sathyam Cinemas has been extremely kind to us. They've given us all the marketing support we needed and valuable ad space.

Thank you Supriya, Andy, Nandini, Valli, Ashwini, George, Chetan, Rajkumar, Bhavesh and of course Swaroop and Kiran!

You guys have done your bit to support a small film in an industry dominated and dictated by studios.

We are in the process of finalising nation-wide release plans and I will have details shortly. Still contemplating if we have the resources to do road shows across different cities and if it makes sense in the first place. Especially, because promotions for a theatrical release are so much effort and a lot of money. At the moment, it doesn't seem worth it for one week.

Besides, the revenue for independent cinema, in any case, is not from the box office. In fact, the box office accounts only for not even 5 per cent of the revenue potential. The major revenue for independent films is from satellite and TV rights.

And then, there's also DVD and video rights. Also, there's revenue potential from International rights that could turn out to be a bumper, before we finally put it up on the Internet.

People have been asking me about my next film and I wish I could start right away. But this whole distribution exercise is turning out to be an eye-opener. I got a call today from someone who wanted the film for South Africa. They hadn't even seen the film. She wanted to know how much I wanted for the film over phone, hardly a minute into the call. It sounded like a prank. It probably is. But, the point here is that there are so many markets around the world and so many places that we can reach simply because we've made this film in English.

But it's time to put the channel in place. What's the point of making another independent film without putting a system in place? I strongly believe that once we've established a proper channel and forge alliances with companies and agents around the world, we're in for a digital revolution.

Indie cinema can be industry by itself. We started out Made in Madras inkOperated! with the vision of making every first time filmmakers dream come true. Which means, if you have a script with fresh thought in it, an original idea, passion and conviction to make your film, we will produce your movie.

Alright, I don't want people mailing me starting today. So let me clarify, that's our vision for tomorrow.

First, we need to take TFLW around the country. And then, the world.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

An insider's account

My art director Incognito has put up a post on what the film means to her.

Even on days we didn't have crew availability, we still had Incognito double up as First Assistant Director. I still remember we shot the game show scene with just the actor, the cinematographer, Incognito and her co-art director Preethi at Preethi's house.

The girls have done a phenomenal job with a zero budget. Well, almost zero.

Thank you Incognito, thank you Preethi.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Monday test!

We passed it!!

95 seats today! YES!!

There were three seats booked until noon. And then 60 were sold till four. Exactly 70 at 4.20 p.m. for the 4.30 show. We finished at 95 seats today, that's a 65 per cent collection on a weekday.

Even a mainstream film like Eklavya (finally saw it, review coming up soon) had only a 60 per cent collection for the matinee.

We had full houses during the weekend but the weekend is no indication really for how good a film is doing.

Even bad films do well on the weekend. It's the Monday test that we were anxious about because on a Monday afternoon at Sathyam, you can get tickets to any movie you want.

Which means, 95 people chose to watch That Four Letter Word over 'Ekalavya' and 'Music and Lyrics.' So there it is, we passed the test.

That makes it a 87 per cent opening for the first four days. Thank you everybody who's seen and supported this small little film about regular people, their ordinary lives and their ordinary dreams.

You've just given the courage to many young filmmakers to go ahead and make their own movie. Do spread the word. Tell people how you found the film. I'll link even the bad reviews as long as they don't contain spoilers.

Here's one that calls it an average film. It probably is. Or, maybe it is a bad film. Maybe, I don't know. You tell me. And tell me why. Like my favourite critic writes in his latest post on reviewing:

"What I try to do is write about why I felt about a film the way I did. If I liked it – why? And if I didn’t like it – why not?"

Oops, before I forget, Congratulations on the Indiebloggie, Baddy! You guys have read many reviews/blogs that have said nice things and I think that's the problem.

You have great expectations from someone who's made his first film with four lakh rupees and 18 days of shoot. But thank you for that faith. I'm thrilled with the way Madras has responded.

