A story is for everyone but we have to find a market for it
Cinema is said to be a Director’s medium. However, cinema cannot take birth without a capable Producer who understands and backs the vision of the Director. And for cinema to keep progressing, the film industry needs risk-taking producers who are willing to experiment with the content and format of cinema. Fortunately, the Indian film industry today has a few producers who are looking beyond the equations of mainstream commercial cinema and story is backing films which are content-driven and of world cinema quality.
Gaurav Dhingra, Co-Founder and Producer, Jungle Book Entertainment, who recently produced Pan Nalin’s female buddy film Angry Indian Goddesses, is one of the few such producers who have in-depth knowledge of both the art and business of cinema. Having backed other unique projects like Peddlers and Faith Connections amongst others, Gaurav is from the current generation of producers who are ready to go the extra mile to make their movies financially feasible without compromising on the content of the film and the vision of his Director.
Looking at your career graph, it seems like you had always planned to be a Producer. From a transport manager to location manager to line producer, you have finally become a noteworthy Producer. Was that a planned move?
Oh no. Not at all. In fact I learnt Filmmaking from School of Convergence, New Delhi to become a Director. But while making my student film itself, I realized that my natural skills are more suited to be a Producer. So I focused more on that and I am enjoying every bit of it.
What do you enjoy the most as a Producer?
The challenges. I get an adrenaline boost in facing and overcoming them.
So how did it all begin?
As you pointed out, I started from various jobs in production departments and handled different jobs for different projects. I worked on more than 150 ad films before I was spotted by Bobby Bedi who gave me a head start in the film Industry. I did a lot of projects for him including Saathiya, American Daylight, The Rising – The Ballad of Mangal Pandey and Rang De Basanti.
I did a lot of international television like The Amazing Race and Ice Road Truckers, etc. I also line produced for many international film projects. I co-produced films like Haraamkhor, Vakratunda Mahakay and Peddlers. The latter won multiple awards in international film festivals.
So how did Angry Indian Goddesses happen?
While working as a Production Manager for the film Valley of Flowers, I met Pan Nalin. We discovered that we share a common vision and wanted to create content for international markets but with stories which have origins in India. So we founded a company named Jungle Book Entertainment to make content that we believe in.
We did the acclaimed documentary Faith Connections together and being encouraged by the feedback we got, we decided to make a film which is based on a loose script. We wanted the actors to do an impromptu and spontaneous portrayal of the characters they play and hence we avoided a fully pre-planned, bound script with dialogue and all. It was a huge risk and hence we had to finance the project ourselves. But we believed in it and now response it has received is phenomenal.
How was the experience of producing this film?
Producing a film, though challenging, is always fun for me. But I learnt a lot during the release of Angry Indian Goddesses in India. I discovered that a film release in India is a huge task and it depends on various dynamic factors including your connections within the industry. So a theatrical release was an experience for me. Now for the first time in India, we are gearing up for a big release of this film on digital platforms. Generally, films are released on digital platforms without much fanfare. But I sense a big opportunity in digital platforms for the independent film industry.
Any words about your experience with the Censor Board for Angry Indian Goddesses?
Much is already been said for that matter. I am astonished by the suggestions given by them but we wanted to release the film and we complied with them. Even after agreeing for an Adult Certificate, we had to blur a lot of scenes and beep a lot of dialogues which is beyond my understanding. We hope that the media does their part in convincing the CBFC that such things are illogical and absurd.
Don’t you think it is a risk to back such stories and subjects in India?
I believe every story is for all. However, we have to make them as per the market we are going to cater to. We must assess the audience and the market size of the film we are making and reverse engineer the budget accordingly so that the project becomes financially feasible.
So you plan to make films which you believe in and find the market for it later?
Absolutely. I have sold Angry Indian Goddesses in many countries and it will slowly release in each of those countries now. I believe that we should make the content of our choice and then market it where it has demand. But still, I feel that the Indian audience must stop viewing movies for entertainment purpose only. There can’t be the same rule for every film. If we want different content, we should be open to different kind of films.
What are your upcoming projects?
Currently we are working on an international project Beyond the known world. Then we are planning a film on Buddha, another martial art-based film on the scale of Baahubali and a TV series on the lines of GOT (Game of Thrones).
We have developed many scripts and concepts over the last few years. We will make them as and when the situation is ripe for it.
Are you directing any of it?
No. I will make a film as a Director only when I am itching to tell a story which I think must be told. Till then I am enjoying my role as a Producer.