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zero budget films

‘How do I become a film maker, I’ve been struggling to do so for so long ?’

How often have I been asked that question.

“is that a Video you are running on your cell phone ?”

“yes ”

“Do you have access to some form of editing system on your computer or on the cell phone ?”


‘Do you know how to upload to youtube or hundred of other similar sites ?”

“Of course,”

“Then do just that, and you are film maker, right ? You’ve just created, edited and distributed your own film for no money”

I see doubt cloud his face. I swear I am not just getting rid of him. It’s a serious, relevant answer.

” You are not asking me the right question, are you ?”

“Means ?”

“You are not asking me how to become a film maker, but asking me how do you become a famous film maker, get a theatrical release, right ?’  

He looks really sheepish, for more often than not, that is what is on people’s mind. For that is the only way they see it.

” It took me 12 years of knocking on people’s doors to make my first film, Masoom. If I had this technology it would have taken me 12 days”

You want to sing. You then want to then be a singer. And then you want to be Lady Gaga. You want a record deal. What happened to just singing for the pleasure of it, for the passion of it ? Especially now as you can sing and put it out there for people to participate in your passion ?  I collaborated with Midival Punditz and Karsh Kale to put my poetry to their music. We just put it out there on SoundCloud and thousands have heard and appreciated. We did it for the joy of it.  At zero cost.

And why don’t we see that simple answer as possibly the right answer ? Because we are stuck in another world. In a world of yesterday. I believe that technology and it’s practical use is more hampered by an addiction to the old ways and culture, rather than technology itself.  Our desires tend to cling to us, even though technology is creating fundamentally different ways for us to express them.

Lets talk film. The 35 mm film when first developed had very low light resolution. So artificial lights were needed to boost illumination. That limitation then became the art of film itself. The art of lighting the face. The art of lighting the set etc. A relationship between silver halide and light. A limitation became an art.  It always does.  Technology often provokes an expression of art,  and the limitations of that technology itself creates the culture of that expression.

On film we rehearse a shot, then the actors leave the set, as the Director of Photography lights the set. Once done then the actors come back on the set and we take the shot. Do you have any idea of how long that takes ?  Other than actors having to recreate the rehearsal again, possibly loosing the absolute passion of the moment ? Digital has changed all that. Even some consumer models are more light sensitive than our eyes. Lars Von Triers and his colleagues started the Dogma 95 movement , which were a bit extreme and the movement has faltered since. It disallowed even music and props. But technology has developed leaps and bounds since then and I really wonder why Hollywood film budgets average out at $ 100 m each.

It’s the old model. Today a child can make a film and put it out there for people to see. And they are. I judge an annual world wide competition called ‘One minute to change the world’. One minute films often shot on cell phones on the environment. Some of the most innovative ones come from kids. Really. I often tell my friends in Hollywood (and myself) that our competition is not from each other. It is from those kids that do not carry the burden of the past and are adapting so fast to new technology and the Internet, that one day the theaters may be empty . Other than a few successes, the box office take is directly proportional to the amount of money spent on marketing. No wonder Hollywood is banking more and more on pre sold franchises and on 3 D.

There is a new model available. Where you make a film by your own passion. Like you paint, or write poetry. Or write a book. It is possible now to make that zero budget film, and put it out there for the world to see. Not every story you write will be zero budget, but hey (I say to myslef) there are stories you would like to create that are possible on a zero budget.

I must practice what I preach. Lets just go out and express our passions.

The power of Mantra’s ?

Always wondered about Mantra’s. When I was a child i was asked to recite the Gayatri Mantra every night with my parents.  I thought it was a prayer more than combinations of sounds created in a rhythm designed to provoke the universe to give in to ‘intention’.  Well .. I guess that is what a prayer is too, except that a lot of research says that the ‘seed’ sounds of the universe, starting with ‘AUM ‘ have the capacity to accelerate ‘intention’ into something far deeper.  Does that mean that Mantra’s can provoke the universe beyond ‘intention’ ? After all, as a child, what intention is contained in the Gayatri Mantra, the true meaning of which I am still grappling with. For if I did manage to experience the true meaning of it, I would not be asking these questions would I ?

I asked my friend Sanjeev Verma, a well known astrologer in Canada on what he believes ‘Beej’ (Seed) Mantra’s are – do we all have a ‘Seed Mantra’ that is aligned to our astrological charts ?  I have a completely open mind still. .  Ah … the age of reason !


“Beej Mantra” is a combination of two words “Beej” and “Mantra”. “Beej” is a seed which when sown grows into a fruitful tree, whereas “Mantra” is an invocation that produces a set of vibration in the surrounding atmosphere. Thus “Beej Mantra” can be defined as sound vibrations which when performed with full faith results into a fountain of Shakti or Powerful energy.