Independent cinema and indie filmmakers have reason to celebrate.

TFLW for dummies!

When a filmmaker makes a movie, there are parts he spoonfeeds and underlines, just to make sure the audience gets it.

A movie is a movie at the end of the day, you watch it to entertain you.

And there are parts of the film, a filmmaker makes for himself and for those who love cinema.

Cinema, of course, is not always a part of the movie.

Usually, the more commercial it gets, the more it is manufactured for the lowest common denominator and sometimes, dumbing down happens at the expense of the cinema in the movie.

So when I made TFLW, there are parts I made for the lowest common denominator of my already niche target audience. The youth at the crossroads of life.

I had to throw in a few laughs to balance out the serious introspective content of the film. That Four Letter Word was not written as a comedy. It is a light-hearted feel good coming of age film. Those who walked in expecting that, did end up liking it. So it is indeed pleasing that the target audience has recieved it well.

We've had a phenomenal opening for an independent film. And the audience response in the theatres, especially during the climax, is reason to celebrate. It's working. And then, there are parts of the film we designed for who like their cinema. The types who analyse films and appreciate the finer aspects of filmmaking. That is the aspect that's largely gone unnoticed.

This post will just talk about some things we did with the film that many didn't notice. Susan came up with a fairly balanced review, but for the wordage skewing in favour of what's wrong with it. But it's also probably because my newspaper does not want to be seen promoting its own employee.

Since she brought it up, I think I must start with the secret behind the film’s colour scheme. No, it's not about Wohoo! See what we can do with digital technology! It's because the film needed that feel.

The film was designed as a bridge between life and film. (The tagline goes: Boy meets girl. Fact meets fiction. Reality meets fantasy. Life meets film). Everything one should know about the film is right there. ‘Boy meets girl’ is your typical romance genre.

It is ‘Fact meets fiction,’ for obvious reasons.

It's borrowed from life and exaggerated (hence the comic book technique to alienate and facilitate a willing suspension of disbelief and to establish right at the beginning that you are not going to know too much about these guys apart from what you need to know)

Reality meets fantasy is that journey the characters make from dreaming to actually going and getting it. This is based on real people alright, but is clearly not a docu-drama. It is all about elements borrowed from life meeting elements that happen only in film.

The film tries to build a bridge between dreams and reality, between the boy and the girl (we specifically leave her mysterious till the end so that anyone watching that movie from Sunil's shoes can fill in his dream girl in that blank we've created.)

So if you try to represent life, what are the techniques you would use cinematically? Hand-held camera, surely. What else? Hidden cameras (candid camera like we used for the car), CCTV (the voyueristic camera in Zebra's room, at the beach during the six minute scene)... Did you realise that CCTV footage is black n white?

When you try to represent film or what is larger than life, cinematically, you tend to use saturated colours to create a sense of alienation and manufacture willing suspension of disbelief.

What are the other colour schemes that films provide us? The immediate connect would be the black n white Chaplinsque feel. So when you build a bridge between dreams and reality, fact and fiction, life and film, you deem it fit to cinematically represent that bridge through a colour scheme that represents elements from both life and film. So the film tends from reality to fantasy, using another colour scheme associated with surrealism.

We chose blue to create that surreal feel and complete that palette that ranged from black n white of video (that represents life) to scratched black n white film (that represents film). At another level, films are about fulfilling your fantasies.

Most of us go to the movies to see the hero win, to see the boy get the girl, to see good triumph over evil because these things don't often happen in life.

We like the escape films provide from reality. In TFLW, the characters have the same problems you do (and hence the realistic texture and treatment when they are having their talk, the camera is voyeuristic and non-intrusive, like a surviellance camera) but the reason they go to the movies is for the gratification of their dream and the escape films provide us (and hence the larger than life texture and treatment towards the end of the film, the scratched black n white film and the comic interludes... the chase in the end) and the Super-imposed text in the end tying up everything that the film stands for.

