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Archive for February, 2011

23
Feb

Part 1 – Journey of Arranging Money my Honey for our 1st feature film WITH LOVE, DELHI!

Hey Honey, get it straight into your mind and heart – the only “necessary and sufficient” condition for making of your 1st film is Money! Naah, “necessary” right, but how “sufficient”? Because my beautiful dahlings, if you have the money, the film will be made, whether good or bad, whether with the chosen cast and crew or not is a different matter, but it will be made and I’m talking about “condition for MAKING of your 1st film”! However, whether your film will do well or not is dependent on the script, execution team, cast and crew, quality of the film and mass appeal. Oh my Gawd, that means our film will be a super duper hit :D!Why this blog? I had almost killed myself for over two years trying to find out how to arrange finances for your first film but couldn’t find out the way at all. I thought why not share our journey because we’ve ‘been there and done that’. If you’re into another business, even then this way of arranging finances might work, so go ahead all you budding entrepreneurs and rock the world with your ‘different’ idea! Since this journey starts from April-May 2010 and is still continuing, I’ll write it in parts. Nothing, I repeat nothing at all in this is fake or made-up, each and every word holds the dignity of Raja Harishchandra. So here I shoot – dhichkaun…

April to 13th August 2010
The initial idea was of Manav, a bit of which I had written about in one of my previous blogs. He suggested a concept on which he has been putting thought since 2009. The idea was of 2 projects – one which would be like a ‘video yellow pages of Delhi’ and another to make a documentary (I didn’t agree on documentary and thought of a feature film concept instead but indirectly having tourism benefits as well like DDLJ promotes Switzerland tourism but is not made on Switzerland tourism you know) on the tourist attractions of Delhi and release these projects during Commonwealth Games 2010. Going by the concept, we would generate some 5-6crores from the 1st idea itself (oh my Gawd, how many zeroes does that have???) which can be used to fund our film which would be of a decent budget – by the way, now the budget is much more than many super-hit Bollywood films. That’s the journey baby, surprises at each step and struggle almost every week arranging money since mid-2010, more money and more yet again – even at this moment (Feb 2011), while all the cast and crew of the film enjoyed the winters and are preparing for summers, are using this film in their resume, moving on to next projects, we three Matte, Manav and me (3Ms, mummieeeeeee) are  ‘stressed and happy and depressed and tensed and crazy’ simultaneously, still busy arranging money for last phase of post-production and then working our asses off to do whatever is required to release this film! Many claim they understand what we’ve to go through but trust me it’s not possible, you’ve to go through this to understand. It’s just my mantra of life – Every problem has to have a solution, just because I can’t think of one now, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have one – which keeps me going even in this stressful condition with challenges primarily financial ones popping almost every week.

Anyways, coming back to the film, the obvious choice was Matte directing the movie because of his experience – some 50+ films covering a wide range – documentaries, corporate avs, ads, short films etc. in about 5 years and also been Assistant Director (AD) in a Bollywood film. However, Nikhil, having made only a couple of short films and been AD in the same Bollywood film, needed practical experience for our next film planned for theatrical release. Next film was TNH about which I had discussion with Nikhil when he came back after doing summer course on filmmaking from US. To bar any confusion or miscommunication, we talked transparently and he had agreed to direct and was also open to somebody more experienced directing and he assisting if the case is so. However, fate had something else for him – he directed another feature film WLD much before directing or assisting in TNH. We make plans and then God executes them in his own strange ways! Coming back to the point, I discussed with Matte that we need to give Nikhil the opportunity so that he is able to groom himself for the next project TNH in case it’s decided that he directs it and not just assists. Matte graciously accepted to let Nikhil have the experience and the opportunity, so that he’s capable enough for our next film. If any dumbest bum in the world thinks that this is ‘normal’ and takes it ‘for granted’, then get it straight baby – not one in hundred million guys in Matte’s situation would do that, would you? I’ve known and heard of hundreds of Assistant Directors in Bollywood who have been assisting for more than a decade in big production houses but even now not getting a chance to direct a single feature film. Yes, there are a handful, may be 1% who get a chance just in 5-6 years’ time. Hence, for leaving this opportunity for Nikhil, you have to be someone like Matte! And God knows why I’m yet to meet one guy who is loved more by everyone than he is, his fan following in the coming years would break all fan following records for any Director, I can bet my life on that! Matte’s 1st feature film WW, as Director, is already in scripting stage, and will be shot this year itself – it’ll be a blockbuster buddy, watch out! Coming to the point again, Matte agreed to take care of 1st project – making of hundreds of videos for 1st project – video yellow pages.

