The ‘Other’ Love Story has universal appeal – Roopa Rao
Roopa Rao’s web series The Other Love Story is an innocent love story between two girls set in the 90’s era in India. After facing rejection from several producers, Roopa turned to crowdfunding to help bring this original and realistic story to the society. The filmmaker who believes that cinema is a way of life tells Pandolin about the inception of the idea, why she chose the web as a medium, crowdfunding with Wishberry and why this series has universal appeal.
What would you say is the USP of your web series?
Its freshness and its originality is the USP, although I have never thought of USP and such things until this question was asked. It is an intense and innocent love story between two young girls set in the 90’s era of an urban city in India, when the Internet and mobile phones were yet to hijack human emotions and intelligence. It is a story straight from the Indian gallis – I think that itself is very unique.
How did a love story between the same sex strike you as a concept for a web series? Why did you choose the web as a medium?
The concept struck me years ago. I had pinned it to the board waiting for the right time and suddenly one day I realized – there can’t be anything such as right time. When we do it is when the time is right, so I started pursuing it. The world has come together in a web called WWW, where the young and the old are spending a lot of time these days. Online is the next big thing and I have had this idea to make content for the web since the day I got to know the commercial aspect of it – almost seven years ago. And the audience for such a story is online – the young and the Gen-X, as they are called. So this medium and the script exactly fell into the short episodic format and we felt that this is what it is meant to be.
In India there have been only a countable few movies which are either made to address the ‘issue’ or make a mockery out of it.
Stories related to the LGBT community have found a strong voice through the medium of cinema. However, what is it that you see lacking in these stories?
Internationally there have been some amazing films that are told very realistically, but in India there have been only a countable few – which are either made to address the ‘issue’ or make a mockery out of it. There has been no film on Indian soil that has told this story just as any other story. The realistic treatment is what I thought was lacking.
What is it that one can expect from your series? Is there a social angle to it?
One can expect a nostalgic trip to the 90’s – landline phones, love letters, greeting cards, time bound meetings. Also one can expect to find one’s own love story reflecting in Aadya and Aachal’s love story – it has universal appeal, not just for same sex couples but any couple that has been in love can relate to it.
Is there a social angle to it? I am sure that in any story that comes from any society, we are all influenced by some social ideologies, but this story is more of heart and emotions than any other thing.
You’re known to make socially relevant content. What are the challenges faced in putting forth such stories?
Many, from funding to finding actors. But the root of it all is the lack of awareness and the taboo/stigma attached to the story in itself, which is the biggest challenge. Somewhere people are not ready to accept that what they don’t know of can actually be somebody’s reality. When we speak of love, should we not be speaking of two beings? Isn’t physical intimacy an extension/expression of love? What is so hard about it that we struggle to get? This is the thought that turned this challenge into an opportunity for us.
Somewhere people are not ready to accept that what they don’t know of can actually be somebody’s reality
You took your concept to several producers who rejected it. Without naming names, what were the issues that people had in backing the project?
A couple of them who backed out at the last minute were hit by a sudden scare of the ‘high risk’ (as they quoted) of this concept. Though I personally think that they were not fully aware of the importance of such a story that needs to be narrated in India. Our country seems like it is at the threshold of new beginnings and somebody has to risk it and begin the dialogue in its true spirit. And we are doing just that.
Crowdfunding had helped several unconventional projects see the light of day. What do you think has worked in your favor, leading to such a good response from funders?
I don’t know how to answer that question. Maybe they liked the concept or they saw the honesty and humbleness of the team, maybe they liked me as a person (smiles). I am not sure, but the response has been immensely overwhelming and has given us great strength to go at it with full force.
Tell us about the casting for the series.
Shweta Gupta who is a well-known name in the short film and independent film circuit in South India plays Aachal, and Spoorti Gumaste, who is a theatre artist, has done a few commercials and is the current titleholder of Mrs. Photogenic India plays Aadya.
We are lucky to have both of them on board; their talent & commitment pushes me to be on the edge and ensure that this project reaches where it is supposed to reach.
How much portion have you completed and what is left? Also, what is the target, in terms of funds, that you need to achieve?
We have completed 12 days of shooting, we are still to shoot for 23 more days. We have the budget to complete half of it, for the other half and for post production, we are hoping Wishberry campaign funds will lead us through.
We are campaigning for 4 Lakhs, I know that it possibly amounts to just the daily expense of rich people, but that is all we need. We have planned the production in such a way that we are optimizing everybody’s time, efforts and energies to come out with a great quality film in a shoestring budget.
We have achieved close to 1.4 lakhs in the campaign and have 2.6 lakhs still to go.
When Wishberry approved the project, we felt a sense of approval from the world, it made us believe more in ourselves and give in more intensely without doubts and confusions.
When and where will the series be released?
The series will be mainly released on YouTube and other online video streaming platforms.
If all goes well and according to plan, then we should be aiming at a mid – May release this year.
Overall, how would you sum up the experience of crowdfunding and working with Wishberry?
It has been a great learning as well as empowering experience. Also reassuring. When Wishberry approved the project, we felt a sense of approval from the world, it made us believe more in ourselves and give in more intensely without doubts and confusions.
The Wishberry guys are extremely helpful and supportive; it is very relieving to be lead by such an efficient team. With them you know your project and campaign are taken care of.
The crowdfunding experience has been like a sadhana (spiritual practice). There is always a sense of ego that holds you back, when you have to ask people for money. But this campaign has ripped all the ego and the project has grown beyond individual egos and has reached out to so many and touched so many already, that it just makes me think that this story has a life of its own. All I have to do is to enable it to come out to the world and that is all that I am doing.
Lastly, tell us a bit about yourself and your past works.
Cinema is a way of life for me, I inhale life and exhale cinema, a constant love affair of my life – it is almost like I am married to it helplessly. With an IT stint of 6 years, I quit to pursue and practice films. An alumni of Asian Academy of Film and Television, I have interned and worked with international documentary filmmakers, co-directed Kannada and Tamil feature films namely Sudeep starrer Vishnuvardhana and the crowdfunded-independent Tamil feature film Kurai Ondrum Illai. I have independently written and directed a few short films – fiction and non-fiction and a couple of them have been screened at International film festivals. The ‘Other’ Love Story is my first large scale venture, a dream of the decade coming true.
[You can help the filmmakers fund the making of The Other Love Story by contributing to their crowdfunding campaign here.]