That Four Letter Word: Life.

The text in the end roots it back to your reality, spells out how movies are different from life itself.

Our writer friend (I can't call the kid a critic, at least, not from that "review") from New Indian Express displays her intelligence and phenomenal talent by observing: "As Sudhish himself admits at the end of the film that these things did not happen to people in real life."

Her IQ clearly is a notch higher than someone else from her paper who reviewed 'The Inside Man' with a brilliant punchline, after raping the Spike Lee flick. Oh, the famous last words of that review went: "Who was the inside man anyway?" Sorry, I digress.

That Four Letter Word, Life, is always full of those moments. The real, the surreal and the larger than life. We carefully picked scenes that represented these elements and painted them with the colour code from our palette of black n white, blue sepia, colours, saturated colours, burnt out colours and scratched black n white film.

All romance movies are about boy getting girl. We used the classic coming of age setting for this love story/stories of the lead guys, created willing suspension of disbelief with the comic book feel and then went on the life-meets-film trip.

We knew not everyone would understand but this was only for those who liked the cinema in the movie.

We had to use this palette to be true to the spirit of our narrative. That's why this is independent cinema. We tell stories that we want to tell, in a way we want to tell and to an audience we want to talk to.

That's also how it differs from mainstream cinema that caters to a mass. That's also why this is a multiplex film, a niche film, intended for a specific audience.

The screenplay's depth and how much we wanted to tell you about the characters too, was by design. We didn't want to give them surnames because we didn't want to get into their ethnic backgrounds. We wanted to keep it as general and as global as possible and that's exactly why we use the additional comic book narrator. A comic book will tell you Superman flies with a blue cape sporting his underwear outside without bothering to tell you why he does so.

Because, it's a comic book and it shouldn't be taken seriously. The events were made to look random to give it that feel of life in itself. The drag race was to illustrate that Prashant has tried to talk to Vishal before but Vishal being the guy who lives by the moment, is more interested in the challenge the moment presented him with, rather than the one posed by life itself.

And we had to show Prashant make at least one attempt to talk to Vishal before that huge six minute conversation right in the middle of the film (the scene for introspection, as Sunil calls it, the scene that defines the film... that scene that IS what the whole film is about). Basically, if these guys have been friends all along, why didn't Prashant tell Vishal what he did during that scene in all these years that they had been friends? Because, Vishal wouldn’t listen, he would race or do something else that the moment had in store. The race was to establish that equation.

Vishal would always have an answer. He would just ask him to calm down and chill, like he did at the pool table.

Prashant is the voice of reason, the personification of mind. Vishal is all heart and just cannot relate to the way Prashant lives his life.

That's also why Prashant figures that what he has to tell Vishal, he can only tell by addressing Sunil. So when Prashant tells Sunil, he's not expecting a drama King like Sunil to listen, what he tells him is actually directed at Vishal. And Vishal understands that, which is why he shoots back at Prashant and talks in defence of Sunil.

The nuances are all there, maybe our critics aren’t equipped adequately to understand that cinema is all about the sub-text (What you don’t tell but show or insinuate). Every scene is there in the film for a reason.

We would've rewritten the script over a thousand times in five years before we shot this version. And hey, we're in the select club of filmmakers who actually use a bound script.

I urge these critics to watch the movie again [especially, since they didn't have to pay the first time around :)], with an open mind. What I mean by an open mind is: Don't go in trying to like the film or hate the film... just take it one scene at a time.

And kid, remember what Uncle Ben told Peter Parker: "With great power comes great responsibility."

Independent cinema needs an open mind. Not an empty head. Independent filmmakers, unlike other filmmakers, put in their own money to make their film, without the backing of corporates or sponsors or studios, out of their love and passion for cinema.

Like Kamal Hassan once told me, "If you don't give the first man the courage to do something different, why will another even try?"

I'm glad the film is working with the audience.