It is an interesting fact to know that in 360 degrees of Cosmic Universe there are 108 sound vibrations which are always active. These vibrations are an active constituent of not only the cosmic universe but also every individual is born with these sound vibrations which we also call as Beej mantras. There can be up to seven of them having the power to affect different aspects of our life like health, wealth, relationships etc. These Beej mantras are different for each Individual. In order to create a harmony between an individual and the cosmic universe one needs to connect with it through these vibrations only. This synchronization with the cosmic universe can take place either through deeper and higher levels of meditation or by knowing our own sound vibrations or Beej mantras and chanting them and becoming one with them.

Beej mantras given or identified are for the purpose of matching cosmic sound vibration and the vibration of the person with which he or she is born. Once we have identified our own sound vibrations and we start chanting that sound over and again, each sound goes in the cosmic universe and hits at least one of the 108 sound vibrations which is same as itself and harmony takes place. The harmony between the individual and the Cosmic vibrations results in the overall prosperity and well being of an individual, be it in terms of health, wealth, relationships or any other aspect of an individual’s life.

I have noticed that the Beej mantras normally given are matching the mind vibrations only. But there can be Beejas for every aspect of our physical and spiritual existence.

By repeating these Beej Mantars one can create harmony with any aspect of life. Essentially it would tune your vibrations to match the cosmic vibrations to lead a thriving life. I have been researching and experimenting on the Beej Mantras for quite a long time And found them to be extremely effective and life transforming. The best way to find out one’s seed sound or alphabet is by making a birth chart. A Seed Mantra is combination of three words “ OM—your seed sound—Namah.

OM (pronounced AUM) is the most important of all mantras. All mantras generally begin and often also end with OM. OM is the mantra of assent and energizes whatever we say after it. That is why all mantras begin with OM. OM is also the mantra of ascent and causes our energy to rise upward into the infinite. Individual seed sound It both calls the divine down into us and offers our soul upward to the Divine for transformation.

Namah is to bow to the energy of the mantra and thanking it.

There can be up to seven seed mantra for an individual depends on the birth chart. There is one base mantra which is for material and spiritual uplift and there are mantras which are for improving or creating harmony in particular aspect of life like health, wealth, relationships etc.

Sanjeev Verma

Twitpics new terms

Subsequent to the furore caused by Twitpic saying they own copyright to all pictures that you upload they have changed their terms as follows, which while accepting that you own copyright now to your own pictures, they retain the right to exploit those pictures for their own benefit :

“To publish another Twitpic user’s content for any commercial purpose or for distribution beyond the acceptable Twitter “retweet” which links back to the original user’s content page on Twitpic, whether online, in print publication, television, or any other format, you are required to obtain permission from Twitpic in advance of said usage and attribute credit to Twitpic as the source where you have obtained the content.

You retain all ownership rights to Content uploaded to Twitpic. However, by submitting Content to Twitpic, you hereby grant Twitpic a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the Content in connection with the Service and Twitpic’s (and its successors’ and affiliates’) business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Service (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels.

You also hereby grant each user of the Service a non-exclusive license to access your Content through the Service, and to use, reproduce, distribute, display and perform such Content as permitted through the functionality of the Service and under these Terms of Service. The above licenses granted by you in media Content you submit to the Service terminate within a commercially reasonable time after you remove or delete your media from the Service provided that any sub-license by Twitpic to use, reproduce or distribute the Content prior to such termination may be perpetual and irrevocable.

You understand and agree, however, that Twitpic may retain, but not display, distribute, or perform, server copies of your media that have been removed or deleted. The above licenses granted by you in user comments you submit are perpetual and irrevocable. Deleted images are only accessed in the event of a legal issue. ”

Goodbye My Love, with Midival Punditz, Karsh Kale.

I wrote this poem after the terrorist attacks on Mumbai to a friend that was there. Midival Punditz, Karsh Kale and I are going to do a series of collaborations of this kind. I find it fascinating and exciting. Different tones etc. The last one posted on this blog earlier is called ‘Today’ in Hindi ‘Aaj Wahi Din’. If it is a song , then of course I will not sing it ! Do visit Midival Punditz sound cloud site at Both the tracks are there.

Goodbye My Love- Midival Punditz and Karsh Kale with Shekhar Kapur by Midival Punditz

Musical Theatre in India :Guest Column by Sohaila Kapur

It’s expensive and a logistical nightmare. But do Indian directors love musicals? Yes, says the chorus

In India today, the term ‘musical’ has two connotations. The pure musical comes from the Indian tradition of folk theatre, where there is no difference between songs and dialogues. The other is the western concept, where there is a distinction between spoken dialogue and song. Each has its own adherents, although the former, which borrows heavily from our folk traditions, is almost entirely embraced by Hindi or regional theatre . All practitioners of the musical, whether in English, Hindi or any other language, face major problems today.

