In 2014, Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s Oraalppokkam became the first Malayalam film to be produced through a crowd-funding initiative. The film was made on a small budget of Rs 26 lakhs. Then, in 2015 came Shavam by debutant Don Palathara made on a shoestring budget of Rs 7 lakhs. The new crop of filmmakers in the industry are unmindful of a film’s budget, focusing entirely on the story that needs to be told.
The latest in line is a group of enthusiastic graduates and college students from the Manipal School of Communication. The group of 20-somethings has plunged into a creative endeavour to tell their story by whatever means it takes. The first amount they managed to raise was by posing as statues for a wedding!
Rahul Menon, the film’s director says, “With the 40,000 we made, we shot the first promo of our film’s character - Maya. We hoped to show this to people who could help support our venture.”
Titled Fiction, the film has a bizarre set of characters. While Maya’s promo looks like an episode from video game meets Pulp Fiction, Gandhi’s intro is more of a gangsta’ mystery in monochrome. According to the makers, the film is split into three parts, structured along the lines of Arabian Nights, asking the question ‘Do things really need to happen in order for them to be true?’
The film's synopsis reads:
" [The film] begins with an unnamed man and Maya in a futuristic past, who are aware and accept that they are merely characters in a story. The rest of the movie is split into two parts. The first follows Gandhi, a pimp and a murderer whose quest for love and redemption leads him on an extraordinary journey. The second, Love Story follows a character, Ansh on the night after he’s dumped, through his disorienting and drug addled journey to salvage his relationship. The story comes in a full circle as we return to the unnamed man and Maya, and we ask ourselves this: Do things really need to happen in order for them to be true? Tales, stories, dreams. Not everything is real. Some things are fiction."
Fiction, a multilingual film, however, is not just an experimental film made by a bunch of amateurs. The team has managed to make connections with some of the most prominent names from across film industries. “It all happened by chance. In fact, I called Rajeev Ravi sir, who was my uncle’s roommate many years ago, on a whim with some courage that comes after being disappointed,” laughs Rahul.
The award-winning cinematographer and director Rajeev Ravi agreed to lend his equipment to the team for free while actor Raj B Shetty of Ondu Motteya Kadhe fame jumped on board after hearing their story. “It’s just the story’s honesty. Most films are made to please the audience but in Fiction that’s not the case. It is very original and true to its spirit,” says Raj.
The team also has director Sanal Kumar Sasidharan as its mentor. “This again happened by chance. I met Sanal Kumar sir at a film festival and he was very forthcoming with his support,” says Rahul.
While talking to the film’s cast and crew, one thing remains a constant - all of them have come together by chance for this project. Rahul shares that he met Kavya Achar, who plays the role of Maya in the film, at a supermarket in Manipal. “The actor who played Maya in the promo had to leave, so I was looking for someone who’d fit the role and that’s when I bumped into Kavya,” he laughs.
As chance would have it, Fiction also roped in Noizbleed, a three-member band, to compose for the film. “I was surprised at the kind of knowledge in music they have. The most surprising part is that two of them are still in school!” he says.
Most of the film’s crew are a part of a Manipal based collective called 'The Chicken Sambar' that has quite a few short films to its credit. The team is presently running an online crowdfunding campaign to raise Rs 6 lakhs to complete their project. Those willing to contribute can do so here.