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"Assamese cinema is alive, but just barely." - Bhaskar Hazarika
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When filmmaker Bhaskar Hazarika ran out of funds after shooting half of his debut Assamese feature film, Kothanodi, he turned to crowdfunding on Wishberry to complete the rest of his film. And, now, the film is in post-production, being edited by National award winning editor Suresh Pai who has worked on projects such as Page 3, Tere Bin Laden, Mithya and Ankhon Dekhi. Read away to learn more about Kothanodi, Bhaskar's approach to crowdfunding and his take on the current film scene in Assam.

You raised 21,55,000 from 97 people for your debut feature film Kothanodi through a crowdfunding campaign on Wishberry. The amount actually exceeded your target of 20 lakhs. Was it a surprise when you managed to raise this amount, or were you expecting this?

We were more or less certain we would meet the target, but overshooting it was a very pleasant surprise.

Why did you take the crowdfunding route? Did you have any apprehensions about it?

Kothanodi's first schedule was completed in February that year. We had shot over half the film, but then ran out of funds. The primary impulse behind the campaign was therefore to somehow find the resources to complete shooting the film. We figured it would be easier to get post production funding if we had the film fully shot. By that time, people had heard of the project on social media, and many had seen Kothanodi's mood film online. People wanted to help us finish the film, but unfortunately not many had the capacity to fund the entire project, even as most were willing to contribute small amounts. So we decided to tap these people and complete our principal photography. So, you could say we took to crowdfunding to essentially monetize the goodwill that was building up around the Kothanodi project.

Our only real apprehension was achieving say 90% of our goal and time running out, since our crowdfunding partner had an 'all-or-nothing' model.

Who were these funders?

A huge majority of funders were from personal networks of the Kothanodi production team. I think the best way to achieve your crowdfunding goal is to tap into your own personal networks rather than banking on strangers to bail you out. If you've lived long enough, and you're not too much of an asshole, you would probably have a large number of friends who would back your creative ideas with a monetary contribution.

Who were some of the funders from within the industry? Was there a lot of support from other indie filmmakers?

Anusha Rizvi, Shoojit Sircar, Ronnie Lahiri and Papon. Filmmakers such as Jahnu Barua and Reema Kagti have also been a big help.

What were the hurdles you faced while you were crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is still a relatively new concept in India, so it was a task to convince people about the whole model. Secondly, we had teething issues on the technical side where payment platforms provided by our crowdfunding partner were not working for our international funders. But, these were resolved commendably and within reasonable time by the Wishberry team.

So, what is Kothanodi about? And, what inspired you to make this film?

Kothanodi is a re-imagination of four popular fables from Assam. Its a dark and moody narrative offering alternate interpretations of characters in these well known folk tales, especially the female characters.

What is your approach to directing? You've worked with several seasoned actors in Kothanodi, including Seema Biswas and Adil Hussain.

Its my first fiction feature, so its really too early for even myself to identify any particular approach. But, overall, I approached the project with an indie spirit, keeping things raw and innovating on location to get around non-creative hurdles such as lack of sufficient budget or equipment.

What are your views on the current state of Assamese films and filmmakers?

Assamese cinema is alive, but just barely. The lack of exhibition space--at last count Assam had only 30 working cinema screens for a population of close to 30 million--means filmmaking is not profitable, and that has a direct impact on creatives, as we don't get the budgets to support good ideas.

What are the release plans for Kothanodi?

National award winning editor Suresh Pai (Page 3, Tere Bin Laden, Mithya, Ankhon Dekhi, etc.) is editing the film for us, and once ready we shall take the film to festivals around the world before seeking a pan Indian release in the winter of 2015.

What would you advise other filmmakers who are considering crowdfunding for their projects? What makes a campaign successful?

Campaigns can be successful if one presents the idea with a good pitch video, works on social media 24/7 to popularize the campaign and listens to advice from professionals handling the campaign.


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