In 2014, Kolkata actor/director Prasun Chatterjee was ready with his dream script. He’d woven a tale about the friendship between two boys in a village in West Bengal in the backdrop of the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992. Chatterjee was aware that his film, without a song and dance sequence or stars, would be difficult to sell to producers. But he hoped to be able to convince at least someone. For three years, meetings went fruitless.
But in March this year, he abandoned the idea but not the film.
Chatterjee and a small crew travelled to the Indo-Bangladesh border in Murshidabad and shot the trailer for Dharmik, bearing the expenses from their own pockets. They put it up on the Kolkata-based crowdfunding platform Beeyodo, hoping to get potential viewers to contribute Rs 43 lakh to make the rest of the film.
“I am a great fan of Ritwik Ghatak and I believe strongly in the idea that he repeated often: It is a sin to lose faith in people,” says Chatterjee. “Now that there is a way to reach out to people directly with your idea, I decided to bypass the struggle with producers.”
The campaign started in July and so far, Dharmik has collected nearly Rs 30 lakh. The film will start shooting early November.
“Crowdfunding helped us in multiple ways,” the filmmaker says. “People helped us by transferring money, sharing the information with others and even contacting us and handing over money in cash personally. People transferred as much as Rs 60,000 online and as little as Rs 50.”
Like Chatterjee, Indian filmmakers with scripts that are unlikely to get traditional producers excited are increasingly going the crowdfunding route, says Priyanka Agarwal, CEO and co-founder, Wishberry, a crowdfunding platform.
Two feature films Rainbow Fields by Bidyut Kotoky and Out of Time by Arijit Lahiri are currently on Wishberry, hoping for funds from the general public.
Funding from fans
Approaching people to help make a film has a long history in India. Shyam Benegal made Manthan, a film inspired by the dairy revolution, using contributions from 5 lakh dairy farmers in 1975.
But with online crowdfunding, the numbers have increased manifold. Platforms like Ketto or Wishberry now see films looking for funding. Ketto’s last campaign, for the Hindi-English film Hindrapura directed by T Mohanraj, Jiya Rawat and Pratik Narayanan Kutty, ended on September 20 and raised Rs 61,000.
“Indians have become more e-payment friendly, accolade-winning filmmakers have inspired other filmmakers, big names like Illayaraja and Nandita Das have come on-board by campaigning for films like Punyakoti and the 2016 film Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai?” Agarwal says. “Digital distribution platforms like Netflix and Amazon have helped in expanding monetising options. With every success story the cycle keeps rolling.”