People do not see potential in low-budget sci-fi in India
Firdaus J. talks about his science fiction film GenX01 which was part of the Jagran Short Film Festival and the challenges faced while making a sci-fi short in India.
Tell us about your background and how did you get into filmmaking? Is this your first film?
Coming from a family of academicians, I made a different career choice, being aware of the struggles I would confront at a familial and professional level. I left graduation in life sciences from University of Delhi and joined a theatre group based in Delhi. I thought this was the best I could do to get started. Parallely, I joined Maya Academy of Advanced Cinematic and finished a Diploma in 3D and Visual effects which helped me get focused and pin down my interest. Finally, I took the decision of enrolling in a film production course and I found Vancouver Film School, Canada, best suited for my needs to professionally learn filmmaking. After graduating, I decided to test my limits of previous learning and thus started working on the script which I developed during graduation. I also adopted my screen name as Firdaus J. On a professional front yes, this is my first short film, but during the course of my education, I have done a couple of films.
What is your short film GEN X 01 all about? How did the idea of the story struck you?
GenX01 is a tale set in a dystopian future in the year 2018. Mankind is eliminated due to the last war. The only trace of human life left now are in the form of humanoids created by a group of scientists across the globe over half a century ago. GenX01 is one such humanoid, created by Amit Kapoor, a scientist based in India. The story further explores the humane side of GenX01. He is the fourth generation robot who unlike his predecessors has been incorporated with a multitude of human characteristics. The abilities crossover from the past but instead of being subversive slaves, the robot is a mechanical being with the biological abilities to reason and apply logic, to think and feel. Over a period of time GenX01 manages to gather and repair a few other previous generation robots and has considerable command over his little colony. His aim is to make his little colony flourish and survive. However the arrival of three more Gen X robots stirs things and poses many questions. Who are they? Where and why have they come? How do they seem to know GenX01? Should he comply with their demands?
The story also juxtaposes current situations with the past and shows an internal battle between desire and sacrifice. The decisions that one needs to make for the greater good even if the price is life. It is a story of survival of the human spirit. Power and greed are common examples of our lives. They probably exist in subtle ways for some but people do encounter such things in their professions and lives. I just used basic elements of these human characteristics and their creations for my film.
The film was part of the Jagran Film Festival recently. What do film festivals mean to you? Is the film slated to enter other festivals?
Well, for a short film there is no better platform as film festivals, especially for beginners like me. Film festivals not only provide a platform but also help evaluate one’s work. This helps beginners to understand their work from various perspectives. Yes, the film has already entered other film festivals.
What subjects inspire you as a storyteller?
On the contrary, topics and subjects restrict your imagination. As a storyteller I want to keep myself receptive. Though I have a particular interest in one genre, thankfully that does not restrict me to include any topics that I wish to work on.
Tell us about the process of making GENX01 – from writing, budgeting, directing to post?
Once the script was completed, I pitched the film to relevant people in India. No one took this as a serious deal and there were varied points of view, especially with the low-budget I pitched. Some told me that it is an impossible project for a short film and cannot be completed in India while others advised to make this film in Canada, as they did not see potential in low-budget science fiction in the Indian film industry.
After struggling for a year and constantly failing to get people, varying from financiers to crew, as no one either believed in the potential of this kind of project nor wanted to work with less money. At this junction there were moments of hopelessness but my faith in my work and this project became the source of motivation. I then decided to use all my savings to finance the movie and exhausted all of it including a loan I took from some people. Despite all these attempts and sacrifices the project never took off and it was already two years. It took few more months to gather crew and relevant people. I kept holding on and remained composed. When the movie was finally being shot, I directed all my energy into it and even knowing what limitations I could face, I took this as a challenge to complete this project. Today it feels good to see that the film is part of national and international film festivals.
Can you share some interesting anecdotes from the making of the film?
There are many interesting accounts both on and off sets which I want to sum up in this quote by Carl Jung, “Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside dreams; who looks inside awakens”.
What is the next project you are working on?
I am interested in Science Fiction. Currently I am in the process of developing a script for a feature film on the same lines.