We hadn’t started working on the storyline. Seriously speaking I was fed up of working for anything other than a feature film, hence, though to generate money we could work on the 1st project idea, but I would in no way go for a documentary for sure. My concept was simple and I had shared this with Matte in the midst of financial challenges after quitting job – if I’ve do anything other than acting in a film, it’s as good as doing a job which was not my passion at all! Hence, I insisted on making a feature film which would have the monuments of Delhi but whose story would be like a proper commercial feature film, in no way it would be a documentary. I took the baton in the creative space, started thinking of a storyline. It was quite a task to cover the monuments through a commercial film but finally I thought of a rough story, and along with Nikhil finalized the story. He wrote the Screenplay and I acted like an advisor – he used to write one draft and send it to me and I used to suggest creative as well technical changes wherever required. The 4th draft of the screenplay was finally decided as almost final; obviously even after that changes were incorporated but they were minor ones. It has to mentioned clearly that everyone were blown away by the story/synopsis initially. Yet again, everyone were blown away by the powerful Screenplay by Nikhil – an appreciable feat considering this was his first Screenplay! Since he is a Tarantino fan, you could especially note the villain’s (played by Tom Alter Sir) dialogues superbly written, I just loved them to the core! By that time, I had began seriously thinking in my mind of how to have this film released in theaters after we release it for Commonwealth diplomats because the storyline was completely commercial and would be loved by audience across the globe.

Meanwhile, our 4th partner was leading the 1st project in terms of marketing. We hired 3 new employees for marketing, two freshers and one experienced, bought laptops for them and started the job. To cut the story short, we met with failure in this arena because the time was less and we needed loads of clients for video yellow pages. All the salaries, investments etc. got completely wasted but that’s the way it is :(.

That’s a completely different story, the main story is of arranging money for the 2nd project – the feature film WITH LOVE, DELHI! Manav and I met scores of people for funds. How many times out hopes soared high, how many times we were depressed not being able to sleep for hours lying on bed, how many times it was the day to get money and the person backed out, how many times people stopped picking up phone, how many times we had so much fear of rejection when we went to ask for money, how many times we were actually rejected by near and dear ones and it was so depressing and hurting…can’t explain, you have to experience it yourself. Anyways, it’s not possible to write about each incident but let me try to write about a few dramatic people who influenced our moves and flamed our hopes very very high!

