'Small budget films are dying in India'

Gaurav Dhingra is one of those silent strikers of a much populated entertainment industry in India. He started his career in 2001 as a light man, until he met producer Bobby Bedi and started assisting him in movies like Mangal Pandey, Maqbool, The Myth and Saathiya. With over 10 years in the industry, Dhingra has been the producer of reality show Ice Road Truckers with History Channel in the US and line producer for ten seasons of the reality show The Amazing Race. Dhingra has also been line producer on films like Rang De Basanti and Delhi 6 before he became a co-producer with films like Peddlers and Haraamkhor.

Today, Dhingra is the founder of Jungle Book Entertainment, which produced the critically acclaimed documentary titled Faith Connections and the recently released film Angry Indian Goddesses. Metrolife spoke to Dhingra about his movies, censorship and his future projects. Excerpts:

How did Jungle Book Entertainment (JBE) happen?

After working on Valley of Flowers with Pan Nalin in 2005, we met again in 2012. Nalin and I along with another French and Indian producer got together to work on a project. After slogging for a year together, the project never took off but in that period of time we realised that we share great chemistry and working relationship, thus Jungle Book Entertainment was born.

How about Angry Indian Goddesses (AIG)?

Nalin was longing to make a film with firebrand Indian women in lead roles for a long time. When he told me about the idea, I was excited as the story and concept were unique. At a time when women issues and gender equality were so talked about, it was hard not to make a film on it. In recent times, there hasn’t been any Indian film that explores female friendship and relationships or just women's lives in general. Movies like Dil Chahta Hai, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Rang De Basanti explored male friendship and ‘bromance’, but with Angry Indian Goddesses (AIG) we decided to flip the coin and present the stories of women with a similar context.   

Are you happy with the response AIG got?

I feel really humbled and to be honest, I am amazed as I never thought we would get such reception, especially from the international audience. We had a good run at festivals, winning the top prize at Rome (People’s Choice Award) and securing the runner up (Grolsch Peoples Choice Award). The audience reaction has been phenomenal in India and those who have watched the film anywhere in the world have loved it and are moved by it.

What do you have to say about censor board’s criticism over some scenes in the movie?

The cuts we have been asked to make, ‘voluntarily’ or involuntary, are just ridiculous. I understand that CBFC wants to mute a few cuss words but the reasons and intentions behind forcing these mutes are bizarre. What’s more appalling is that some words like sarkar, aadivasi and ‘Indian figure’ have been asked to be muted as well. What is CBFC’s job? Is it certification or censorship?

How well are Indian films received in international market?

This really depends on what the film is about and how it is made. The international market has a different taste than the Indians. In the former, films have an underplayed tone whereas in the latter, the tone is more overplayed. It really depends on the style of filmmaking and technique of storytelling. But a good film is a good film and will work anywhere in the world.

What do you think about the future of small-budget content-driven movies?

Small budget films are dying primarily because they have to survive in the same ecosystems that are designed for big budget films. The fact remains that small budget films often do not make money as they do not have the power to compete against big and massive budget films. Even if they are released theatrically, a lack of awareness due to deficient marketing and considerably small screen count, it is very hard for them to recoup its money and survive in the market.

What’s in store?

JBE has a series of films in its slate; Satori  which unites two great nations — India and China, is a high-voltage action epic set in ancient two countries. Satori is seeking to cast top Indian and Chinese stars. Then, there is unique and original Hindi language romcom in development titled, A Perfect Wedding. Beyond the Known World, a spiritual thriller set in the Indian Himalayas is currently in post-production in New Zealand.It marks our entry into English language features starring David Wenham and Emmanuelle Beart, and it is also first India-New Zealand co-production.

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