Vivek Kajaria On What It Takes To Back Meaningful Cinema!

By Aditya Savnal. Posted on April 24, 2015

Marathi cinema has been going through a purple patch in recent years. Films like Shwaas, Shala, Harishchandrachi Factory, Vihir, Deo0l & Fandry have won both critical acclaim and mass acceptance. While this has been driven by a new crop of filmmakers that has emerged in the last decade or so, the trend has also benefited from producers who've backed these films.

Vivek Kajaria is a part of this group of producers who've backed intelligent Marathi cinema over the last  few years. Vivek backed Fandry, a hard-hitting film that highlighted caste divide in the guise of a beautifully woven teenage love story set in rural Maharashtra.

Jamuura met Vivek recently and spoke with him on various topics including his journey into filmmaking, what it takes to produce a good film, how he shortlists scripts and the state of Marathi cinema.

On His Journey Into Filmmaking

Since childhood, I have been a huge fan of Bollywood films and have watched most of the Hindi films. After watching films made by Anurag Kashyap, Raju Hirani, Govind Nihalani, Shyam Benegal, Majidi Majidi, I wanted to make films that convey something to the viewer and that’s how I was drawn into making content driven cinema. My aim is to make cinema which is meaningful, sensible yet entertaining. And I am also making a humble attempt to represent Indian cinema on the global platform.

Somnath-Awghade-Fandry

On Working With First Time Directors

I love working with first time directors. Their approach to a fresh concept, tested themes or their interpretation of an often depicted subject is what attracts me towards them. The dedication, commitment and freshness of a first time director is extremely pleasing and encouraging as they often try to convey things in the most authentic manner.

It’s risky to work with new directors because of the finances and since studios and stars generally want to work with established names. But having said that, I only work on a film which is honest, content driven and is culturally rooted. Frankly speaking, I have enjoyed working with the new guys and since I am also relatively new in the business, I try to learn from the mistakes made by the senior professionals of the industry.

On How He Selects Scripts

I get a huge number of scripts to read, have a lot of narrations and watch a lot of made films by new filmmakers. Like I said earlier, meaningful cinema packaged with entertainment is what I look out for. If we can deliver something unique to the audiences which is not preachy and is rather entertaining, I believe, that project has the strength and capability to do well.

On The Challenges Of Producing Content Driven Films

In my opinion, we must believe in the project we want to produce and should not worry about the box office prospects. These are two perquisites required to produce content driven cinema.

  1. We try and make the film the way in which had envisioned it.
  2. Then we try to create a buzz around it by sending it to good festivals around the world, market it and distribute it well like any other film.

The audiences are changing and they want meaningful cinema. We should put in our heart and soul while marketing and distributing these films. Shala, produced by Nilesh Navlakha and presented by Mahesh Manjrekar sir was a great example of this. They never underestimated their product and hence it became such a huge success.

On The Challenges He Faced While Producing And Distributing Fandry

We put in our heart and soul to create the film we wanted to and it turned out exactly the way we had envisioned it to be. Thereafter we sent it to many festivals. It initially was rejected by many festivals and then finally some of the top global festivals accepted it after which it was screened at more than 80 film festivals.

We then showed the film to Zee who wasted no time and came on board as presenters and marketing partners. Essel Vision did a great job in marketing the film and distributing it. We realized there was no point in limiting the release and hence we decided to do a wide release like we do for other commercial films. We marketed it widely and released it in a big way and it became a major success.

Lessons Learnt From Producing Fandry 

Never underestimate your product. Maybe your film cannot garner as much as finance as the film of a big star would. But at the same time, don’t limit or restrict it’s reach. Try and send it to good festivals, spread the word, give it a little time to reach out to the audiences rather than just pushing for the release, market it well and distribute it well. And very soon there will be no looking back for your film. I say this as it has worked for me. But, I feel we must not underestimate the audiences. Like I said times are changing and so are people and their sensibilities towards cinema. So go ahead and give it your best shot.

Importance Of Film Festivals

For films that I produce, festivals play a very important. When a film is selected in one of the top festivals, it creates a buzz. It builds an aura of its own. Indian audiences and media quickly come to know when a film is selected at an international festival. This also helps you to create a brand for your film. I prefer to first send it to festivals everywhere and then depending on the responses and results, build a strategy around it.

There is no specific success formula to crack the festival circuit. You need to send it to a lot of festivals and if your product is honest and sensible, I am sure it will be selected. Even the festivals want good films. So it’s a give and take relationship. Films like Fandry, Court & The Lunchbox have been successful in India due to their successful run at international film festivals.

On The Importance Of Online Distribution For Indie Films

VOD and platforms like I Tunes and Netflix are turning out to be very reliable these days.

Abroad a huge amount of money is spent on these platforms to watch films. For Indian films, the biggest advantage is the huge population based outside India. They have to depend on I-Tunes, Netflix, Amazon etc. to watch these films.

There is a huge scope for exploring this platform. Filmmakers must spare some budgets to market their films on such digital platforms. The digital revolution has begun and it will only grow bigger in the days to come. We should use platforms like I Tunes and You Tube efficiently. For smaller films which are having a good run at international film festivals but are not having enough money for a theatrical release, digital platforms are turning to be very reliable.  The process is slow. It takes time to make money in India, but in the end it does make money.

Advice For Young Filmmakers

All I can say is one must have the right intentions while making a film and should believe in their film. Filmmakers must learn new techniques to lower costs and improvise the look of the film. They should also avoid shooting extra footage and then disposing it on the editing table.

Basic editing should be done at the screenplay level. Trust me this saves a lot of cost. Please make use of the script development funds and screenplay development labs that are held all around the globe. They are very useful for improvising the content and collaborating with international crew and producers.

Advice For Young Producers

Always believe in the content and the film maker. Give the new guys a chance, they are amazing to work with. And please submit your scripts and projects to good co-production labs. There are huge chances that you might get to collaborate with some brilliant international crew members and producers. Think about the marketing and mounting of the film from Day 1 itself. Money is not the only tool. Use all available resources efficiently and give it some time to reach the audiences.

On Future Projects

We have Siddhant (Principles) directed by Vivek Wagh which is releasing on 29th May 2015. Chaurya (Theft) directed by Sameer Patil is also due for release. We will soon begin the pre-production of our next Marathi film Raakshas (The Monster) to be directed by Dnyanesh Zoting. This script was selected for the Drishyam Sundance Lab which was held a few days back.

If you've got a script, then you can reach out to Vivek at email id mail@holybasil.in.


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