Making films out of passion

Debarati Palit
Monday, 19 June 2017

Manish Mundra gets talking about being felicitated at Cannes, indie films and how it’s pure passion and not business when it comes to producing independent films

Manish Mundra is one of the sought-after names when it comes to producing indie cinema. The entrepreneur-turned-producer has backed some of the most critically-acclaimed films made in India including Ankhon Dekhi, Umrika, Dhanak, Masaan, Waiting and others. 

Manish was recently felicitated as one of Variety’s Top Ten Producers to watch in 2017 at the 70th Cannes International Film Festival. The producer says the appreciation means a lot to him. “To be nominated among the top 10 producers in the world will make anyone happy. Being honoured at Cannes is a great sense of pride. And not everyday producers are awarded. Mostly actors and directors find appreciation. But there’s also a sort of responsibility now to come up with fresh and new content,” said Manish when we caught up with him over phone last week. 

Manish, founder of Drishyam Films, who launched the banner just for the love of cinema, has set up a $20m production fund for the growth of Indian inde cinema. He says in the next two to three years, Drishyam Films is going to produce 10 to 12 films. “We have already shortlisted the scripts. Three films will go on floors in the next few months,” he says, adding, “We will start the next phase during which we will collaborate with international production houses. This will help us make small films and distribute them.” Their next film, which is doing rounds of film festivals, is Rajkummar Rao-starrer Newton, directed by Amit Masurkar. 

But how does he look at the growth of indie films in India? “From a commercial level, these films are being appreciated and the audience is looking forward to watching such films. Because of the growth of indie films, others are trying to make their film content driven as well as commercial.” 

But there are still certain areas which need to be worked on. “The one aspect that we have to work on is to get indie films exposed internationally,” says Manish adding, “To do so, the films need logic, brains and good content. There’s no denying that awareness about films is increasing in the digital space.” 

Manish, who keeps moving between Nigeria, Dubai and India, further adds that for indie films to make profit, the cost of production and distribution need to be brought down. “To achieve the profit ratio, budgets have to get tighter to take care of other sides of production. This genre needs more space and faith to find out if we are actually feeding on word-of-mouth publicity. We have to create a target audience and make sure we reach out to them,” he explains. 

But in spite of Indian indie films making waves, they hardly make it to the top honours at international film festivals. At Cannes 2017, only a student short film made it to the competition section. He says that even though we (indie films) are doing well, we still have a long way to go, in terms of cinematography, sound and presentation. “We are still far behind when we compare our films with international ones. Training institutions need to be revamped and more creative people need to be developed. We don’t have great filmmakers. Besides, they need exposure of international level.”

Ask him how does he balance between being an entrepreneur and an independent film producer, considering these films do not earn high profits at the box-office and he says, “I am not a businessman when it comes to producing films. They are more of a passion. I am happy producing films,” he says, adding, “We are trying to create an eco system and inching towards break-even by controlling cost of production and distribution.” 

Not many know that Manish ended up being an independent film producer after reading Rajat Kapoor’s tweet on how he decided to put the script on the backburner and go back to theatre after he failed to get producers for Ankhon Dekhi. But Manish tweeted him back saying that he wanted to produce his film. So how does he choose the scripts? “I read the scripts and also find if the person believes in his/ her work,” says the producer before signing off.  

Follow the writer on Twitter @DebaratiPalitSi

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