They seldom feature big stars, have no lavish sets or humongous marketing campaigns. Most of them are made within tight budgets and are often helmed by debutant directors. But cutting across all these factors are films with unconventional concepts that are seeing a spurt in the industry. From stories inspired by real life people & incidents to fictional dramas, these are films that have carved a place for themselves in the commercial world of Hindi cinema. They have traveled from festivals to theatrical releases, from national and international awards to mass acclaim.

The year 2014 is witness to several such content-driven films that have made people sit up, take notice and understand what is it that makes them different. Such is their appeal that even big studios are lured into backing this breed of cinema. Pandolin takes a look at some of these films.


Miss Lovely (January 2014)The film revolves around the life of the Duggal Brothers struggling to produce sex-horror films in the ‘80s. Ashim Ahluwalia’s first narrative feature got him the National Award – Special Jury Award and Best Production Design alongwith Tabasheer Zutshi and Parichit Paralkar. The director was planning to shoot a documentary on the making of a sex-horror film called Maut Ka Chehra but since no one was ready to be interviewed in front of the camera, the project was shelved. It took over three years to raise funds for Miss Lovely, which later got French, Japanese and American collaborators. Miss Lovely happens to be Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s first lead role, he was doing minor roles till then. The film was selected in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. It has traveled to various international festivals including the Toronto International Film Festival and International Film Festival Rotterdam.


Lakshmi (March 2014) – Nagesh Kukunoor’s drama around human trafficking and child prostitution was a result of his interactions with victims who have faced this horror. Lakshmi is produced by Nagesh, Elahe Hiptoola (who has partnered with Kukunoor on various projects) and actor Satish Kaushik, who has also acted in the film. Playback singer Monali Thakur made her Bollywood debut with this film while Kukunoor himself played a pimp. Lakshmi had its world premiere at the Palm Springs International Film Festival 2014 and also won the audience award for best narrative feature. The film missed its initial release date in India as the revising committee of the Censor Board did not view it in time. It is scheduled to have a European premiere at the London Asian Film Festival in June 2014. The film was also screened at the Toronto Reel World Film Festival, New York Indian Film Festival and several other festivals.


Aankhon Dekhi (March 2014)Written and directed by actor-director Rajat Kapoor, Aankhon Dekhi is a film that revolves around a man who refuses to believe anything that he hasn’t experienced himself. It took Kapoor eight years to write the film and the script was written keeping actor Sanjay Mishra, who plays the lead, in mind. Kapoor always wished to make a film on a joint family, which he fulfilled with Aankhon Dekhi. Initially he couldn’t find producers for his film and vented out this frustration on Twitter. It was through the social networking site that he met Manish Mundra who offered to produce the film. The actors in the film have worn no makeup as the director wanted to keep it as real as possible, which also led to several actors refusing to come on board. The film was screened at the Annual Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, Habitat Film Festival in New Delhi and South Asian International Film Festival.


Dekh Tamasha Dekh (April 2014)His first film Gandhi, My Father released in 2007 while his second film was made after a gap of almost seven years. However, Dekh Tamasha Dekh was conceived years before theatre maverick Feroz Abbas Khan made his directorial debut. Celebrated Marathi playwright Shafaat Khan has written this film that is inspired by true events and takes a satirical look at the socio political paradigm shift in this country. It has an ensemble cast comprising renowned actors like Tanvi Azmi, Satish Kaushik and several actors from Marathi theatre and films as well. Dekh Tamasha Dekh is co-produced by Sunil Lulla and Feroz himself. It opened the New York Indian Film Festival in 2013. The theatrical release of the film happened during the election period in India, which Khan deemed ideal for audiences to connect with the context of the film.


Manjunath (May 2014)Adman-turned-director Sandeep Varma tells the story of Manjunath, a young man who is brutally murdered for standing up against corruption. Varma spent over four years researching for the movie with an intention to tell the story of a lesser-known hero. While newcomer Sasho Satish Saarthy plays the protagonist, the film comprises noted names like Seema Biswas, Yashpal Sharma and Divya Dutta who agreed to work for a very low remuneration. The director had no finances while starting the film but found support from NFDC who co-produced the film. However, Varma personally raised a considerable portion of the funds through loans, family and so on. Even Manjunath’s friends have willingly contributed, as have several strangers who donated amounts to see this movie being made. Viacom18 Motion Pictures were totally sold on the story and agreed to present the film.