First of all, there are not enough actors to participate in musicals, which need special training and stamina. The multi-talented and skilled ones prefer to join either television or the movies, which have more or less killed musical theatre, feel directors Feroz Khan (Eva Mumbaima Chal Jaiye), Sunil Shanbagh (Cotton 56, Polyester 84, Mastana Rampuri Urf Chhappan Chhuri, Sex, Morality & Censorship), Swanand Kirkire (Ao Saathi Sapna Dekhen) and Mahesh Dattani (The Alchemist). The ones who are left, are unable to perform all the three arts of dancing, singing and acting, sometimes simultaneously, on stage.

The other hitch is the lack of good sound technology, an important requisite for musicals. Most Indian auditoria are ill equipped, feel the Mumbai directors, who invariably use live music in their shows. However, Dr. Anuradha Kapur, director the National School of Drama and the theatre group Vivadi (Umrao Jaan, Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, Centaurs), disagrees. She feels that most Indian auditoria have a sophisticated sound system and her Umrao, which was complicated in terms of including both live and recorded music, had no problems at all in any of the spaces it was performed in.

Shanbagh also cites the huge costs to mount musicals as the other deterrent. Most Mumbai-based musicians are employed profitably as sessions musicians in the film industry and quote prices which theatre cannot afford. Shanbagh and Utkarsh Mazumdar (Jagine Joun To Narsainyo- Ek Musical Gatha, Master Phoolmani) concur. Mazumdar has also faced a lack of discipline from professional musicians, whom he calls ‘lazy’ and ‘averse to rehearsals’. Shanbagh says the problem can be solved by hiring folk musicians, but urban theatre practitioners lack the networking required for this. He himself tackled it by contacting two folk musicians and a Lavani dancer for regular work with his group.

Rahul Da Cunha (Jesus Christ Superstar) says it costs almost Rs 50 to 60 lakh to put together a musical.


A film on Cromwell ?

This came in from Marshall :


On the 30th January 1659, Charles Stuart, King of England, Scotland and Ireland stepped onto the scaffold to face his execution after seven years of civil war in his three kingdoms, conflict that resulted in the death of a greater proportion of our population than in the world wars of the 20th Century.

The execution of the King and the preceding war was without doubt one of the most momentous things ever to happen in our country. Why then is it a subject so poorly covered by the film and television industry. The Tudors, and in particular Elizabeth, are the subject of so many films and television series that it seems that every well known actress has put her own slant on Elizabeth’s life.

Your two Elizabeth films are truly amazing, but what of Cromwell, our chief of men, one of our greatest historic figures, who with the support of some amazing, influential contemporaries changed our country for the better – forever. They changed the unthinkable – that we could be ruled by someone outside the elite aristocracy – it was the real beginnings of our Parliamentary system and eventually helped inspire the American colonies to fight for their freedom.

The film ‘Cromwell’, staring Richard Harris, was amazing for its time but surely the time is right to tell the story of the Civil War, Cromwell and the execution of Charles I using modern filming techniques and digital technology, to bring to life someone that should be a hero to all democratically minded people.

You are the person to make this happen; to bring Cromwell to life, to tell one of the greatest stories in our history and to help put him at the forefront of our Nation’s history.

Your films are inspirational – our Nation needs inspiration, direction and a sense of who we are. We are not subjects, we are citizens of a great country – I want our voices to be heard I want us to be truely free. The memory of Cromwell, John Lilbourne and Thomas Raisborough needs to live on, to inspire and help us to realise there is another way – we don’t need to be ruled, we need to be free, we need to have a stake in our Nation, not simply be seen as servants of our ruling aristocratic elite.

Help us to become free through film.

Thanks for listening

Paani. Water needs an integrated approach as we have passed the danger mark

We have long passed the danger point on Water, and are in a crisis situation. Which is why I decided to make my next film on Water, called Paani (water in Hindi) . Its time has come now as water is high on the consciousness on the people. When I first thought about it 10 years ago, it was a difficult film to get financed. People did not believe that we were heading to a potential wars on water.

Paani reflects a future society where water is used as a weapon of political and social control.

Of course I am dealing with a Mega City, as even according to the UN the world is moving towards cities of 30 to 40 million people with inadequate infrastructure. The most dangerous of that is water. We are not far away from social conflict over water, say, in Mumbai or Mexico City. or even Los Angeles a little later. One event could trigger it. 10% economic growth in India and China is not possible if large populations are thirsty. In an integrated Global economy, economic growth is possible only without social unrest. Depletion of water resources will destroy all of that.

Europe is already under pressure from immigration from north Africa. Imagine a million thirsty people migrating in search of water. Which army in the world will be able to stop that ?

