Mumbai, Aug 6 (Calcutta Tube) ‘Soch Lo’, a Rs.3 crore (Rs.30-million) film, could well be considered yet another off-beat directorial debut. But when Sartaj Singh Pannu,, a Punjab farmer’s son, began the project, he had no money in his coffers, not even office space.
What followed was a series of ingenuous ways to fulfil his dream and complete the film that will be released Aug 27.
‘When I started the project, I had neither money nor patronage nor office space. I just had enough money to open a current account in a local bank. It was a case of sheer passion driving the film,’ Pannu told IANS.
Hailing from Naushera Pannu village near Amritsar, he has been in Mumbai for eight years making small-time films. Financial crises dogged his movie project.
‘After the first schedule in Rajasthan, the shoot was just 40 percent complete and I found that it had already eaten up the entire budget. But I kept on since the film looked good on the rushes,’ the 28-year-old said.
He tried out something different – cutting bits and pieces and uploading them on video-sharing website YouTube. That apparently did the trick. The rest of the funds for the movie came from a Hyderabad-based company even as the main contributor remained his brother Karanbir Singh Pannu.
Luckily, the Pannu brothers managed to raise three times the funds initially budgeted.
‘The current trend is making high quality and aesthetically superior films. They need not necessarily be off-beat or art films,’ said Pannu.
‘As for ‘Soch Lo‘, we used cutting edge technology to give the film one of the best production values at comparatively lower costs. The result is rich, sharp, visual tones,’ he claimed.
Pannu, who is playing the main role in the film, has also scripted it.
‘It was overwhelming to play the protagonist of the movie along with being the director, producer and the writer. In fact, overwhelming is an understatement considering the number of tasks I had undertaken, especially for a debut movie,’ Pannu said.
Even that came about as one of the initial hiccups that plagued the movie.
‘I had to cast myself after the shortlisted protagonist suddenly abandoned me. Since I did not want to risk my limited resources on unreliable actors, I decided to cast myself,’ Pannu confessed.
Hailing from a farming background, the movie bug hit Pannu in a big way and he worked as a freelance assistant director. He learnt the ropes of filmmaking without any formal training in the art.
But when he decided to make ‘Soch Lo’, he garnered a group of talented youngsters – mostly in their early 20s – and all graduates of India’s premier film institute FTII, Pune.
Revealing how he got into making a mainstream film, Pannu said: ‘When I got no response for scripts I had pitched to various studios/producers in Mumbai, I decided to make/produce a small film.’
Pannu’s initial idea was to make a student diploma film to showcase his talent. He wrote the script keeping in mind the aesthetics, but smoothly blending it with a mainstream taste.
‘Gradually in the process of writing, the script got bigger in scale and so did the dream – but the budget remained uncertain,’ Pannu said.
‘I contacted fresh graduates from FTII (Film and Television Institute of India). I promised them good experience but little money, coupled with lots of hard work and good content to work on, to give them professional satisfaction,’ he added.
The film takes off from the point where a wounded man is left to die in a blazing hot desert. He survives the ordeal but loses his identity. He then resorts to robbing solitary car drivers traversing highways.
Having become a professional highway robber, he makes an abandoned shed his hideaway, where three troubled individuals – Harry, Toto and Pali – find him. They take him to their home in a nearby village and name him Baba.
Baba and Pali then embark on a very long journey to solve his mystery. Flashes of his wife, visions of being stabbed and then betrayed come rushing to his mind. His relentless search for truth leads to something more diabolical than his expectations.
”Soch Lo‘ does not belong to the off-beat category. It is an entertainer and a fairly simple plot. But the medium and cinematic language used to tell the story are certainly new. I am sure that the multiplex audience will love it,’ said a confident Pannu.
(Mauli Buch can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)