Mastram (May 2014)It marks the directorial debut of Akhilesh Jaiswal, best known as the co-writer of Gangs of Wasseypur. His choice of subject was rather bold but equally interesting – he takes viewers into the world of the famous porn writer known by the pseudonym ‘Mastram’. The role of Mastram was supposedly offered to Rajkummar Rao who couldn’t do it due to other commitments. Finally it was Rahul Bagga, earlier seen in Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, who played the porn writer. Though there are no big names in the film, it has several notable actors from National School of Drama and other theatre groups. In a first-of-its-kind promotional strategy, 35 suggestive and quirky posters of the film were released. Produced by Bohra Brothers, Mastram generated curiosity since the day it was announced however it did not get any visibility on television due to various reasons.


Yeh Hai Bakrapur (May 2014)The film helmed by National award-winning filmmaker Janaki Vishwanathan has an interesting central character, a goat. A social satire, Yeh Hai Bakrapur was inspired by the real life story of a goat named Khushi who was believed to have magical powers. Over 400 goats were auditioned for the film. Initially the goat in the film was to be called Abu but during research the team learnt that pet animals in Indian villages are often named after Bollywood stars. In keeping with that trend, the director decided to call the goat ‘Shahrukh’. However it so happened that the goat finally selected was actually named Shahrukh and the team retained the name to avoid confusion, which did lead to controversy. Yeh Hai Bakrapur was part of the NFDC Film Bazaar and premiered at MAMI in 2013.


Kya Dilli Kya Lahore (May 2014)Versatile actor Vijay Raaz turns director with this film set in the post-independence period. The film features only four characters including Raaz himself alongwith Manu Rishi, Raj Zutshi and Vishwajeet Pradhan. The actor-director was very keen on the title Cheetiyan (ants) however when they came across the phrase ‘Kya Dilli Kya Lahore’ in a conversation, they decided that it fits the context very well. For the film, the Wagah Border was recreated in Fiji and this happens to be the first film shot there. They were given several discounts on shooting locations and local crew by the Fiji government. Noted lyricist Gulzar mentored the film from the script level and when he saw the complete film, he liked it and came on board as a narrator. He has also penned the lyrics for the film.


CityLights (May 2014)An adaptation of the British film Metro Manila, CityLights once again brings together the National award winning director-actor duo of Hansal Mehta and Rajkummar Rao. The film was to be directed by Ajay Bahl of B.A.Pass fame but creative differences led to his replacement. Rajkummar plays a Rajasthani rural trader who migrates to the city. Rao worked as a labourer for a day in Mumbai to get into the skin of the character. The film is presented by Fox Star Studio, who came up with the core idea, in association with Mukesh and Mahesh Bhatt.  It is unlike the films made by the Bhatt camp but they were more than willing to experiment with a realistic film like City Lights. Even with big names backing it, the film has been made with a very modest budget. The film is scheduled to release on 30th May 2014.


Filmistaan (June 2014)Nitin Kakkar’s debut venture, Filmistaan, received the award for the Best Feature Film in Hindi at the 60th National awards. It is a lighthearted film that revolves around a movie buff and shows how cinema, as a medium, unites people. It was written in a month at one go but the actors were given complete freedom to improvise. The first title of the film was Bombay Talkies, however that was already with Anurag Kashyap. Filmistaan was then suggested by the creative head of the film and fell in place with the concept. The film was shot in a span of 20 days flat due to several constraints. Shringar Films acquired the rights of the film and UTV Spotboy then came on board. It has been screened at the Busan International Film Festival, Indian Film Festival Los Angeles, the Mumbai Film Festival and various other festivals. Filmistaan is scheduled to release on 6th June 2014.

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