Rising urbanisation is often at the cost of break down of rural and therefor the agricultural economy. Almost 65% of India’s agriculture depends on fast depleting ground water resources. Ground water resources meant for agriculture are being transferred to urban areas. As farmers see value of their land rising, they sell it to real estate developers, but gradually lose a traditional rural community. Their children finally turning to crime, as is evident in the surrounding new suburbs (Gurgaon) of Delhi after the money runs out. Of course politicians prefer to take water to a place with higher voter concentration. So the cycle is never ending. In Mumbai, for example, most water connections are illegal, and handed out by local political bosses to their vote banks.

Water is now going not where it is most needed, but where it gets the greatest price or votes. Privatization of water will provoke this problem further.

The ‘girl child education’ effort in India breaks down because she is the bringer of water. Her day usurped by just having to fetch water from many miles away. Everyday. You see that all over India, Africa and other parts of the world. The question of water is far more integrated within the socio economic fabric of our planet. Throw away a pair of jeans and you throw away 6000 ltrs of water. Cotton is a ‘dirty water’ plant. The desire for an export economy and rising local consumption is a huge pressure on dwindling water resources. Destroyed forest land is often replanted with Eucalyptus because it grows faster and therefore more commercially viable. But it depletes water in the ground much more than it puts back.

We need an integrated approach to confront the situation. Rising consumption and economic stimulation packages are as important as global warming and dissapearing glaciers,

I have been in discussion with World Bank and many other organizations. Looking for ways to tie in with my film. Why must a film be just one event ? Can it become part of building a sustainable community around the issue of awareness of water.

Awareness at every level.

Do we our need to have taps gushing ? 90 % of water we use for washing hands is wasted. Products like shampoos, soaps, toothpaste, detergents push the idea of foaming. Greater foaming needs more water to wash it off !

I could go on.

What do we do ? In Mumbai people can shower for 24 hours a day without water running out. They do. Literally, across the road people are fighting over half a bucket of water delivered three times a week by tankers at an exorbitant cost by a growing water mafia. Who are taking control over water in major urban areas.

Awareness ? Film ? Community movement ?


एक रोटी हमे भी दो

एक रोटी हमे भी दो
कुछ जीने का हक तो हमे भी दो

नहीं मंगाते हम आपकी ऊंची इमारतें
थक जायेंगे जहाँ
अपने आप को ही ढूँढ़ते ढूँढ़ते
छु लेंगे हम भी आसमान को
अपनी ही औकात से


एक रोटी हमें भी दो
कुछ जीने का हक तो
हमे भी दो

आपके बच्चे फलें फूलें
विदेश जाके खूब घूमें
चेहरे पे उनके मुस्कराहट रहे
हमारे बच्चे तो चीखते रहे

एक रोटी हमे भी दो
कुछ जीने का हक तो
हमे भी दो

यह सुनामी जो लायें हैं
हमारे अन्ना
देश को बह ले जायंगे
हमारे अन्ना
यह हवा जो चली है तूफ़ान बनकर
कहीं पेड़ को ही उखाड़ न दे
उसे जकड कर

इससे पहले की हम सब बह जाएँ

एक रोटी हमे भी दो

कुछ जीने का हक तो
हमे भी दो

aaj wahi din hai

Today – MPKK with Shekhar Kapur by Midival Punditz

Paani. A modern day ‘Blade Runner’ with a heart and purpose ?

Many years ago when I started writing Paani, my main focus was that the film should bring home the consequences of what could happen in a world that was running out of water. It was a call for action. To warn us of the consequences of continuing to treat the resources of our planet callously.

Over the years as the film and it’s characters evolved, I was writing either myself or with David Farr, but always in some kind of personal limbo not knowing whether it would work or not in the end. In the end would all these years of searching for the story inside myself make any sense ?

Two days ago we did a ‘read through’ of Paani with 16 wonderful actors in London enacting each of the characters, much like a radio play. . By the end of the ‘read through’ the emotional journey of the characters had almost every one in tears or at least feeling very moved.

We also had a long discussion on the script and the keywords that people used were :

Very emotional
A modern day Blade Runner with a purpose and a heart
Cuts across cultures and appeals to a universal audience

All this makes me feel that at least the long long journey to get the script right has been worth it. At now I can move forward with confidence. Now to make the film !!! And that too is a very long and hard journey.

The read through was organized by Hubbards Casting. ?I have worked with John and Ros Hubbard before as casting directors on Four Feathers so it was great to be working with them again.

A read through is like doing a radio play on your script. It gives you a sense of the characters, the pace and the movement of the narrative. Professional actors of great quality will often come to the read through, for the experience, for the joy, or just looking to be in the loop. But I am always surprised at how seriously they will take these ‘read throughs’.

My thanks to all the actors that gave their day, their emotions, and their commitment to make such a wonderful read through,