One Last Question – An inspiring journey that continues
It was a morning of July 2013. Just like every day, another day in the life of a struggling (self-proclaimed) filmmaker. I sat on my laptop, logged in to my Facebook account as I always, subconsciously, do and started surfing. In a few minutes I saw a notification in our long forgotten dust accumulating ‘Jagriti Yatra Group G’ Facebook Group. It was Manjit Nath’s (our group facilitator during the 18 day long journey) post about the new blog he just published. And fortunately, I decided to click on it. And that’s how One Last Question was born. A 40-min medium length film.
It narrated a story about how four friends in 1998 Assam, in a small village (Agia, Goalpara) were influenced to join an extremist militant outfit in all their innocence. It was Manjit’s (he is currently studying Public Policy at University of Oxford) real life story. By the time I completed reading the whole story, the film had already taken shape in my mind.
But the question was, should I make this movie? Why should I? There are hundreds of other better scripts lying around with producers interested in investing in them.
Why should I make this one, which required me to go out of my way, travel to Assam in a region that was infested with political unrest, riots and bandhs. And why should I make a film that a producer might not dare to put his money in.
Honestly, there was no practical reason to take this decision on logical grounds. The only reason I had was my intuition. I just knew I had to make this film. For the love of the story. For the love of the idea it conveys. But I was not even remotely ready for what was to come.
As my teammates can recall, we decided to pack-up and leave for Assam, planning to come back after 15 days of shoot. But it never goes as planned, does it? And destiny decided to take me for a roller coaster ride.
You do two things in such a situation, sit quite, close your eyes, hold on tight to your seat and hope the roller coaster stops. Or you open your eyes, scream the hell out and challenge the roller coaster to give you more. I was running to and fro between these two attitudes.
The Roller Coaster Begins!
We reached Agia (the village where the real story happened) at 3 am and the sun was already on it’s way. I never knew the sun rises earlier in Assam than the rest of India because of the time-zone shift. We had already started working. The very day we arrived, we came across one of the greatest man I’ve ever met & my mentor, Sukracharya Rabha. He chooses to keep a low profile, but is arguably one of India’s greatest theatre directors alive. And a well-received social & artistic thinker internationally. We started narrating the screenplay to him. And like any dynamic personality, he started putting colors of emotions to life. Making us realise that the scope of this film is greater than we imagined.
The evolution of the concept and the story was so rapid that even Charles Darwin might scratch his head. With time, we realised a few things;
1. There are hardly any films on stories based in North East India, that are made for the national audience and secondly made in Hindi. Apart from a few characters, the whole movie was in Hindi.
2. It was going to be a challenge to work & communicate with a cast & crew who are majorly an Assamese speaking lot.
3. Assamese & Hindi are inversely proportional when we try to speak the other language; only to make us realise the huge cultural diversity we have in our country adding to immense respect for each other.
This led to a lot of funny moments. Like in Hindi “Mein gaadi pe baithata hu“, in Assamese is “Mein gadi pe uthata hu“, or even better, in Hindi, “Me chai peeta hu”, in Assamese is “Me chai khata hu”. Just this miscommunication added to a lot of fun & frustration on the sets. At the end of the schedule, we started speaking Assamese.
4. “3 Idiots” is the most penetrating & impactful Bollywood movie of all times. (totally out of context, but worth noting)
Days passed, we auditioned almost 200 kids, finalized the three key characters, finalized the locations, costumes, look, technicalities, set and everything. We realised that all this “taam-jham” is getting bigger and people from all over the village started pouring in with their helping hands.
For me, this project has to be considered as one of the most epic attempts of “Jugaad” – frugal innovation. There are some examples of jugaad that I can’t even speak of. I can assure you that they were of an epic proportion, more than a major production studio could ever manage. Though I wish I could share all my stories in this one blog, that is not possible.
Bump In The Ride!
But the epicness was yet to be reached. We began the shoot and the most important character of the film, our protagonist, Tultul, was yet to be cast. Imagine this, we have ordered lights, camera & sound equipments on rent. The money has started leaking out and we haven’t got our key character – the protagonist & even more important, his father.
But we can’t wait and watch either; as staying longer would mean exhausting all the money in the ‘stay’ itself without any film in our hand. What ‘face’ shall my crew (who put their faith in me –pro-bono) and I, show to all those who knew about our “insanely risky” project.
However, director Simple Gogoi saved the day by instantly helping out with the casting at the end moment. Thanks to her, our protagonist came in the next day.
The shoot began but we still had to cast the “father” of our protagonist. By the end of September 2013, our shoot was almost done, except for parts that involved the father, the soul of the entire movie.
It is like we made the whole bike and the only thing missing was an engine. Not proud to say, but who makes movies on such a ‘bleeding’ edge? Things happen for a reason and all the obstacles led us to something good, something that none of us saw coming.
Reaching the peak!
As circumstances rapidly changed along with the scope of the film, it became eminent that we were drowning under the heap of expenses. One fine day, something happened that made it all worthwhile. When we were almost at the end of our schedule, back at our base, wondering where to get the right actor for the father’s role, I got a call from none other than Adil Hussain Sir (Life of Pie, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, English Vinglish, Agent Vinod). I still remember that feeling. He said he read the mail (Thanks to Sukra Da), and gave me a call. We talked for a while and he said YES to play the father’s role. (Expect another nice blog on lessons I learnt from Adil Hussain & Sukracharya Rabha)
The whole crew started preparing as if it was the first day of shoot once again. Everybody was proud of what they were doing. We finally completed the whole shoot that was to be done in Assam. That meant 70% of the total film was done.
Janta Ki Adalat! The MARATHON Continues…
What about the remaining? To complete the remaining shoot & post production we had to come back to Pune. But the shooting was not possible because we had exhausted all the funds we had, in the Assam shoot, which we already knew. We knew we had to raise funds to complete the film. Producers were not an option.
Then we went on to our next best option, crowdfunding. So here we are now, having launched this “crowdfunding campaign” that will allow us to gather funds which will eventually help us in completing the film. After we launched, we were successful in gathering 50k in 50 hours. But life is short, the clock is ticking & the time we have to raise funds for this project is extremely limited. Which we are doing here: https://www.wishberry.in/campaign/one-last-question/
I request you to ‘spread’ the message among your friends and relatives. Whatever amount is pouring into this campaign is going to make a huge difference for a greater good and eventually make all the blood, sweat and tears worth it.
If we manage to exceed the target amount, the surplus funds will be used to screen the film all over Assam, and we hope this will inspire at least a few new generation Assamese towards a constructive future.
If you liked the trailer/campaign and the efforts our team put in, please; Post, Tweet, Share and help us spread the word.
The bandh that was happening in Assam ended just a day before we arrived in the state and started again within hours after we left, and lasted a week. All the 45 days, when we were present there, the region was more peaceful than usual. Destiny has it’s own way of working. I believe we just have to give our best with a pure intent.
As I often do, here I conclude my post with a beautiful quote by Mother Teresa – “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples”. Let us all try to create our own ripples.
Do support our campaign and spread a word about it. Hashtag #OneLastQuestion
If you want to talk with me, please do email at krisangmotionpictures[at]gmail.com. I would love to hear from you.
Also tell us about your experiences on what was the most memorable/bleeding-edge marathon of your life?
– Prathamesh KriSang! Over and Out!
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