Grand Prize winner at the Rhode Island International Film Festival, M Cream has recently released its first trailer. Noted for its realistic portrayal of the life of Indian twentysomethings, the film is about four friends who seek the mythical herb ‘M Cream’ in the Himalayas, and in the process, find themselves.
The director, Agneya Singh, in conversation with The Storyteller:
1. On his roots:
“I grew up in a politically conscious household. There would always be some sort of discourse that I would be privy to and this ultimately exposed me to several theories and different political and social landscapes as a child. I got the opportunity to read a lot. Now, I look at this as a major boon because it helped me define my voice as a film-maker but back then, because of my upbringing, it would sometimes be difficult to connect to the socio-cultural landscape present at the time. In terms of cinema, the 90's were bombastic and loud and that was difficult to comprehend for me. Socially, the notion of conformity was inacceptable as well because it meant going against my belief-system and the activism with which I was growing up.”
2. On the inspiration for M Cream:
“I was in the final year at NYU when I conceptualised the basic idea of the movie. Again, it was both my education and my upbringing that inspired me to go ahead and make something that would show the Indian youth for what it actually is. These are very interesting times for us. There’s a transition in our society and world-view owing no less to global events like the ‘Occupy Movement’ or the initial phase of ‘Arab Spring’, as to the happenings at home as well. The so-called ‘Urban Youth’ is becoming really interesting because there’s a quest to go beyond. Yes, there are means which are easily available to the urban youth but there’s still that defiance and spirit of rebellion inside. I wanted to capture this. And somewhere down the line, I stumbled upon the legend of the mythical herb called M Cream and that instantly got me hooked (pun intended). I started writing and imagined my characters around the quest for the realization of this myth. But really, they’re trying to find themselves in all of this.”
3. On the challenges of making such a different movie:
“Right from the get-go, I was absolutely clear that I did not want any commercial stars or celebrities for this. I wanted actors who would make these characters their own and who would embody and absorb characters like Figs, Jay, Maggie, and others. I therefore looked towards the theatre and I feel blessed that legends like Tom Alter and Barry John expressed their confidence in the script and came on-board immediately. Ira had never played a character like this before and hence it took me some time to convince her. As for Imaad, he is Figs incarnate. But this also had its challenges as far as acquiring the financing is concerned. I was scoffed at by a producer who told me that if I don’t have a star in my movie then it is a niche film and may not find investors. But all of us had faith in what we wanted to achieve and we stuck to our guns.”
4. On the movie’s journey at International Film Festivals:
“We premiered at the ‘Rhode Island International Film Festival’ in 2014 where it received the 'Best Feature Film' award. It was gratifying, to say the least. We then took it to almost 30 film festivals across the world, most of them in Europe and USA and the reception across the board was ecstatic and very positive. People, especially the youth, everywhere could connect with the story as their own. At many festivals we were told that the film showcased the spirit of the 20s perfectly and it was amazing to be able to experience that.”
5. On current Indian Cinema:
“As I said, we’re living in a very exciting time. So much is happening around the world and in our own nation that it would actually take hibernation for somebody to be untouched by it all. Cinema is a reflection of our society and we as a nation are so charged socio-politically at the moment that it gives us new avenues as storytellers. Recently, when we unveiled the trailer for the movie, somebody asked us if it was in any way similar to Udta Punjab. Struggles for securing a release not counting, I’d like to say that both the movies are carrying different messages. That one is steeped in and speaks about drug menace and our movie is about a myth, a legend. But both of them are imploring the youth to be cognizant of changes around them and take a stand for what’s right. And this should drive us and our creativity, really. For people who want to pursue their creative instincts, it is important that they have faith in themselves and their work. That is how this movie got made and that is basically the crux of any creative pursuit.”
6. On his inspirations and future projects:
“I derive my inspiration from a lot of people. My family, several poets, and of course film-makers like Satyajit Ray, Saeed Mirza, Jean-Luc Godard, Federico Fellini, Peter Jackson, among so many others.
Now, I’m working on a couple of projects, mainly a feature-length movie as well as a documentary. Right now, I’m holding my breath for the reception to M Cream and incredibly excited to finally bring this to our cinema lovers here.”
M Cream releases in theatres all over on July 22, 2016. Must-watch for all cinephiles!
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