Noted film maker Alphonse Puthren who thrilled Malayali audience with blockbusters like ‘Neram’ and ‘Premam’ has revealed that he met at least 30 producers to get his debut film rolling. He suggested one should keep digging until they strike gold. Alphonse was replying to a post penned by young filmmaker Vishnu Udayan, titled ‘Fascism in Cinema’, on Facebook.
In the post, Vishnu had spoken about the difficulties faced by debutant directors in the industry. Alphonse, who is known for interacting well with social media users, advised Vishnu to approach a new producer if he felt rejected by one. He also revealed that he had approached twenty four producers with another screen play, before ‘Neram’ and met around thirty producers to make ‘Neram’ a reality.
He says Anwar Rasheed agreed to bankroll ‘Premam’ though‘Shutter’ didn’t work out in Hindi. However, he was hit by bad luck when another movie 'Pattu', for which he auditioned several actors, didn’t take off due to the Covid – 19 outbreak. “But, then ‘Gold’ went on the floors. You should dig until you hit gold. You might even get diamond or petrol if you dig the right way. There is no point in complaining as no one is interested in listening to your woes. So, in case you fail, you could imagine that you are playing a game of Super Mario and move on. You are the creator of your screen play. So, you are the one who clearly knows which actor suits the characters. Be patient and keep waiting like a leopard who waits for his prey,” the film maker wrote.
Vishnu Udayan, the author of ‘Fascism in Cinema’ is the director of a handful of short films, including the acclaimed ‘Waft’ that had won awards at SIIMA. In his viral social media note, Vishnu accused producers of completely ignoring the ideas and preferences of new filmmakers. He says that such producers ruin the aspirations of young filmmakers who have learned to dream. Vishnu adds that producers often try to bulldoze these dreams by luring young filmmakers with ‘opportunities’.
Meanwhile, Vishnu thanked Alphonse Puthren for his inspiring reply. He said that positive comments from stalwarts like Alphonse give him the encouragement to move forward with confidence.
Here is what Vishnu Udayan wrote on his social media page: Some people may be familiar with what I am about to write. However, I felt the need to share it here so that more people would know it. I have been struggling hard for the last one year to get a movie rolling. I have met and narrated the story to producers, funders and production controllers. No one has expressed any dislike for the story until now. But, as cinema is not just an art form and has a commercial side to it, it is quite natural for producers to express reluctance to fund the movie of a debutant writer and director. Besides, they may not be sure about the financial prospects of a film that features an upcoming female artist in the lead role. Meanwhile, some were doubtful whether the actress could imbibe the character in the truest sense. So, as the director, it was my responsibility to convince the producers about her calibre. We shot two pilots, on our own expenses, hoping that it would clear the doubts about the female artist’s capabilities. But, the obstacles didn’t end there. It is quite natural for the producers to worry about the market of the movie. I moved on as I firmly believe that the backbone of a movie is its story, screenplay and direction. I, meanwhile, met a producer through a friend. He was willing to listen to the story. However, he had a demand. He wanted the lead actress to be replaced.
The movie hasn’t gone on floors yet. But, he still demanded to replace the artist even before listening to the story. I haven’t been able to understand the logic behind it. If you think the artist doesn’t suit the character after listening to the story, then we can always have a conversation. We will try to convince you why we wish to cast her. If we can’t reach a consensus, despite all the debate, then we can either part ways or shoot the movie by casting an actor of your choice. How can you say that you do not even wish to listen to a story if a particular actress is our choice for the role?
A filmmaker or a movie is borne when you realise that a particular actor would suit the characters that you have created. If the director cannot convince the producers, even after multiple rounds of discussions and debates, then he would move on to the next person. It is truly a fascist mentality to blatantly reject an artist without giving any valid reason.
I believe this is one of the few struggles that debutant filmmakers often face in the industry. Everyone wishes to present their own movies to the audience, when they set out with dreams in their eyes. I have heard the stories about countless debutant directors whose only role was to scream ‘action and cut’ on the sets. When we question that, they try to silence us by saying that there are hundreds of aspiring filmmakers who are looking for opportunities. They ‘advice’ us to be wise and take the opportunity that they are benevolently offering us.
It is a basic right to wish for decent income and respect for the job that you do. No one has the right to deny these basic human rights. When the producers who only eye profits in the market, completely ignore the ideas of a filmmaker, they are actually bulldozing the dreams of a director.