Indian film has played a major role in the worldwide entertainment business for over fifty years. In many aspects, it has pioneered a style that is distinctly Indian and has piqued the imagination of people all over the world. However, over the last decade, Indian cinema has taken an interesting turn; many offbeat films have begun to emerge from all parts of the country, and the focus has shifted, especially since films like the Oscar-nominated Lagaan, the India-set Slumdog Millionaire, Udaan, and Masaan have grabbed headlines as films that have made a lot of noise on the awards circuit.
Writing with Fire, an Indian documentary, was just nominated for an Academy Award. This is obvious evidence that the globe is now looking at the Indian market in a new and lucrative light.
Mihir Fadnavis is an aspiring director who has seen this shift and believes in the upheaval of Indian cinema. Beginning his career as an entertainment journalist in 2010, Fadnavis witnessed the industry's focus shift from analogue to digital, as well as the tides of change brought in by the new generation of renegade storytellers such as Anurag Kashyap, and was inspired by their constant striving for cinematic excellence and the need to stand out in a crowd.
During his early days as a journalist, he met and interviewed many great and up-and-coming filmmakers and producers, and he was struck by their disparate styles and approaches to filmmaking. He saw that there was a significant difference between the mainstream and indie art spaces, and that it is feasible to create indie quality film while still appealing to the mainstream audience, therefore bridging the gap between the two cinematic approaches. For him, it was evident that there was a true possibility to create unique movies while yet connecting with a wide range of audiences. He then decided to go out and produce and direct films, as well as ensuring that his tales are told in a professional manner.
'It was really clear for me,' says Fadnavis, 'either produce films that are worth watching or don't make them at all.' Making a movie is a difficult process, and consumers are now wise enough to know what is worth their time and money.' Aside from local legends, he credits his love of foreign cinema with influencing his approach to filmmaking. 'Having grown up seeing the works of masters like Park Chan Wook, it was necessary to at least attempt to aspire to that level of filmmaking, and with legends like Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Dibakar Bannerjee, and Vishal Bharadwaj making such high quality films in our era, it would do the industry an injustice to strive to make films of that calibre.'
Fadnavis began his filmmaking career with the Netflix show 'Ghoul,' starring Radhika Apte; it was one of the first Netflix originals produced following the phenomenal success of Sacred Games. Fadnavis served as an Associate Producer on the programme, which was met with critical praise upon its initial premiere.
Soon after, Fadnavis co-wrote and directed 'Chewing Gum,' a horror film that had its world premiere at the renowned BiFan festival in South Korea and a successful worldwide festival run in Fantasia in Toronto, as well as many other festivals in Europe and the US. 'Chewing Gum,' produced by veteran Vikramaditya Motwane, is a genre horror picture - a form that is rarely developed in India – and it was a tremendous achievement for the film to have an international stage.
Having Vikramaditya Motwane as a mentor was a great blessing for me, and having spent my formative cinema years watching his work, having him produce my first picture as a filmmaker was a wonderful experience.' 'Despite Chewing Gum being a horror picture, it was necessary to base the film in truth, but more importantly, it had to be entertaining,' says Fadnavis.
Fadnavis also emphasises how the emergence of OTTs has brought people closer to the filmmakers. 'People watching quality stuff at home nowadays have begun to understand not only what good content is, but they have also begun to understand the thought process behind the filmmakers,' he continues, 'it is a terrific development because for a filmmaker discourse and being able to connect to audiences, both emotionally and artistically, is extremely satisfying, after all that is what we make films for, to be able to connect with people and engage in healthy ways with them.'
Mihir Fadnavis, who feels that versatility is essential for successful filmmaking, is now working on a number of projects in a variety of genres. Mihir's most recent production, a documentary titled 'Lords Of Lockdown', has also gone overseas and will premiere at the New York Indian Film Festival on May 7, 2022.