I also hope this will soon prove that: If I can make a movie, anyone can.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Things you didn't know about That Four Letter Word

1. We finished shooting 90 per cent of the film in one stretch of 12 days. We shot in all for about 18 days (including reshoots and patchwork) and not years as many people think.

2. TFLW was written in 1999 as Made in Madras, as a Tanglish film. But given the scope and the universality of the theme, the producer suggested we keep it global and stick to English.

3. The script was written over email. Murugan was in the US and he would rewrite most of the lines I wrote. He’s the best rewriter. And yes, I’m the better writer.

4. Purab Kohli was originally supposed to play Vishal. But because he was shooting for Supari and unavailable, he told me that Cary would fit the role better.

5. We first shot a trailer for TFLW in February 2002 at Pune, thanks to Abhishek Shah and Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communication. The film then starred MTV VJ Cyrus Sahukar, Channel V VJs Cary Edwards and Ranvir Shorey, my buddy from college Pradyumna Singh Chauhan, my college junior Usha (who then went on to become a VJ) and a friend who later went on to join Radio Mirchi and came to be known as Mirchi Suchi.

6. Early July 2002, Cyrus Sahukar backed out two weeks before shoot saying he wasn’t getting leave. It was only a month ago that I had met Abbas during the press show of his Hindi film debut, 'Ansh'. It was so bad that in the interval, he was all shook up.

We drove to a friend’s place during the break and I showed him the trailer. He had loved it. So I called Abbas. He said he would check dates and call me back. Two minutes later, he said he was in. We met one hour later and had a six hour long meeting when I narrated him the script and gave him a copy. He then told me how he had secretly wished he was part of the film when he saw the trailer. So Abbas was in, Sahukar out.

7. Ranvir Shorey became busy with his play Blue Mug and wasn’t available for the shoot. And we were convinced no one else can play the role but him or Cyrus Broacha.

A guy sitting next table at Qwikys walked up to us after eavesdropping into our conversation and gave us Cyrus Broacha’s number. We called Broacha religiously for a week before we found him at home. He liked the role, promised us dates in what turned out to be the busiest month of his career.

During that month, he hosted the UN AIDS conference at Barcelona and shared stage with the then US President Clinton and had to rush to Dubai for the Chotta VJ Hunt. After 10 days of shoot, we still didn’t hear from Broacha. We had made frantic random calls to all major hotels in Spain from the Iway opposite Residency Towers to trace him. We had scheduled his shoot on day 12.

On day 11, we took a break and went for ‘Bend it like Beckham.’ During the interval, Cary suggested we call Ranvir and check. It seemed like a ridiculous idea because Ranvir was upset with us because we couldn’t wait till he finished his Blue Mug schedule. Besides, Ranvir did tell us that he didn’t have leave left and Channel V would not give him anymore leave. But we didn’t have any other option for Zebra, so we called him.

Two days later, he flew into Madras and completed his role in five days. It just happened that he had resigned from Channel V merely two days before we called him. Life.

8. All the outdoors of the first version of TFLW were shot in Manipal because we wanted a university town feel. We even got fancy number-plates done that said TFLW 01, TFLW 02 and so on…

9. About 95 per cent of the film was ready and complete as per schedule but due date hassles with our stars, we couldn’t get all of them to come to Madras at the same time. Pradyumna had injured his knee so badly that his physio banned him from any sort of exertion. He underwent physiotherapy for nearly six months in Madras. Meanwhile, Suchitra became Mirchi Suchi and didn’t get leave. So we waited for the stars to give us dates.

10. The producer’s little daughter had a little tumour in her brain. So he had to shift to the US and we put the project on hold for a while.

11. Mid 2004, we decided we were going to reshoot the film because we didn’t like it. We studied it extensively and realised that the fundamental problem was with the script. The 144 page long script had resulted in 136 minutes of talking spread over 72 scenes. It was like a radio play because the actors said everything and there was hardly any visual subtext. We figured we had to make it racy. The new script was 106 scenes in 90 pages. We decided we can’t bother the producer. So Abbas took charge as Executive Producer and we entrusted him with the responsibility of getting funding.

