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Sanjiv Jaiswal: Movie Making For Independent Filmmakers In Bollywood Is A Huge Risk

Sanjiv Jaiswal: Movie Making For Independent Filmmakers In Bollywood Is A Huge Risk

Filmmaker Sajiv Jaiswal has been making independent films all his life. The maker of films like ‘Shudra’ and ‘Quota’ speaks up about the problems of an indie filmmaker, and what’s the future ahead.

Sanjiv Jaiswal
Sanjiv Jaiswal Instagram

Sanjiv Jaiswal has been making movies for over 15 years now. As an independent filmmaker, he has made some of the most soul-stirring films in the recent past. Films like ‘Shudra’ and ‘Quota’, which are based on the lower caste and Dalits are some of his most renowned works. However, he too has had his own set of challenges and troubles as an indie movie maker.

Talking to Prateek Sur, Sanjiv Jaiswal reveals what problems independent filmmaker has to go through, how they differentiate themselves from commercial filmmakers and what their main objective of making a movie is. Excerpts from the candid conversation:

How does one define oneself as an independent filmmaker?

Independent filmmakers are a different breed. Their main goal is to tell stories about society through their films. They believe in their films strongly and do not obsess over commercial returns or criticism. Independent filmmakers talk through film, they have a message which they want to share and do that through the medium of movies.

What are those things that an independent filmmaker does that a commercial filmmaker doesn’t do?

For independent filmmakers, our passion lies in the story and message of a film. I make realistic films, and my sole focus is on telling stories about society’s evils without any kind of hesitation. On the other hand, commercial filmmakers focus on commerce and entertainment rather than the message of a film. Each works toward their own set of objectives and goals. One values box office returns, and the other, which are independent filmmakers value the message over any other factor.

How do independent films make money?

Filmmaking for independent filmmakers is a huge risk since they do not work towards monetary returns. We have immense confidence and faith in the story and the film but we do understand the liability we carry on our back. Since it is a choice, there is no regret about it. But it is not necessary for independent films to fail at the box office and not make money at all. That is a huge myth. In fact because of the power of the story, performances, and technical excellence many independent filmmakers have seen a good collection at the box office.

In India, is there enough reception for independent films?

When compared to world cinema, the reception of independent films is less in our country. There are fewer audiences who appreciate independent cinema and more audiences inclined towards commercial cinema. However, with the rise of the web and OTT, we can see audiences growing and appreciating independent films. There is healthy anticipation for theatrical releases of independent films as well today. The future seems promising.

You’ve made two of the best independent films ‘Quota’ and ‘Shudra’. What is that thing that you would have done differently had you had money backed by a big studio like YRF Or Dharma?

Every studio, in fact, the huge ones mentioned focuses on the commercial viability of a project. The films I set out to make with the creative freedom I have, are not the kinds studios are looking to back. My films did well because of the powerful narratives they had.

Visual effects have been helping big-budget films achieve their goals, but how does a small independent filmmaker, who may have a grand vision, be able to do VFX at par but at a lesser budget?

To be honest, to create that level and scale of effects on the budgets we operate on is difficult. We boost and make other areas of our film stronger, like locations, costumes and performances as per the script's need. The idea is always to have less dependence on expensive VFX and special effects. There are many areas and techniques used to create a grand aura around the film if the script demands it.

Do independent filmmakers get VFX done for their projects? Or is there no budget for that at all?

We live in a day and age where there are great films being made using impressive VFX in India, south India especially and even internationally. We do not want to walk away from using relevant techniques to make our film better. However, we do so sparingly. Like in my recent film, since the script demands it due to its grand scale, we have done some work with special effects. It is not entirely omitted, but we have to be smart in the way we use it to enhance our films.

What next can we see coming from your end?

There is interesting work and stories being explored. Right now I am focussing on my upcoming film, Baghawat- The Revolt. It is the second chapter of my earlier film Shudra- The Rising which received great applause.

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