The Anticlock Films team of Onir Dhar and Sanjay Suri have not only delivered a contemporary Indian film which concentrates on the lives of four people, who in their own right are pushing the boundaries of convention, but have leveraged funding for the film by introducing co-ownership in the form of crowd-sourcing via the Internet
Starring: Juhi Chawla, Manisha Koirala, Nandita Das, Purab Kohli, Sanjay Suri, Radhika Apte, Rahul Bose, Arjun Mathur, Abhimanyu Singh
Taking four stories, each of which could be developed into a feature film in their own right, Onir and Sanjay have created a film with interlinked characters, but each as independent tales inspired by real people. The result is an inter-layered film with pathos addressing issues, which although we are in the new millennium, are still regarded with concern – artificial insemination, abuse, displacement, corruption and the freedom to declare one’s sexuality.
“As a filmmaker, I would like to constantly evolve,” says Onir, “and in this particular case I was keen to try different cinematic styles. This also affected the order of the stories.” He realised that although individuals may say they are open to a variety of societal taboos, in a collective there is always a barrier. For instance, the first character introduced in the film is Afia, a woman who really wants to have a child and will do anything within her power to do so… even if it means that she has to do it alone. Her answer? Artificial insemination. But, she wants to know more about the donor. I don’t want to give too much away suffice to say, that she meets with resistance even from her closest friend, Megha.
The film then progresses onto Megha’s story as a displaced Kashmir pundit, who returns to her homeland to close the sale of her parent’s home; Abhimanyu (introduced in the first tale is someone for whom Afia is designing a website) is still haunted by his abusive childhood; while Omar’s tale revolves around homophobia.
Afia’s story is filmed according to the traditional Bollywood style and as ‘I Am’ progresses the cinematic process becomes more experimental, the music diminishes… and the topics challenge preconceptions. Each tale is so sensitively handled, that the viewer cannot be affronted.
Onir and Sanjay’s collaboration has spanned over a decade. They have a shared vision and have embarked on a journey which is set to establish an art (movie) circuit in India [and the diaspora]… for although filmmaking is an integral part of India’s commercial ventures, it’s the traditional Bollywood movies which get the funding and not the independent producers. However, this duo has discovered a way to make their meaningful movies.
“I decided I would give it a shot,” says Onir of his decision to place a short note on Facebook about why he wanted to make the film and ask if there was anyone out there who would be interested in being involved. “I had no idea if it would really happen,” he says. The response was phenomenal and people who felt they related to a particular tale began confiding their stories. They then contributed to the making of the film either by assisting with the production or investing money. “The first cheque we received for 1000 rupees was from a student – and it was liberating as this particular donor spoke to his parents [got everything off his chest] and thereafter changed his name to include the name of one of the characters .”
There is a final screening of “I Am” at UKZN’s Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre on Saturday 30 July 2011. However, the DVD version is soon to be released and Anticlock Films is looking for distributors in various countries (to prevent the exorbitant price of postage). If you are interested (or even if you wish to purchase a single DVD or ‘invest’ in future films) visit Onir’s Facebook page ‘Iam onir anticlockfilms’ or email:firstname.lastname@example.org