12. In November 2004, a couple of my friends got together and decided to make a movie. Three months later, they had a movie. It was a no-budget movie called ‘I just don’t get it.’ It was about two guys making a movie without any money. Due to a few technical glitches and a redundant screenplay, they decided not to do anything with the film. But I was inspired.

If these two guys can go around and make their dream come true in three months, it’s high time I did something after sitting on my ass for five years. In January, I told Abbas that we should shoot with whatever resources we had. He wanted time because his marketing guy wanted two more weeks to get the cheques from corporates. We had had no luck in over six months, but we gave him time till mid February. Mid Feb, he asked for one more month, we agreed and told him that we will start shoot on March 15, no matter what happened. We had two plans. How we would shoot with money. And how we would without it. Early March, Abbas gave up on trying to find sponsors.

Meanwhile, we got everything ready for shooting with available resources. First day of shoot was on March 16 at the British Council. We had a two day break before we resumed shoot on March 19.

13. After about four days of shoot, on March 23, Abbas and me had to part ways because of creative differences. It was a painful decision to make because Usha had to leave to the US on April 13 and wasn’t coming back for at least 8 months.

Parting ways meant we had to reshoot everything and lose quite a bit. Abbas brought with him Shakti, a replacement for Pradyumna, an experienced cinematographer in Rajesh Datar, free food from his friends in Gallopin Gooseberry and free cameras provided to us by Panasonic. So in less than 48 hours, we recast and regrouped to catch up with the schedule. Aashil, who works with IBM Bangalore, sent me the Sprite ad he had done, over email. I instantly knew he could play Sunil. Thanks to Vijay for recommending him, Aashil is a natural. He’s brilliant. Watch him in TFLW and you are bound to like him.

14. The evening before Aashil was supposed to land in Chennai for the first day of the shoot (our third attempt to shoot the movie and second within a week), my grand-dad died.

My folks had to leave town but Mom left me her ATM card. She said: “Go ahead, make your movie. He’s dead and gone anyway.”

Thank you Mom, because if we hadn’t started the film that day, we wouldn’t have finished shoot before Usha had to leave to the US. And we wouldn’t have released the movie by now.

15. Prashant was cast one and a half hours before his first scene. We had auditioned over 20 people that day and had given up hope. And, Praveen got it right the first time. Praveen was the fourth guy to play Prashant after Pradyumna, Shakti and Tejas. We've shot Scene No.55, the drag race scene 4 times in all, with different actors. Oh yes, Tejas was an actor who ran away after one day of shoot because he wanted to spend time with his girlfriend. And he disappeared without telling us and we were left guessing for two days. Extremely unprofessional fellow, this Tejas Sreedhar. Praveen was the exact opposite. What he lacked by talent, he made up with hard work, dedication and discipline. He puts in a lot of work and it is not easy for a young theatre actor used to saying his lines out loud to underplay.

16. The climax scene was shot on April 1. We needed 20 cars to create a traffic jam on New years eve. But people didn’t show up thinking it was an April Fools joke. We had all of seven cars that night. But we had to go ahead and finish shoot.

17. We finished shoot on April 4. And Vijay edited 25 minutes of the film featuring Usha by April 8, just so that she could dub and leave to the US. And she did. It was all per plan.

18. The Editing was jinxed too. Vijay was editing the film at home on his computer. He lost all the data, everything he had edited, including the 25 minutes we had completed of Usha, when his system crashed. Finally, we had no choice but to move to a professional editing suite. Pradeep, my very first assistant director, had gone on to become a producer with SS Music and later Marketing head and Kosmic Studio. He got us a good deal at Kosmic and we got Vijay to come and edit in a professional set up.