  • With this concept and presentation for both the projects, we met a very senior govt. officer who supposedly had top notch political contacts. He liked the idea and said that he knew top ministers and bureaucrats and 1st project yellow pages DVDs could easily be sold @700 bucks and about 10lacs DVDs could be sold through proper channels. He was sure of generating some 70crores through 1st project itself! Well, did I believe it. Trust me, if I give you his credentials and name, even you might, however, I have this ‘don’t believe, don’t disbelieve, be neutral’ policy with new people till some time passes by. Manav had (not ‘has’, samay ke hathaude ne sikha diya, he he he) this 100% belief, kyun Manav? But the point was even if we could come down to 50% or 10% or even 5%, it would still mean a lot of money, so why not explore. Exploration began: Manav used to meet him with his car in the morning, he used to take him to govt. offices, break-in there and ‘try’ to meet the guy, only meeting sometimes, then go to a restaurant, have his booze, chole-bature, chicken etc. and have Manav pay for it. So Manav was playing driver, host, financier and a cute bum all at the same time. Finally after getting weeks wasted, Manav’s belief took an exponential jump from 100% to 0% and he applied a ‘screeching’ brake. You might read this and say, yaar, I would have guessed easily, trust me you won’t have howsoever experienced you are – the connections and meetings he talked about were huge and he had enough things to prove that he was good.
  • The next special guy was supposedly 30years experienced big shot Liaison agent. He had his own company and supposedly had got highway projects worth 500crores. He claimed to be knowing each and everyone in Gujrat Ministry and was insisting on making one With Love, Gujrat! You know opinions are like armpits, everybody has one and most of them stink. Anyways, Manav and I with another known person met him at The Taj hotel. An old man showing enough experience on his face was there talking about gigantic highway projects hinting that our project was a kid’s job for him. In the end he tried to check whether we had enough money to pay him – “Dekho beta, tum log mere bete samaan ho. Ek baar maine kisi ko beta bol diya to bas bol diya, uske baad business baad ki cheez hoti hai. To beta, tum kitna kamaate ho. Tumhare Papa kya karte hain. Dekho beta main nahin chahta mere beton ko kuch pareshaani ho paison ki isliye janna zaroori hai”. Remember the dialogues in Khosla Ka Ghosla – “Khosla ji, Khurana sahab loves you”. Next day he called and asked for 4 lakhs to get the process initiated. When an agent working on commission asks for money before the work is done, remember the word – gayab!
  • Then through a very close contact we got the contact of a top minister’s close relative. He promised to help us meet none other than Sheila Dixit, the Chief Minister of Delhi! Enough credentials it seemed to believe him. The meeting’s date and time was supposedly fixed and was to happen within a week. It didn’t happen and after a week he asked for 2lakhs to initiate the process. No prizes for guessing how credible he seemed after that – how easy it is to take names of big-shots and make big money, disgraceful (in Udaan ishtyle)!
  • We had Manav’s very-very old contact in a stock broker, seemingly filthy rich. Met him at a CP’s bar cum restaurant with Manav. Bhashans on aaj ke zamane ke ladke-ladki, sip of alcohol, paisa hi sab kuch hai and then sip of alcohol again – Dibakar Banerji would have been happy meeting him for a character sketch. Trust me, it’s suffocating for me to meet such people, from next time will take oxygen tankers with me! Anyways, he was in support of the project and said he would invest and also ask his contacts to do so. Nothing happened for a couple of weeks while Manav was in touch with him. Anyways we again met him at a bar cum restaurant at night. I remember having high temperature that day but we had to meet him anyhow. Again big bhashans, forgot to take oxygen tankers and hence had to leave in between. I fail to understand that when we’re meeting for discussing on funding of a project, why the hell are we talking about extra marital affairs or teenagers losing virginity, why the heck! Reminds me of rendezvous with a middle aged writer whom I had met last year for funding of our film and for the 1st ten minutes, he only talked about two famous female actors sleeping their way to stardom. How does that fit into our agenda I’m unable to fathom even now – obviously I recalled the word gayab and disappeared – no prizes for guessing that guy even after decades of being in the industry is a nobody! Anyways, coming back to this story, before I left the deal was if we invest some 25lacs, he could get some major chunk of investment left. Great!
  • We met a very senior retired officer of one of the most prestigious govt. departments. He did not just like but loved the project, so much so that he insisted on becoming our partner rather than working on commission basis. After doing ample research, we agreed that if he could rope in at least 1 Crore for this project, he would become our permanent partner. He seemingly had several big shot contacts in the country and for the rest, he could get them arranged for us.Through him, Manav and I met quite a lot of people but leading to nothing really worthwhile.
We met scores of people day in and day out from May till July 2010. I was handling the production aspects single handedly till then. I had mailed the story synopsis to Tom Alter Sir and he was bowled over by it. Without knowing us, just by reading the story, he almost agreed to do the film and replied within few hours of mailing him while he was in France on a theater tour…bits of his reply was – “fascinating concept — challenging — will not be easy to shoot, but can be done…the script is powerful…go for it”. Who would not love to hear such comments from a Padma Shri recipient! I was on cloud nine – I remember calling Matte and Manav and almost shouting in excitement to share this news! I had also started meeting Executive Producers who would handle all the production work. We didn’t need to meet many, Ravi Sarin (Associate Producer of our film) was finalized given his terrific reputation of handling Delhi production of films like 3 Idiots, Rang De Basanti, Chak De India, Peepli Live and about 100 such movies. Once asked why he did a film with newcomers like us, he insisted that he had a feeling that this is going to work though on the last day of 1st phase of shoot, he said that 80% of Delhi producers dump their projects in between and hence he was also a little hesitant to do this project but finally he was happy he did. We had also taken auditions for all cast other than the female lead and 2 celebrities, all of which had to be from Mumbai.
 
Basically, I was the only face of our company to all cast and crew involved in the project and we did not have even a penny invested from any investor till the end of July and we had to start shooting from mid-August. I was almost fed-up and extremely stressed on losing out on this project and also losing face in film industry before even entering it. Had a long and aggressive chat with Manav and Matte and decided on a meeting with all concerned people. Yes, we met – Manav, Matte, Nikhil, me and the would-be-partner (the 4th partner having just got married was on his honeymoon). We discussed on our having handled everything on pre-production except the female lead and two key actors who had to be celebrities – these 3 had to be from Mumbai. I expressed this situation of not getting a penny invested even after 3months of effort in that direction in all areas. Manav and I also talked about the meeting with the stock broker insisting that we need to collect about 25lacs (about 7lacs each through Matte, Manav, me and the 4th partner not present that day) each so that other major part would be invested by the stock brokers and his friends. However, even then after his investment we would need loads of more money otherwise we would have to stop shooting midway. Then came the main promise which had our spirits high and everything was decided – the would-be-partner promised to use his 2nd flat (one in which he did not live) as collateral to get loan for private investors on per month interest basis or if possible through bank! Yuppie, wohoo, jhakaas! It seemed as if the entire baggage on the mind, body and soul had just lifted and mind had flew with wings on, flew to far far away valley and sat on the wet rocks near a glittering waterfall in the sun rays and then the entire soul drank that fresh and pure water, gatak gatak gatak, aaaahhh!
 
