3/31/11

A TALK WITH ONIR ON HIS UPCOMING FILM "I AM"

Here is our talk with filmmaker Onir about his upcoming film I AM. Onir has in the past made critically acclaimed films like My Brother Nikhil and also ventured into mainstream cinema with Bas Ek Pal and Sorry Bhai. The film I AM consists of four different stories; Abhimanyu, Megha, Afia and Omar. With an interesting cast and really intriguing story lines, I AM is definitely the biggest thing that has happened to Independent Cinema in India in recent times.



Q4C:  I AM was produced in a unique way involving around 400 people. How difficult was it to follow this style of production and how effective was it?

Onir: Of course it was very difficult. Firstly, there was no common thread amongst the stakeholders and secondly, as initially it happened on the internet, we had to give a lot of time, around 2-3 hours a day on social media, convincing them and explaining them the entire thing. But the thing is, during the whole process, I did not think negative. From the time I received the first check, I was sure that this film would be made. And talking about the effectiveness of this production model, I think the best thing that happened is from the time I made my first post on Facebook, the film took only 1.5 months of shooting after that. Also, there was total creative freedom and a hassle free movie making experience, unlike what happens when you work with big corporate houses. There was no one dictating terms, right from conception to release.

Q4C: All the four stories of I AM address social issues of the modern urban society. Do you think THAT made it easier to produce the film this way?


Onir: Well I don't really know. I am sure people love to be a part of something that is socially motivating and talks of some social issue, but what I honestly feel is, people love it even more to be a part of cinema in general. What probably fascinated them was that even with a small contribution, they became the co-owners of a full length feature film. I think that has been the strong attracting point of this system.


Q4C: You are not really the art-house filmmaker and not really the commercial one either. While My Brother Nikhil and I Am are more inclined towards the art house genre, Bas Ek Pal and Sorry Bhai are more commercial in nature. How exactly do you define your approach to cinema?

Onir: I see myself as a mainstream filmmaker, but sensible mainstream cinema. I think when people term you as an "art-house" or a "parallel" cinema maker, you are somewhere sidelined. I want to work from within the industry and make good films. Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee and others are doing the same. They are making entertaining yet very sensible cinema from being very within the industry.

Q4C: I AM not only by its plot, but also by its production style, opens a new vista for Independent cinema in India. Do you think this will be crucial to give other independent film makers the confidence to come ahead and make films?

Onir: I really hope so. This has been an experiment and seeing it develop to what it has, I think my production house would be more than happy to help new filmmakers come up with their stories and produce them.

Q4C: Okay, this can be a little tough to answer, but which of the four stories in I AM do you connect the most to?

Onir: Indeed it is difficult to answer, but I think the story of Megha, was something I felt most connected to. I understand personally, the need of a "home" even though you are settled elsewhere. I am from Bhutan and had to leave because of uncertain political conditions. So Srinagar has a similar story and hence there is a personal connection with the segment I AM Megha

Also, the first story we shot was I AM Abhimanyu which stars Sanjay Suri in the lead. We talk of child abuse in this one and I think its a really important topic to bring out. Immense number of kids in India are a victim of sexual abuse and this segment deals with a protagonist who moves forward with the burden of his past, as he was one such victim too.



Q4C: And how difficult was it to shoot in Kashmir?

Onir: Immensely difficult. We were indeed lucky to have shot there. There were lot of security issues, like only the core team knew the details about the location of shoot, etc. and as a filmmaker keeping all that in mind while shooting can be difficult. But we pulled it off nicely and got some really good shots of the beautiful place. I think we were the last to shoot there, no one after us have yet got the rights. But yes, shooting in Kashmir is not only expensive and uncertain, but also a huge challenge to any filmmaker.

Q4C: The subjects you have chosen are pretty bold and realistic. Did the censor board cut anything out?

Onir: The censor board has given it an A rating without a cut and I am really happy for that! The film addresses certain important issues and cutting something out of it wouldn't have done justice to the story. So, apart from 3-4 mute censors, the film will release as it is and I am immensely happy for that.

Q4C: I AM obviously has done very well in the film festival scene, internationally. How important are these accolades to you as a filmmaker?

Onir: I think they are very important. I do not really want to be a "Bollywood" director. I want to make good Indian cinema and slowly as a filmmaker I want to expand my audience beyond the boundaries. And I think these accolades are important considering the expansion of your audience base. Like, I was extremely touched when people from different countries messaged me that they have already seen My Brother Nikhil or Sorry Bhai. That gives you immense satisfaction as a filmmaker.

To know more about the movie, log on to http://www.iamthefilms.com/
I AM releases countrywide on April 29.


4 comments:

  1. Have been eagerly waiting for this movie since long, this interview just gave the nudge in the right direction. And the interview is great, very professional and interesting. :)

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  2. this is getting bigger and better. love it... way to go brothers. :) :)and a fantastic character and subject for the interview. substance!

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  3. @Stuti: Thank you so much. Those are really kind words.

    @DG: Thanks man...It is really THIS kind of support that would help us grow :) Thanks!!

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  4. Congrats on getting the interview and a good filmmaker's interview at that. Congratulations.

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