19. Editing took a lot of time. Editing the same footage the second time around could be a pain. Ask any editor, he’ll refuse to do it. The colour correction was done at Vijay’s own new studio AgNO3. (Coming soon: The post explaining the colour palette used in the film, something that our critics just didn't get!)

20. Vijay studied film at Vancouver Film School. Vijay and Pradeep were the guys who made ‘I just don’t get it’. The guys who inspired me to go ahead and make my film no matter what. Pradeep did the cinematography for the final schedule of four days.

21. For the scene where Prashant teaches Sara to drive, both actors Praveen and Paloma didn’t know to drive. The scene required them to almost bang into the car. It was a difficult scene to shoot only because out of the four people who would be in the car (Praveen, Paloma, Pradeep and me), only the guy holding the camera knew to drive. So he was instructing Praveen and Paloma how to drive, while shooting.

Frustrated with Praveen not looking scared enough while acting, Pradeep kept the camera on the steering and drove recklessly (while shooting at the same time) just to make the fear look real.

In the process, he ended up actually banging the car. We’ve used that shot in the film. The car he banged was our camera unit car. Oh wait, the best part is that the car we were driving was Pradeep’s.

22. At the editing table, after showing it to a different sets of people from the target group, we cut down nearly 14 pages (Amounting to nine minutes from the 100 minute Director's Cut). The TFLW DVD will have not just these deleted scenes but also the entire movie we trashed.

I still personally like many scenes from the old version. Too bad we couldn't finish it. But this version is infinitely better.

Friday, February 23, 2007

100 minutes before the first day first show!

The moment of truth is just a few minutes away.

The ultimate test for a movie.

How will the audience react?

I'm going to be there to see it for myself.

Unlike a huge Sathyam or Devi hall which has about a 1000 seats, Studio 5 has only 148. I should be able to hear the whispers, the snide remarks, the snores and even the slightest hints of annoyance.

That sort makes me a little curious but no, I'm not nervous anymore.

To be honest, I was absolutely nervous the night of the press show. I went to bed at four. But I just couldn't sleep. I was wide awake till 6.30. I had set my alarm for 7 because I had to be up and reach the theatre by 9 to check the projector installation.

Managed about half an hour of sleep, got to the venue to get the shock of my life. The print wasn't even half as good as it was at the festival premiere. I had prepared things to say to introduce the film but the picture quality completely threw me off gear. My blood pressure shot up and I was wide awake, almost a nervous wreck.

But thanks to the efficient people at Real Image, we were able to fix the mysterious lip sync problem that surfaced last minute. The picture quality was terrible but people who showed up just blamed that on the low budget production values.

After about 20 minutes into the film, I could finally relax because not only had I forgotten about the bad picture quality, the audience behind (the college crowd) seemed to be having a good time. They were laughing at regular intervals.

At least at the places I was hoping they would.

Vikram was kind enough to make it though he had a late night shoot. Sanjay Pinto was sweet enough to send the crew from NDTV.

Sashi, my original producer, finally got to see it on the big screen. And as expected, we only heard only nice things. Obviously, people who come for your special show aren't going to be mean to you on your face.

Anyway, NDTV did a story on us and it appeared yesterday. It made it to the top 10 stories of the day and will be featured at 6.30 this evening. So do watch out for that. Vikram too said nice things about the film. He loved the dialogues and the natural flow of the screenplay.

Ganesh and his friends seem to relate to the movie. That is very heartening because the film was made for exactly that kind of an audience. People at the crossroads of their life.

Then, yesterday, we got our first negative review from this blogger who wanted to like the movie but ultimately thought it sucked. I don't know how old this guy is, but I hope and pray he's not in college or just out of it. If he is, I should probably take his opinion a little seriously.

Else, there is nothing to worry about because we don't actually expect people outside our target group to like it. Like he says, it is about ordinary people mouthing very ordinary or bad lines. What if, THAT *exactly* was the idea of the film?

