Why did I want to make a film? No, I never had a still / video / 8mm camera neither in my childhood nor in my teenage years. In fact, I rarely watched films. And whenever I watched, it was limited to off-beat Hindi films or a latest Hollywood film. It’s quite bizarre as to how and when I decided to make a film. When I was 25 years old, I accidently ran into a book ‘Rebel without a Crew’ by Robert Rodriguez that I had requested a friend to get it for Pankaj Johar (who is a close friend & also the producer of SHUTTLECOCK BOYS). Pankaj didn’t come to pick it up for 2-3 days and I ended up reading it from start to finish out of which half of it went over my head esp all the technical bits.
That was the seed sowing & then I started exploring filmmaking further by watching more films and eventually attending filmmaking workshops. Then there was an intense desire just to make a film which was stronger than the desire to tell a story.
So decision to make a film came first followed by the decision of what story to tell. I used to play badminton in our neighborhood streets with friends in my teenage years. And I was not very happy with the 9 to 6 monotonous job life. So I combined these 2 elements and SHUTTLECOCK BOYS was born. So it became a story of four friends who want to do something on their own in life and the common bond between them is playing badminton in the night in their neighborhood. And the personal stories of all the four protagonists are borrowed from my friends in real life. The film is essentially about their journey into this unknown territory when they decide to pursue their dream which then becomes a litmus test of strength, courage and spirit of their friendship. This in a way is also metaphorically synonymous to my journey of making this film.
We had 2 sets of casting – Lead Cast & Support Casting. Lead cast came from auditions. Supporting cast were mostly real life people. The lead cast is Manish Nawani, Aakar Kaushik, Vijay Prateek & Alok Kumar. They are trained in acting discipline; Manish has also worked in Zee’s 12/24 Karol Bagh, Channel V’s Roomies along with a lead role in another independent film called Perfect Narangi. All the crew were also first timers just as the cast. I met quite a few of Cinematographers, Editors, Music Composers & Sound Designers. I think most of them were talented enough, so the only thing that I sought was a connection / frequency match. So that’s how Shanti Bhushan (DP), James Valiakullathil (Editor), Avinash Baghel (Music Composer), Niraj Gera (Sound Designer) & Rajender Prasad (Sound Recordist) came on board.
Shooting seemed to be a daunting task considering the first time cast & crew in 18 different locations & with very limited resources over a span of 20 days. We managed to pull it off in 22 days spanned over 25 days. We decided to stick to handheld camera to capture the camaraderie of four friends and also because of the limited film stock that we could buy. The film shoot happened in Delhi but for post production, I decided to move to Mumbai because of better facilities. But I had a surprise in waiting : after doing the offline edit, when I moved to a post production lab for the final film; the lab mis-handled the film negatives. It took me approximately one year to fight with the lab to get the film digitally restored. So, independent filmmaking does throw some other challenges which are different from regular filmmaking of course.
We finally managed to finish the film in Jan 2011 and since then it has been screened in few film festivals in US (South Asian Film Festivals in Chicago, Seattle & Gotham Screen in New York & India International Film Festival of Tampa Bay), India & Nepal.
We decided to capture audiences’ reactions in US Film festivals and make a video out of that (below) :
And do check out the trailer of the film too-