Bangalore has long been hailed as the best city for startups in India. It is a testimony to how much the city has evolved in the past few years that it is now home to a staggeringly diverse variety of endeavours. People giving up fancy jobs and pooling their life saving to start a company is the classic story behind most profiles being done on YourStory. But this trend of regular professionals pouring in their life savings to make a feature film is mind boggling. They have no desire to be a part of a movie industry and are not very concerned with the film’s financial fate at the box office. They care about the story they are trying to tell and the impact it has on the minds of audiences. A while back we wrote about how Station, Bangalore’s first Hindi feature film was carried through to completion by an army of college students and young professionals. Now, a month later, we write about how techies with a conscience came together to make a movie that matters. It is perhaps too soon to tell, but the common man foray into cinema is the next big phenomenon that will revolutionize storytelling. And cinema at large.
A chance encounter on a busy Bangalore street sparked the idea for a story in Venkat Bharadwaj, an idea that almost a year later has flourished into magnificent reality. The movie, ‘A Day in the City’, is testament to, and I may be getting clichéd here, the power of human goodness. Most people slog during the week and then kick back in the weekends with a cold beer and exciting plans. But the IT and other tech professional who worked on this movie gave up months of their time to come together for a cause they believe in. They would work during the week and then shoot during the weekends. The slick trailer, gripping plot and, above all, sincerity with which this product of love came to be created are reasons enough to check it out. In conversation with Venkat Bharadwaj, whose brainchild is ‘A Day In The City.’
How did this movie come to be conceived?
One day, in September 2013, while walking past Koshy’s on MG Road I saw something that jolted me. An Audi was parked on the wrong side of the road. The person behind the wheel was clearly someone important. The policeman was trying in vain to tell the person to park his car elsewhere. The fellow completely disregarded his pleas and went about his business without any fear of consequence. What alarmed me was how easily influential and powerful people can throw rules out the window. Though we witness injustices like this all the time, we usually shrug our shoulders and just carry on. As long as they don’t affect us personally we are loathe to get involved. I decided enough was enough. This movie is my idea of how to make a difference.
I had been directing short films and music videos for about three to four years then. This movie is not a social documentary. It is an out and out entertaining thriller with a powerful message at its core. It had started raining by I drove back home from Koshy’s that day and all that I could think about was the story line. Within the next week, I had decided what I would showcase it on the big screen. This movie is a unique kind of thriller that you have never seen before. Wait and watch, folks!
What was the budget of the movie? How was it funded?
The budget was around 35 to 40 lakh rupees. My friend Shankar, who is based in the US and works for an IT company there, co-produced the film. Despite financial restrictions, we have gone for the best on sound, quality and technology.
Our other producer was Mr C V Shivashankar, a venerable veteran of the Kannada, Tamil and Telugu movie industries. A winner of the Karnataka State Award three times over, he has produced and directed more than 15 movies in South India.
How did so many tech and IT professionals come together to act and work in the film?
I have a huge group of friends, mostly from the tech and IT circle, who share my passion in this regard. Everyone wants to contribute and do something meaningful with their lives. It was not that after I finished writing the script I would call friends and acquaintances and cajole then into working on the movie. While writing the story itself I had based the characters on people I personally knew. I would call and tell those people that they just have to come and work on my movie. And they did!
Of the 44 characters in the movie, around 36 are techies. Most of them anyway do theater and acting workshops in their free time. So they did this with elan. The trouble was that these professionals have gruelling work and travel schedules. The weekend is the only time they get to unwind. And here I was asking them to learn dialogues, act, and dance on the weekends. But they came because this is their passion.
It must have been nightmarish to coordinate the schedules of 36 techies for shooting?
It had the potential to become nightmarish. We had people from Oracle USA, Oracle India, Accenture, IBM and many other software bigwigs as well as small niche companies working on the movie with us. So I planned the shoot such that only the people in a particular scene need show up for the shooting. We then coordinated the dates of those shoots with their work schedules. Sometimes it did get confusing because people needed to travel abroad for weeks at a time. But since I am from the industry myself and am familiar with the hectic pace, I drew up a rigorous schedule prior to the beginning of the shoot. A few hiccups aside, everything went smoothly and the film was completed in three months.
In those months, you had to oversee the making of the film and work at your day job?
Yes, it was very hard. I had to make some very difficult sacrifices and it really took a toll in my personal life. February and March are the prime exam months and my children really needed me around then. I could not sit with them or oversee their studies because every waking moment was spent either working or shooting the film. I feel very sorry that I could not be around when they needed me the most.
Why was it so important that this movie get made now, despite such obstacles?
A few years back Sam Pitroda brought about a revolution in the telecom industry, the benefits of which we are reaping so comfortably now. The opportunities we enjoy today are because of sacrifices of those who came before us. It is our duty to go out of our way and innovate for the generations to come as well. Everyone is so happy to enjoy the hard work of others, but so reluctant when it comes to following through gut instincts of our own. This way, society will come at an impasse. I don’t know who will be the next Pitroda or when will the next big revolution happen. But I do know I will not be sitting back and enjoying just the perks that come with living in this day and age. I will do the right thing, and hope it makes a difference worth counting.
It alarms me to see what the world around is becoming. A Day in the City deals with themes of good governance, corruption, national integration and justice. My conscience is the driving force behind my creative efforts.
You direct music videos and short films, chair the Earth Awareness Foundation and write extensively. How do you manage to balance two such contrasting dual careers?
Yes, I work as the regional sales head of an IT company. This is my bread and butter. But my creative endeavours are my passions. I have made it clear at my workplace that I need to work on those too. They understand that. It gets hectic, but I manage to balance the two. The other option is to lead an unfulfilled life, which is far worse.
Your father is a noted veteran of the Indian film industry. Clearly you are captivated by the same world. Why the decision to pursue such a conventional career in the first place? Why not go into filmmaking full time?
My childhood goals were very focused. I wanted to study well and get a stable job. I have seen the ups and downs in the life of a cinema director and did not want that unpredictability in my life. While I tremendously enjoy the rewards of my creative pursuits, it is important to have a centred core.
How are you planning to release the movie?
Right now I am not thinking of the distribution. There immense satisfaction in having completed the film and realizing the fruits of the hard work of the past months. I am waiting for the finished product. In the next fifteen days or so, the film will be ready for release. Then I will sit with my team and go over the distribution and screening strategies.
What’s your advertising strategy?
We have had tremendous positive response solely on word of mouth advertising. The techies who worked and acted in our movie reached out to their circles and so on. We are very excited by the interest they have shown in the film. The movie trailer on YouTube has also been very well received. We are gearing up to release in the third week of July and are heartened by the response so far.
We are not doing anything big bang. That requires huge funds. Moreover, we have faith in our efforts and beliefs. We are genuinely convinced that people will like it.
The movie is an out and out entertainer or is more a social docudrama?
It is not a docudrama at all. It has four fabulous songs, one on how city people live and the comforts they take for granted. All four have been shot really well and boast of epic visuals around the city. It is a powerful story, one that will make you think. But it will also entertain.
Check out the team behind A Day In The City. Will you watch it? Sound off in the comments.