Posted by Fenil Seta
Manish Mundra, one of the top 10 producers to watch out for globally, who ventured into film production at 40, has reshaped indie cinema in India in less than four years
Roshmila Bhattacharya (MUMBAI MIRROR; May 20, 2017)
A chance encounter with Rajat Kapoor on Twitter in 2013 resulted in Manish Mundra producing his first film, Ankhon Dekhi, which bagged three Filmfare Awards. He has since produced half-a-dozen films, including Masaan, X: Past Is Present,Waiting, Dhanak and Umrika which is yet to be released. He has three more films — Newton, Rukh and Kadvi Hawa — waiting to be unveiled. And now, Manish is the only Indian filmmaker to make it to Variety magazine’s list of ‘10 Producers To Watch Out For In 2017’, each of whom will be honoured in person at the 70th Cannes Film Festival.
Speaking to Mirror, Manish acknowledged that he is excited and happy. “It was a surprise but it will motivate me to carry this momentum forward over the next three-four years and prove that the privilege was worth it,” he asserted, admitting that while none of the celebs had called to congratulate him, many from the Indian film industry are delighted for him.
He has his life carefully charted out with five-year plans that have kept him on course. When he was between 25-30 he had the option of getting into films and starting at the bottom of the ladder or establish himself as a professional and pursue his passion at a later stage. He took the second route and entered the industry when he was 40, and in less than four years, has made a name for himself internationally. “I didn’t have the money to invest in big films, so I chose to nurture parallel cinema instead, making films within a tight budget and schedule to ensure that the investment paid off. Now, the effort is towards building brand Drishyam with quality products, so a certain audience which loves good cinema will come to the theatres to see a film from my company and we can cut down on the money for promotions,” he informs. “Also, once a film picks up awards and acclaim at fests abroad, the digital platform, along with theatrical and satellite, is available to us for exploiting.”
Quiz him on whether the A-listers want to work with him now, given that his films have found an audience not just at home but even abroad, and he says, “The smaller stars are coming to us but the bigger names are still interested in the big-budget, song-and-dance fantasy films which will continue to be made as they work with the Indian diaspora. For us content is the star and we’re constantly on the lookout for subjects that will appeal to an international, non-Indian audience that is looking for new and genuinely Indian, honest, real and heart-warming stories. We have a team to go through scripts. At Cannes I’m planning to connect with festival directors and their teams to figure out what kind of films they are looking for from India.”
What is his next objective? “To bag an Oscar for India in the Foreign Language category. Newton, which after winning awards at the Berlinale and the Hong Kong Film Festival, has been invited to 40 film fests across the world, stands a good chance if it is selected as India’s official entry. Else, we will come up with another movie,” he says confidently, whose favourite productions so far have been the critically acclaimed Masaan and the upcoming Rukh and Kadvi Hawa. Rukh is an emotional father-son story, an international level film featuring Manoj Bajpayee, and Kadvi Hawa, helmed by Padma Shri Nila Madhab Panda, is about global warming and climate change, based on the true stories from the drought-prone Bundelkhand region and the vanishing villages of coastal Odisha. “Kadvi Hawa has a brilliant performance by Sanjay Mishra and has bagged us the second National Award this year along with Dhanak, making it our third if you count Masaan. It’s been a short but fulfilling journey,” he exults.
And is directing a film on the cards? “Of course, but not till I have made another six-seven films as a producer. Direction needs time and knowledge of techniques. It’ll happen when the time is right. Till then I’ll keep nurturing talent and making good cinema,” says India’s Indie guru.