There was another one that came out today in the New Indian Express. The writer sounds like the age group I'm talking about. So, I respect her opinion, if not her "review". Without quite intending to, she gives us the biggest compliment when she says it does not look like there was a script in the first place. Again, what if THAT *exactly* was the idea of the film? Hmmm!

Though it is tempting to link the story to showcase her opinion on the film, I don't want to because it contains spoilers. (It's high time they taught that in school along with the other basics of criticism: Thou Shalt Not Give Away Spoilers!)

I'm not sure how many people know that a tagline usually tells you what to expect from a film.

So here it goes: "Boy meets girl. Fact meets fiction. Reality meets fantasy. Life meets film."

Hence, there is a possibility that the film was designed and structured to blend life with film.

So maybe when we give you a film that's as random as life and about ordinary people, you shouldn't be expecting to see anything more or less.

For all the films I ripped apart when I was little, maybe this is poetic justice.

As they say, what goes around, comes around. I think these bad "reviews" (more like opinions) are a good thing because they are putting things in perspective. They provide a balance for all the nice things people have had to say all along. So it's all cool really.

It probably will do a lot of good to bring down the hype. With great hype comes great expectations.

So all you people heading to watch this movie, remember, this is a small film.

This is a debut film. This is a 5 on 10 film, a "not bad" film. A lot of people have liked it. Some haven't. Those who came with an open mind have liked it. Those who came with preset notions, clearly haven't.

The good news for me is that we've managed to fix the picture quality and get back the old print by noon today. That's such a relief because it was the technical quality I was really worried about.

Finally, got some time to breathe. I'm increasingly convinced about the content of the film with every passing day, seeing the positive response it has generated from people who matter. Just another hour to go, so I'm off to the theatre. And hey, you can book your tickets here. :D

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The "speech" that I couldn't deliver

I had prepared this speech during that sleepless night before the special screening. But with all those technical glitches, I got really worked up and never got around to say the things I wanted to say.

Thanks to my laptop, I still got that speech-copy!

So here goes:

Well, thank you everybody for making it here so early in the morning. I'm a morning person and I absolutely hate traffic. So I really appreciate that you've all come.

You probably have no idea of how nervous I am right now. I mean, this is one of those days I wish I were on that side of the stage.

I would've come late and missed this whole talk thing and given my track record of all the movies I've ripped apart... may God bless all those filmmakers... I hope today is not the day for poetic justice.

Well, today is going to be an acid test for the film. Because what you say matters, what you say is going to make people watch or not watch this movie.

Before I leave you to watch the film, I just wanted to go back to the day it all started and thank a few people who're as guilty and responsible as me in producing this film. To begin with, Murugan Subramanian, my best friend and co-writer.

I still remember the day we sat and discussed how different we were as friends and yet we were the best of friends. We all wanted different things from life and had a different approach to go and get it.

We then realised that it wasn’t just our story. It was everybody’s story and everybody’s problem: What do we want to do from the rest of our lives? What is the price we are willing to pay? To put it in two four letter words. What next? I’m sure we all ask that question to ourselves every once in a while.

At the end of that talk, all he said was: Alright, we’re going to write this movie. And you’re going to make this into a movie because it’s a lot of work. If you don’t, you are so dead. I’ll strip you to your underwear and chase you all along Marina.

Now that’s a sight you don’t want to see. Aren’t you glad I didn’t give up? It’s taken 7 years for this day to arrive but yeah, here it is.

Not just Murugan, all my other buddies from different parts of the world chipped in to make my dream come true. Raghu, Arvind, Sukumar, Nadeem, Ravicharan, China, Ghirijah... I haven't slept so I know you ll forgive me if I've left you out.

I would also like to thank the man who gave me the faith. My original producer Sashi Chimala, who I ironically met at the special show of Mission Impossible 2. This has been our little mission impossible. We shot the movie once with his money. And then trashed it completely for assorted reasons including non availability of the stars.

It would’ve been criminal to take money from him again. So we shot it the second time around. With the only thing you really need to make a movie. Conviction.

