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India's Documentary Filmmakers are Eyeing Crowd Funding to Experiment with Bold Subjects

India's Documentary Filmmakers are Eyeing Crowdfunding to Experiment with Bold Subjects
India's Documentary Filmmakers are Eyeing Crowd Funding to Experiment with Bold Subjects
Image credit: The Borderlands
Feature Writer
4 min read
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Money and entertainment are always considered inseparable twins. But this notion of mine got twisted when I saw the trailer for The Borderlands. A team consisting of youngsters passionate about films have come together to make a film on the borders of the country. The topic they have chosen is a very sensitive one, exploring the lives of people living within the boundaries.

What is interesting about this documentary film is that it is going to be crowd funded. The team of The Borderlands consisting of five people have decided to crowdfund the film in a span of 60 days. It is an “all or nothing” campaign for the team. They aim to collect 25 lakhs in total at the end of sixty days and if they fall short even by a single rupee, they will not make the film and return all the money back to the contributors, says Samarth Mahajan, filmmaker of The Borderlands in conversation with Entrepreneur India.

Why A Film on Borders?

While there are multiple border narratives already in existence, that of the soldiers, the government, very few are focusing on the people whose daily life is on the boundary. Mahajan himself comes from a border area Dinanagar. Some childhood experiences of people looking at him with curious gazes when he told them about his background pushed Mahajan to explore this idea and lessen the gap between the reality of people living on the borders and how people perceive them. “Whenever I told people that I am from a border area, they would get very excited. And they would ask me very funny questions like “Have you ever been to Pakistan?” “Does your area get attacked?” “Are you safe?”

Support on the Condition of Benefit

Mahajan’s last film, The Unreserved won a National Award in 2018.  This is not all, he and his team, Camera And Short's  films have been screened across the globe. One of the incidents while making The Unreserved had an interesting effect on Mahajan. While travelling in one of the compartments, during his train journeys, Mahajan met a Kashmiri man who confessed that he supported Pakistan while his brother supported India. Mahajan shares that this person concluded the conversation with a give-and-take approach, “He simply said that if he gets a job and his village gets electricity, then he too will start supporting India.”

Why the Need For Crowd Funding?

This industrious filmmaker brings to light a very important fact- India’s documentary market is very nascent. He says, “If you go through the number of documentaries India produces, it is very low. An Insignificant Man, a documentary on Arvind Kejriwal, was made but it was also crowdfunded at one point in time.”

Mahajan is optimistic about the audience. After his last film received an overwhelming response, he felt assured that audience for documentary films definitely exists. He points out that the problem lies in the lack of proper distribution channels and funding platforms for documentary films. He also adds that a producer from the industry cannot be approached because of the return on investment aspect. “To make a documentary in India, if we approach co-producers, they want a Bollywood hero and want the story to be based on his journey to make it commercially more viable. This way there is some certainty that people will come to watch the hero but then the hero becomes the focus and the story becomes peripheral,” he says and also adds, “In Borderlands, there is no celebrity; it explores solely the journey of  ordinary people who are not celebrities.” 

A Film for the Indian Masses

Mahajan is also aware that funding from abroad is an option but he wants to make a film for the Indian audience. He says before signing off, “If I ask funds from outside India, say America or Europe, they will expect me to make a documentary that will cater to the American or European audience. But I am a filmmaker who wants to make this film for an Indian audience.”

 

 

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