First Person: Body

The image of a naked man in public. That was the starting point of my script for my intended film, Body.  I have to admit that it was a feeling of quiet desperation led me to this image. And as I started to work on this image, slowly but surely, a story began to emerge. A story about Manoj, a young actor from Mumbai, who goes into deep trauma when a few of his acting peers, in a drunken stupor, strip him and abandon him in the middle of nowhere. He walks stark naked to the nearby village, battling pain, fear and humiliation on his way. He tries to ask for help but gets thrashed by the locals. Somehow, he manages to come back to Mumbai. Back in Mumbai, he carries with him the harrowing memory of his awful trauma and starts stripping in public places in the most unpredictable and erratic manner, sometimes inviting grave danger upon himself. The intended film follows Manoj’s journey as a person and as an actor going deep into the labyrinth of his mind and body.

The film is my attempt to discover the image of a naked man in the dimensions of horror, pain and confusion. This image is an effort to study the mind of a struggling actor in a hostile environment. Is Manoj going through a severe psychological condition? Or is he just pushing his boundaries as an actor? Is he in control or not? I hope that the image and its associated events trigger these questions and ultimately provoke the audience to look for answers. The film also delves into the trauma associated with bullying and harassment, domestic violence and society’s attitude towards something that is ‘different’. It tries to explore the very idea of violence and the way it surrounds us in day-to-day life in modern society.

As the story took shape, my desperation increased. I had to make this  film, come what may. The very desperation that led me to decide that since I could not put in the money myself, I would crowdfund for this film and not go knocking on the doors of conventional producers and financiers. My story did not lend itself for a typical production and I knew that.

My choice of an actor as the protagonist was completely spontaneous. No other profession demands a person to bare oneself so completely in the eyes of other people. Before I actually started penning Body, I first bounced off the idea with Manoj Sharma, who I planned to cast in the role of the traumatised actor. I could immediately sense his excitement and we were on. I began writing the script  in October 2018 and through all the ups and downs of the writing process, was propelled ahead many a time thanks to Manoj’s responses on how his character was developing.

As for the rest of the cast, they are a group of very talented actors, all graduates of the acting course from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune. I already had the opportunity of working with many of them way back in 2013 when I directed a diploma film for the FTII Acting Department, Yeti. Yeti was an official selection in the Waves Section of Torino Film Festival. Not surprisingly, I felt drawn into working with the same group of actors again. To recreate the magic that we had created once years ago. As a result, all my other characters were written keeping my Yeti actors Khushboo, Amol Deshmukh, Jatin Negi and Sandeep Shridhar in mind. The main crew of Body are my batchmates, also from the from FTII – Mohana Krishna for cinematography, Amala Popuri, who doubles up as producer of the film besides taking care of the sound design and Krishnendu Sarkar looking after the editing. Kanishka Sarkar, based out of Berlin, is in charge of music.

Once I saw crowdfunding as the only practical way to get this film funded, I realised that Wishberry was my first and the only choice as a crowdfunding partner. My colleague at Whistling Woods International, where I teach, and my senior from the FTII, Sharad Raj’s  recommendation confirmed I was on the right path. Sharad had successfully raised funds through Wishberry for his debut feature Ek Betuke Aadmi Ki Afrah Raatein.

We started talking with Anshulika at Wishberry and at every step Yashmi, the campaign consultant, guided us as to how to go about the process. Fortunately we clicked and were totally at ease with their expertise and track record. They gave us the confidence that we could raise the necessary funds and get Body made.  One of the crucial things for the campaign to be launched was to make a pitch video and to create the content for the campaign page. This process not just gave us a lot of clarity but also helped us enter the world of the film in a rather concrete way. My team was also totally clued in, finding their bearings promptly. The actors with their spontaneous energy made the pitch video come to life.

The crowdfunding campaign has been a fascinating journey so far. The full support of the cast and the crew, our friends and family, and even friends of friends and their families and acquaintances have been crucial in keeping it going through all crests and troughs. Sometimes, there are disappointing days when there are no contributions. But then with every new contribution we feel re-energised and more optimistic. We cherish every rupee contributed to the project. Of our target of Rs 20,00,000 (twenty lakh), to be raised in 60 days, we have raised over 15 lakhs in 48 days from 147 backers till now. It has truly been an eyeopening and humbling experience for the team to see others have faith in us and our film.

I am confident we will succeed and feel really delighted to feel the momentum of the filmmaking process picking up significantly since we started crowdfunding. Actors have already started rehearsing and location scouting has begun. The entire team is in place with all eyes on the same goal. We are planning to start our shoot in May. Needless to say we are raring to go!

Following is the link to our pitch video and the campaign page: https://www.wishberry.in/campaign/body

Please help and spread the good word around so our dream is realised. Every small gesture and contribution helps.

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