Thirty newcomers shooting for a film at 30 different locations in Hyderabad for 27 days and within a budget of Rs 25 lakh — the idea can either be confounding or a step away from something exceptional. And Sheesh Mahal by Hyderabadi filmmaker Sasi hopes to hit the nail on the head with the latter notion.
Sheesh Mahal is not just a film on International Children’s Film Festival, but also a semi-biographical perspective for the 39-year-old Sasi.
The film is almost done and while the crew has managed to raise Rs 20 lakh, the rest is going to be crowdfunded. “We managed to raise funding from friends and family, then Snehal Jangala, city-based entrepreneur, is also helping out,” says Sasi, adding, “This film is based on a style that is not commonly followed in the movie industry — we would drive around the city and if we crossed a location we liked, we would stop and shoot. But many a times, this is exactly how breakthroughs take place. And we were somehow in the right place, with the right people and some good equipment at hand.”
The film is an experiment, an attempt to recreate what one knows about the city. “The film is a culmination of four interconnecting stories, you see no drama or breath-taking suspense, but a simple slice of life that aims to tug at your heart strings,” says Sasi, who has been working in the industry for the past 14 years.
A ragpicker that commits a petty robbery to buy new clothes and gain entry to the festival, a canteen supervisor in one of the dying single screens who hates the children’s fest, a girl from Khammam who comes to attend the fest and meets a city boy and finally the semi-autobiographical character of a documentary filmmaker who drifts from project to project until he comes across one that he just can’t let go of.
“When we started shooting, I only had a two-page script. There were no dialogues, but only on-set improvisation. We would tell the actors about the situation and encourage them to act accordingly.”
“My friends call me ‘event filmmaker’ — in the past I have worked on themes such as Telangana formation and Dhoolpet Ganeshas, but I have never been able to complete these projects. As far as feature film projects are considered, Sheesh Mahal, named after the theatre in Ameerpet, has been a first for most of us. The idea came to me three days before the Film Fest in 2013; so a lot of the shoot was done during those days.”
But with his idea, Sasi was has also been able to rope in some great mainstream talent too. “Our cinematographer V.S. Gnana Sekhar’s recent works include Kanche and Malli Malli Idi Raani Roju. Elahe Hiptoola dubbed for a Deccani character, Piyush Mishra wrote three Hindi songs and sang two, Indian Ocean singer Rahul Ram sang the third one — the film has one Tamil and one Telugu song. We got to show some parts to Rajeev Ravi, cinematographer of Dev D, Gulaal and Gangs of Wasseypur, and he helped us get in touch with Piyush; Imtiaz Ali too has shown keen interest in our film.”
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