Team Chauranga talks to Box Office India about the film’s unique journey, being recognised at some of the most prestigious film festivals, and how close it is to the real-life incident that inspired its script.
BOI: Let’s start with how the story came about, how the film started rolling, and how Bikas got everyone on board.
Bikas Ranjan Mishra (BRM): It started with a simple newspaper headline about a boy who gets killed for writing a love letter. I wrote the script’s first draft and applied to NFDC Screenwriters’ Lab. I was selected and that’s where I met Onir. Those were the early days of this film’s journey. The film we shot was the tenth draft but Onir had read the first draft in 2010 and he told me, then and there, that he would like to explore the possibility of working together by introducing the film. Although inspired by a real-life incident, it is not a documentary or even a reconstruction of the real incident. Rather, I have used a creative device, whereby, instead of exploring the actual incident, I have explored society. I was more interested in exploring a society where such a gruesome act is possible.
BOI: Onir, why did you come on board for this film? We are asking because making a film is all about money…
BRM: I still ask Onir why he chose to produce this film. I guess the answer is that, for Onir, at least, making a film is not all about money, or else Onir and Sanjay wouldn’t have made this film.
Onir: Like he said, I read the script soon after Locarno (film festival). Actually, at the airport, Bikas asked me if I would like to read the script after we finished the Lab. It was coincidental that I was in the same Lab with my script and we both had the same mentor. I read the script and liked it immediately, so I shared it with Sanjay (Suri) and asked him if we should do the film. Sanjay was equally fascinated with the script. For us, right from the time we started working on films together with My Brother Nikhil, we have always wanted to do films we believe in and the kind of films we like watching.
First, the story should excite us. Then – and maybe this is not the wisest thing to do – it has become a habit to think of the economics later. We first decide to make a film and then go about trying to make it, and in our own little way, it has always worked. Everyone refused to make My Brother Nikhil but it happened because we believed in it. Everyone refused to make I Am and we crowd-funded and made the film. Similarly, Chauranga was not an easy film but we believed in it and I told Bikas that it would take some time. We didn’t know how we would raise the money but we wanted to do it. I remember having set a deadline, saying that if it does not happen in the next 15 days, then Bikas could take it back. But it happened. I believe that if you really love a story, you will find ways to tell it.
Sanjay Suri (SS): Yes, Onir and I produced it together. The journey started with My Brother Nikhil and we made Sorry Bhai, I Am and now Chauranga. There are two more films in post-production. To digress a bit on the earlier question… I think we are more like ‘out of the box India’ rather than ‘Box Office India’ but we are happy with the way we are. So money is important but that is never a deciding factor to get attached to a film. Going back a little… Onir discovered a film at the Lab and one of our other projects which Onir was writing, Shab and Chauranga, were in same Lab. That is where they discovered the latter script and mailed it to me.
I think they were on the lookout at the time. He mailed me the script. I loved it just as much as he did but we wanted to meet Bikas and understand his vision. We also needed to gauge his level of patience because I had to tell him that we would make the film but that it would take some time. The film has had its own journey, from the script level to wining the best co-production project at the Film Bazaar, and winning the Incredible India Award, winning the script development fund at a reputable film festival and then being selected for various other international film production markets.
After it was made, it won the Best Film at MAMI last year and the Best Film at IFFLA (Indian Film Festival Of Los Angeles) Grand Jury Prize. So this film has had many milestones. This also validated our faith in the film, not that were ever deterred, but continued it enough till it was completed, and now hopefully enough that it will get written about in Box Office India (Laughs) or at least get a mention.