At this point, I need to thank the guys who taught me what conviction was all about, the guys who inspired me to go ahead and make my film no matter what.

Vijay Prabakaran, my editor, is a filmmaker himself. He’s currently in the hospital fighting leptospirosis. Lucky for him, or I would’ve inflicted him with another viewing of That Four Letter Word right now.

Yeah, I’ve made him see the film for over a 1000 times. He had to edit it. He didn’t have a choice.

Now, Vijay made a film with no money at all, along with his college buddy, Pradeep Kalipurayath. It was called ‘I just don’t get it’. They studied together and were meeting up after a long time and they decided they were gonna make a movie. Three months later, they had a movie. Shot with no money at all. Okay, I’m exaggerating. They spent about 20,000 rupees.

Vijay and Pradeep made that movie that never saw the light of day because of a few technical glitches. That gave us the courage. If these guys can do something within three months after a chance meeting over a cuppa tea.

Surely, with the home-work we had done on the script, we could do it too. We just had to make people believe in the script. And thankfully for us, they did. So thank you Captain, thank you Pradeep for the inspiration.

Actually, Pradeep was my first assistant director when I started pre-production in 2000. He then went on to do a lot of things including the no-budget film called “I just don’t get it” before he came back to the film as the director of photography.

I would like to thank Abhishek Shah, founding partner of Be Positive 24, my brother and the first AD of the first film we made for all the years he has shared my dream.

I would like to thank my family that’s stood rock solid behind me.

They aren’t here now because I told them we’re coming back to see it, paying for our own tickets.

My Grand-dad died the day before we were supposed to shoot this version of the movie.

My Mom left me her card and said Go ahead, scratch it, make your movie. Thank you Mom, thank you Dad. Because, if not for that, we wouldn’t have actually got started on the film.

I would like to thank my entire team. They are like family too.

Cary and Usha have been in this film since 2001. So has my production manager Archana, who hasn’t come today because she’s just had a cute little baby.

Cary, our official carrier, has driven us from Madras to Bangalore to Mangalore to Manipal all these years for location hunts. He’s the official carrier because he also carried tripods, played everything from spotboy to playboy and also contributed the biggest set in the film: his car. Thank you Car-y!

Bad joke. I know.

Thank you Ush. She was leaving for a long holiday to the United States on April 13, 2005.

Now, we had planned to shoot between March 19 to April 5 and then do a quick edit of her scenes so that she could dub and leave. It turned out that we weren’t able to shoot before March 26. To meet the tight deadlines, we worked 20 hours every day. Sometimes 22. But we wound up shoot on April 5 as we planned. Thank you Ush. For keeping your promise and dubbing before you left.

There is a story behind every person who’s been in this film but we don’t have the time nor do I want to hype this up.

We ll do more of that after the movie.

For now, I’ll just shut up and let you watch the film.

The team from Sathyam Cinemas

Andy, Valli and Supriya form the team from Sathyam Cinemas that diligently worked on promoting the film. Here they are, with Paloma, Cary and yours truly.


All Smiles: That's me, Vikram, Cary Edwards, co-producer Sashi Chimala and Paloma Rao

Praveen being interviewed by NDTV

That's Praveen Bharatwaj who played Prashant in the movie.

Two Thumbs-up, says Vikram

Vikram at the special screening of TFLW on February 21, 2007, right outside Six Degrees.

The venue on the D-Day!

Six Degrees: The venue for the special screening for select invitees and media.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Wednesday morning 10.15 a.m.

That image, at Six Degrees on February 21, will be followed by 91 minutes 13 seconds of the movie that's been part of about 25 per cent of my entire lifetime and probably all my youth.

It is a special preview show for the media and opinion leaders. Do give me a call at 9382118103 and book yourself a seat if you feel left out.

Else, we have the commercial release on February 23. And, you can contribute to the cause of independent cinema and buy your own tickets. :D