Given that most of the films Jar Pictures is producing are by young film-makers, would you say that India is experiencing a new wave of cinema?
Rai: When we like a script, the director’s age is not a concern. Conversely, we have worked with people like Rajeev, Shanker Raman [a National Award winning photographer] and Geetu who are well aware of how the industry works. Then someone like Avinash Arun comes with a mother-son story that we immediately connect with.
McAlex: I think the young film-makers are fearless. They have no insecurities or inhibitions and are very open about the kind of stories they want to tell. No barriers can stop them from making the films they believe in. If Indian cinema is witnessing a change today, it is because of the unique style in which such filmmakers tell their stories.
Would you say that indie movies are synonymous with art-house productions?
McAlex: Art-house and indie cinema mean two different things. The idea of art-house films has more to do with the content, treatment and tone of a film. Whereas independent cinema basically mean that a film is self-funded. Rather than the content, indie cinema has to do with the way a film is financed, produced and distributed. So anything from an arthouse to a commercial film can fall under its umbrella.
What, in your view, are the challenges of producing an indie film in India?
Rai: The first hurdle we face is to arrange the finances. A good script without a star cast cannot easily find funds. Next comes distribution. These days the corporates largely control a film’s fate with their marketing strategies. So the success of a film is based on who your distributors are.
McAlex: I will give you an example. When Ajay was producing Anurag’s [Kashyap] Gangs of Wasseypur, he had to only take care of the production on ground while the film’s distribution was handled by a big banner like Viacom. It is a rather easy ride when a studio backs a project from the script level.
Contrarily, with Killa we were working out of our pockets. Only when production was complete did we pitch it to distributors. The responsibilities are much bigger when you have no corporate support until the film is made.
What kind of audience do indie movies reach out to?
Rai: We mainly look out for the multiplex audience, people of younger age groups who are more active on social media and aware of what is happening around them.
McAlex: Having said that, I also think that indie films cannot be generalised. Killa, which was based in the hinterlands of Maharashtra, did well in cities like Pune and Mumbai. It appealed to all age groups as older audiences could also connect with the film. Again, Nil Battey Sannata will have a larger connect with young women and parents.
Why is filmfest-hopping becoming such a crucial ritual for indie films? How are such films received by the global audience?
McAlex: We don’t believe in limiting our films to the Indian space: We try to tap the international market too. Now a film festival becomes the platform from where our films can reach out worldwide. While films cannot really be designed to feature in festivals, so to speak, any film can go to a festival for better distribution opportunities. We also aim at a couple of major festivals and don’t go overboard with taking one film on a globe-trotting spree.
Rai: Killa did well at the festivals, and attracted distributors from quite a few countries. Nil Battey Sannata got picked up by a few European distributors even before reaching the festivals. McAlex: I think it is has to do with the way a film is told. Emotions are universal, so the global audience can always connect emotionally to the stories when they are stripped of the usual song-anddance treatment given to Indian films generally.
Where do you see indie cinema in India going from here?
Rai: I believe it will only get better. You can see films like Killa and Talvar doing well.
McALex: It all boils down to demand and supply. The more you supply your audience with different kinds of films, the more open they will be to experimenting. It is going to become like the West, where people can watch films on TV, mobiles and the Internet. Young filmmakers will also get bolder about the kind of platforms on which they want to distribute their independent efforts.