The Indian indie landscape has continued to evolve in the last few years, widening its appeal among the non-traditional Bollywood consumers. Our independent filmmakers have spun some brave, less-oft-experimented ideas into beautiful gems. But what are the early films or memories that shaped their thought process and subconsciously influenced their work? We speak to the six most promising indie directors today about the films that inspired them.
1. Pan Nalin (Dir: Angry Indian Goddesses) – Once Upon A Time in America (1984)
Unfortunately there is no one film, but many. It keeps changing with time, the world I live in, and my own growth and emotional status. Because watching movies is an organic experience for me, what impacts my work happens at a subconscious level and often, I am not even aware of it.
So these days, I am inspired or re-inspired after watching the digitally remastered uncut version of Sergio Leone’s masterpiece Once Upon a Time in America.
Even after watching it many times, this masterpiece keeps getting better and better as time keeps cooking it. It gets delicious with every second that lapses.
This 4 hours 11 minute-enigmatic gangster epic never lets me breathe and my heart keeps skipping beats.
Brilliantly crafted with a deeply moving plot and subplots, Once Upon a Time in America is a film school in itself and a granddad who annihilates all the f***ing film theories and stupid commercial notions of formula-for-a-successful movie existing in the world!”
2. Rohit Mittal (Dir: Autohead) – The Man With The Movie Camera (1929)
When I first saw it, I was totally amused by the rhythm of the film. Just the way the images flowed one after the other. That was also the first time I realised that you can make a film which is an intense work of art, philosophy and psychology without using any kind of dialogue, and just through images. And yes it was a documentary. But it hardly felt like a documentary. It also made me realise that only a documentary can truly liberate the cinematic form. It can free cinema from literature, theatre etc.
And most importantly, I could relate to the biggest element in this silent classic, that was questioning the eye or the camera. The relation of the camera with the subject. The camera was also a representation of the technological advancement at that time and age. And how the filmmaker used that element to reflect on his own personality and cinema. My first film Autohead has a direct influence from that. That is the self-aware presence of the camera. Trying to understand what it is. Thus reflecting on oneself and the camera’s importance in a society. And lastly the things that the film talks about. I could relate to it so much. Dziga Vertov’s documentary was an extremely shocking experience. And it has stayed with me ever since.
3. Lokesh Kumar (Dir: My Son is Gay) – Taxi (2015)
There are several films which have inspired me as a filmmaker. But this one particular Iranian film by Jafar Panahi was exceptionally inspiring because the story behind the making of the film and the struggles the filmmaker faced in his country are beyond believable. Panahi was banned by the Iran government from making films as he portrays the reality of Iran and its politics. The government didn’t care that he was a big filmmaker and had contributed so much for Iranian cinema. Inspite of the ban and strict laws against him, he managed to have made this unique film with bare minimum resources while acting in it. It just shows that no one can stop an artist from being true to his art. I was moved by his story and the film. It will be always in my mind whenever I feel low as an indie filmmaker.
4. Mehran Amrohi (Dir: Chidiya) – Children of Heaven, Life is Beautiful (1997)
When I was about 10 or 12 there was only one channel, Doordarshan. So I didn’t have much access to films but I remember we had a VCR and apart from cassettes of our family marriages we had another VHS. It was of a Hindi film called Ajooba. So that was the only film I watched almost everyday for two years after coming back from school.
But access to films increased when computer was introduced into our lives in 2000. It’s very difficult to pick one film that inspires me. I think what’s more important is the timing of the film. What I want to say is, at what point the age you watch a film which inspires you.
When I regularly started watching films in early 2000s, two films I watched repeatedly were Children of Heaven (1997) and Life is Beautiful (1997). I so loved these two films that I made my whole family watch them. I like cinema which has some relatability and emotional, social, historical or political connect of a particular period or a place.
Besides films, two books that inspired me the most were Chanakya Neeti by Chanakya and an Urdu poetry book Shayad by Jaun Elia.
5. Vishal Furia (Dir: Lapachhapi) – Forrest Gump (1994)
Forrest Gump is a story of a fictional character being a catalyst in some of the most significant events in history, and the protaganist is not heroic or smart by any measure. This film is a major achievement in direction as it makes such an absurd story believable and touching. It’s perfect in almost every department. This film pulls me up whenever I feel down.
6. Aadish Keluskar (Dir: Kaul) – Oldboy (2003)
Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy inspired me because it made me feel if I do not give a shot to filmmaking, I would be regretting it at my deathbed.