Manav, Matte and I gathered about 25Lacs from friends and relatives which would last till a couple of days of shoot only, yes that’s true buddy! The 4th partner expressed his inability to arrange that amount and graciously quit his position – now we were only 3 partners and one would-be-partner. 


How Manav and Matte arranged for money is something they should write about but among the 7lacs I arranged then, contributors were my relatives and two closest friends of mine:

  • My Baba (grandfather), Sri S.N.Lal, an inspiring and a super-achiever all his life, from a poor teacher to Sr. Branch Manager of LIC who was awarded for best performance in entire India in old days, took away his savings for his regular treatment at Vellore hospital and gave it to me. If the head of such a huge family blesses you, even God can’t help but shower his blessings – it’s a promise Baba, we’ll make you proud through this project, amen!
 
  • My father, Mr. Ajay Kumar, a chief-engineer in Eastern Coalfields Limited, arranged money from here and there and gave me as much as he could. I owe this ability to him and mother of believing in what might seem impossible to everyone, of not just intellectualizing but actually strongly believing in the old adage – anything is possible! This entire journey into the unknown territory stems from my parent’s teachings alone!
 
  • My Uncle, Mr. Sanjay Kumar, Director at one of China’s biggest firm and ex-VP of Reliance, arranged for some money and helpedus in our project. He’s considered to be the highest achiever in our humongous khaandaan  and an inspiration for all!
 
  • My another Uncle (Babuji), Mr. Manoj Kumar, a senior officer in marine, had come to Delhi and himself asked if we needed some money and gave at his own will an amount which would suffice. Let me tell you that Babuji is eldest son my grandfather’s younger brother – yes dear, even in this age of nuclear families where some people do not bond with even their 1st cousins, there are such strongly intact families existing in this country, not just one but several. So blessed to be part of such a family. Babuji is nothing less than a father figure and he did exactly what a father would do at that time, in spite of the fact that both his children had just got admission in Delhi in coaching institutes charging filthy amounts and he must have disturbed a bit financially. Am so blessed to be part of such a family, God bless!
 
  • My dearest friend Sanjay Shukla has been calling me frequently after I quit my pretty high paid corporate job (it doesn’t seem high paying now after dealing in lacs and crores for months, ha ha ha) and asking if needed money. How many friends or relatives would do that? It’s a blessing to have such friends. Obviously he gave whatever he could from his ‘high-paid’ job at GE after doing M.Tech. from IIT Kanpur.
 
  • Then my precious pal, Major Jaswant Singh Ghadghas, had these words – tu bata na, kitna chahiye, kuch karte hain. His father, a well to do farmer in Bhiwani, Haryana, did not believe in film projects at all, even then helped us on Jaswant’s insisting to do so. He could not find way to deposit money in our company’s branch, so he actually traveled to Delhi on train and while I was in Mumbai taking auditions, he gave Manav lacs on the road near Delhi Cantt Railway station! What price tag would you put on such friends and such fathers?
How obliged can you be for such friends and relatives, do you have the answer? Who says being a good person with high integrity in today’s world doesn’t help practically, everyone invested not just because they loved me but more because they had faith in my integrity to return money and capability to get this dream project done. I know friends whose father don’t invest a penny in son’s dream projects, how blessed it feels to get money in one call to friends and relatives, it can’t be explained, it has to be felt! Yes, though nobody of the above asked for any interest, we told them that we would pay them pretty good (fixed, can’t mention here) per month interest and return the principal with interest in one go after a few months. Anyways, we thought we’re set for life and rest of the finances would be from financiers etc. but the story continues dear…


Nikhil and I went to Mumbai, signed Tom Alter Sir, Kiran Kumar Sir and Seema Biswas Ma’m. Also took auditions of about 70 talented and beautiful female actors and zeroed in to who fitted the role the most – Pariva Pranati – in that entire audition, I believed her acting standards were way beyond anybody else in that lot! I remember looking at the screen in amazement during auditions and saying this – She is a damn good actor man! We also finalized all of the crew for the film.

Came back on 7th August, called Manav and asked him to handle the production because I needed to sleep at least 6hrs a day for next 6 days, be regular to gym again (was regular for over a year but one month before shooting when it was required the most, I was the most irregular) and get ready for my 1st film as Lead Actor – oh my God, dream was about to come true, pinch me, am I dreaming! As a producer, for almost a month, I could hardly sleep in peace or go to gym regularly, everyday was a presentation making day, pitching for project day, developing story and supervising screenplay day and finalizing cast and crew, phew! Went to Habibs in South Ex. for the 1st time and got almost every silly thing done they suggested is required for coming on screen! Aaaaa aaaa ouchhhh…yes, this was the scream on chest waxing for the 1st time, ha ha ha!
 
[…part 2 of the story continues…]
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