New Delhi: 2012 was widely considered as the year of the revival of the India Independent Film Industry. In the year 2013, we will have to make sure that the Indian Independent cinema movement is taken forward with the same zeal with which it was started. But how do we define an Indie? In the absence of a clear cut definition, any film funded and produced independently without the backing of a studio is an indie for us.
But not having studio funding has a flip side too, as majority of the Indian Indies suffer on the aesthetics front with poor production value (read tacky look), lack of marketing budget because of which many a times a good indie fails to get the kind of reach it deserves.
But times are changing. Multiplexes and distribution chains are now becoming more open to such niche content and at the same time Indie content producers are making an effort to raise the bar when it comes to quality. And we are hopeful.
Here is a list of 11 Indian Indies which I feel is going to create ripples this coming year. This list doesn't follow any particular order.
Ship of Theseus
Director: Anand Gandhi
'Ship of Theseus' explores questions of identity, justice, beauty, meaning and death through the stories of an experimental photographer, an ailing monk and a young stockbroker.
An unusual photographer grapples with the loss of her intuitive brilliance as an aftermath of a clinical procedure; an erudite monk confronting an ethical dilemma with a long held ideology, has to choose between principle and death and a young stockbroker, following the trail of a stolen kidney, learns how intricate morality could be. Following the separate strands of their philosophical journeys, and their eventual convergence, 'Ship of Theseus' explores questions of identity, justice, beauty, meaning and death.
Celluloid Man (Documentary)
Director: Shivendra Singh Dungarpur
'Celluloid Man' is a tribute to an extraordinary man called Mr PK Nair, the founder of the National Film Archive of India, and the guardian of Indian cinema. He built the Archive can by can in a country where the archiving of cinema is considered unimportant. The fact that the Archive still has nine precious silent films of the 1700 silent films made in India, and that Dadasaheb Phalke, the father of Indian cinema, has a place in history today is because of Mr Nair.
Director: Hansal Mehta
'Shahid' is the remarkable true story of slain human rights activist and lawyer Shahid Azmi, who was killed in 2010 by unidentified assailants in his office. From attempting to become a terrorist, to being wrongly imprisoned under a draconian anti-terrorism law, to becoming a champion of human rights (particularly of the Muslim minorities in India), Shahid traces the inspiring personal journey of a boy who became an unlikely messiah for human rights, while following the rise of communal violence in India. This story of an impoverished Muslim struggling to come to terms with injustice and inequality, while rising above his circumstances is an inspiring testament to the human spirit.
Director: Kamal KM
Charu and her friends share a rented apartment in a sky-rise in Mumbai. All in their mid-twenties, and each hailing from different parts of the country, they have come here to make this bustling metro their home. One day a labourer comes to paint a soiled wall at her house. Irritated that her flat-mate did not inform her, she asks the man to hurry up. A few minutes later, she finds him unconscious on the floor. Charu, panicked and desperate to do what's right, gets entwined in a series of incidents that take her through the city. Anywhere that might lead her to some identity of the man. Even a name.
Mumbai Cha Raja
Director: Manjeet Sngh
Mumbai Cha Raja is a coming of age film, exploring the world of underprivileged kids of Mumbai, against the backdrop of Mumbai's Ganesh Festival, which salutes the high spirits of the kids of enjoying life to the fullest, in spite of the problems present in their lives.
Director: Vasan Bala
'Peddlers' follows the lives of three unrelated characters whose personal trajectories gradually intertwine. Mac is a petty drug dealer, an orphan who takes on odd jobs for a small-time crook. Rookie cop Ranjit seduces his way around Mumbai, but his inability to perform in bed drives him to uncontrollable fits of rage. The beautiful Bilkis, a former chemistry teacher, finds herself working as a drug mule as cancer slowly eats away at her young body. When their paths cross, a fierce and adrenaline-fuelled game of cat and mouse begins. The chance meeting takes place in a Ghost City inhibited by millions, each square inch as crowded, each square inch as isolated. Mumbai being the fourth character.
Director: Ashim Ahluwalia
Set in the lower depths of Bombay's 'C' grade film industry, Miss Lovely follows the devastating story of two brothers who produce sex horror films in the mid-1980s. A sordid tale of betrayal and doomed love, the film dives into the lower depths of the Bollywood underground, an audacious cinema with baroque cinemascope compositions, lurid art direction, wild background soundtracks, and gut-wrenching melodrama.
Lessons In Forgetting (Based on Anita Nair's book)
Director: Unni Vijayan
At the heart of the story is a single father and how he relentlessly follows a trail left by delicate clues to find out how his teenage daughter, Smriti ended up on a hospital bed, almost dead. Helping him in his chase is a single mother Meera who is unable to make sense of her husband's callousness; he walks out on their marriage, out of the blue, leaving her to bring up their two growing children and care for her aging mother and grandmother, all on her own.
Gulabi Gang (Documentary)
Director: Nishtha Jain
Enter the badlands of Bundelkhand in central India and you have entered a place of desolation, dust and despair. And yet it is hope that we discover as we follow the pink sari-clad women of Gulabi Gang. A revolution is in the making among the poorest of the poor, as Sampat Pal and the fiery women of her Gulabi Gang empower themselves and take up the fight against gender violence, caste oppression and widespread corruption.
Much Ado about Knotting (Documentary)
Director: Geetika Narang Abbasi & Anandana Kapur
Getting married? Got married? Not married? In any case you should catch 'Much Ado About Knotting', a lighthearted take on India's favourite pastime - matchmaking.
Director: Nitin Kakkar
In Mumbai, affable Bollywood buff and wanna-be-actor Sunny, who works as an assistant director, fantasizes on becoming a heart-throb star. However, at every audition he is summarily thrown out. Undeterred, he goes with an American crew to remote areas in Rajasthan to work on a documentary. One day an Islamic terrorist group kidnaps him for the American crew-member. Sunny finds himself on enemy border amidst guns and pathani-clad guards, who decide to keep him hostage until they locate their original target. The house in which he is confined belongs to a Pakistani, whose trade stems from pirated Hindi films, which he brings back every time he crosses the border. Soon, the two factions realize that they share a human and cultural bond. The film shows how cinema can be the universal panacea for co-existence.
(Shiladitya Bora manages PVR Director's Rare, an initiative to support the theatrical release and distribution of Indian independent films. He has been actively involved with the release of 19 indies in the year 2012.)