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A Guide in Cost Effective Independent Filmmaking By 'Welcome Home' Director

A Guide in Cost Effective Independent Filmmaking By 'Welcome Home' Director

Welcome Home director Pushkar Mahabal talks about how he reverse engineered his first film project and finally got Paresh Rawal to produce it.

A story is made of three parts: a setup, a conflict and a resolution. And when it comes to Bollywood, the setup and conflict for most people that come here is the same, they come with a dream and are faced with the conflict of an unknown city and untappable industry. It’s always in the resolution that things get interesting and different for each individual case. And the same is the case with 'Welcome Home' and me.

I came to Mumbai in 2006, like thousands of others, with a fairly simple goal, I wanted to be a music director. And I did become one for a while in the Marathi industry, only to realise that my true passion lay in directing. The decision was fairly simple; the journey, not so much.

I started out on the path, trying to build a network, trying to prove that I know my job. Made a few film pilots (samples) along the way. But things only ever looked promising, the materialisation of promises is not what this industry is known for. Television saved me for quite a while; both financially and in keeping my faith in myself as a director. But a film project seemed elusive. For those who haven’t experienced it yet, weird things happen in this industry. Things that border on funny, heart breaking and incredulous at the same time. I’ll give you a small example, that may tell you how incomprehensible things here can be:

I make a web series pilot. The script is written, the treatment ready to show. The actress is selected and has worked on the part. The network loved it! They loved it completely: the direction, the writing, the performance. Things, like a thousand times before, looked promising. And then the caveats began.

The direction is awesome, but I cannot direct the project because I am a “television” director. The writing is great, gripping, but the writer cannot remain the same because she has no profile (no television work, no web work, no films). The actress is fabulous but she cannot be cast because she once did a few shows on television and is therefore a “television” actress and not a “web” actress.

It’s been years and I still am trying to decipher what they meant by any of it.

So there it is. The weirdness of this life. But unpredictability is half the fun here, one just needs a slightly thicker skin. And for us it was the realisation that depending on others is not an option, for we lacked the patience to wait in the hope of that one day.

So after stories like the ones mentioned above, desperately wanting to make a film, I sat irritated one day, wondering what I should do. And in the same mood entered my writer Ankita Narang, tired of trying to find a break and not be someone without any profile to show. I said, “Let’s make a film, ourselves.” And without any discussion of the gravity of the gamble we were doing, it was decided, we were making a film.

Normally, a film is made in the following manner: A writer writes the script, a producer likes it and decides to fund it, the director comes on board, actors are cast and the shoot happens. But that is a luxury we did not have. Pooling in all the money we had, we had just enough to make the film and pay no one. So, we reverse engineered the entire project.

From previous small exercises, we knew what all we could get based on relations, if we shot the film in and around Nagpur (that being the home town of myself, the writer and the cinematographer). We then made a list of all actors that we knew personally, and who would be on board with an idea as crazy as this. Who would come in, put in months of work and not take a penny till the film was sold; if the film was sold. Then the script was written; around the actors we had, the locations we could get and the visuals that I and Saee Bhope (my DOP) thought we could pull off on our budget. And so the seed for 'Welcome Home' was planted.

Having controlled the narrative of the film to suit our needs, came the next big step, the actual production. And so we made calls. To all our friends still in the city, friends who could take that time off work, who would work not for the money but for their friends’ film. Apart from us and the actors, the entire crew of the film was local. They had the passion, we somewhat had the knowledge. And production after all is management and planning, something all people trying to survive in this city learn sooner or later.

But films also need a lot of other people and things. You need costumes and art, makeup and music. And here came in the friends we’d made over the years in Mumbai and our own passion for the film that made us confident that we could multi task. For fun, read the credits sometime if you can. Saee Bhope is the cinematographer and the Costume Designer. Ankita Narang is the writer, art director and line producer. I am the director, editor and sound designer. To make this work all we did is what people do daily in their lives, fit their daily chores and expenses in the manpower and money they have and not cross the line. It wasn't very simple, it was tiring and stressful but as much fun as any job can be and totally worth the effort.

Eventually, the gamble did pay off, after a few setbacks and all. The film looked good. But making the film is half the battle, the other half, the selling of it, was something we weren’t really good at. So we showed the film around, to people who had some power, a network, who were “legit” for lack of a better word. And during that exercise we showed it to Mr. Paresh Rawal & Hemal A Thakkar, established producers and people we had worked with before. They loved it, came on board and helped us resolve the conflict of our story.

So after years of wondering how to go about things, firing shots in the dark, we finally became filmmakers, officially. And had the film not done well or been trashed, you wouldn’t be reading me talk about it. So it did go well, and for that we are all very glad.

(As told by Pushkar Mahabal)

first published:December 29, 2020, 18:01 IST
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