The name may not ring a bell with a casual movie goer but Sandeep Mohan is a respected name in the indie circuit. His first three films — Love Wrinkle-Free (2011), Hola Venky (2014) and Shreelancer (2017) were warmly embraced by critics. Sandeep’s unconventional style (in how he brings cinema to people) and flair for storytelling have found emotional resonance with audiences. Today, the independent filmmaker and writer reminisces his early days in Mumbai, the good times and bad — the struggle to survive and the unrelenting will to succeed as a ‘filmmaker’ — as he gears up for his quirky fourth feature Nirmal Anand ki Puppy.
I came to Bombay in 1996 to make films. I didn’t know one person in the city then. Not a single soul. I know it sounds stupid. But yes, it’s true. It was around this time I arrived, end of July/August beginning. It was raining.
Back then, I stayed with 25-odd people in a dormitory in a place near VT station for a while. The journey started then and continues even now. I still remember surviving on Parle G biscuits for lunch and dinner at times. I know the feeling of going to bed hungry. Of course, I didn’t let anyone else back home know then. But I didn’t let hunger kill my spirit or outlook towards life. More than food, I was hungry for life’s experiences. And the city has not disappointed me on that front.
I knew that with more hardwork and a clear goal, I can carve out a way for myself here. No one was going to offer it on a platter here. Especially for a guy like me who doesn’t hang around filmmakers or actors and worship them.
Many here felt and still feel they own the industry. Of course, they breathe rarified air or smoke pure stuff, so they ought to know it!
I was never interested in fighting with them. It bored me then. It bores me now too.
My attitude has always been the same. I just wanted to devote my entire focus on making a few films.
I always wanted ‘Sandeep Mohan, Filmmaker’ in my obituary. Yeah, it sounds a little stupid. But then it’s my dream. I decide!
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In hindsight, it feels good because I’ve managed to stay outside the industry and without the help of any mentors or godfathers or studio backing or whatever else they say is needed here, have made three feature films my way. With the help of like minded friends from outside the industry. Who says there are not enough good people in this world?
I still don’t know many people personally here in Mumbai. Maybe because I don’t socialize much here.
I have only Facebook to reach out to people. I have never used a casting director in my life. FB is my casting director. It is a boon for an independent-spirited filmmaker like me. I utilise the platform in the best possible way that I can.
And yes, the next one, Nirmal Anand ki Puppy (2019), will be a tough shoot with limited resources. Let’s see how this one goes.
I have a desire to make another one sometime next year. I won’t take my time here for granted. Thousands of directors like me have come and gone in this industry. I am aware.
Make it happen. Only you can!
By Sandeep Mohan