My 'Double Life' at Films Division - Part 3



Kundu Saab, as we called Virender Kundu, was on deputation to Films Division from the Haryana state cadre of government civil services. He is a film buff, the indication of it was that every evening he saw a movie in his home theater that had 5.1 speakers, so we were told. After taking charge as the Director General of Films Division, as the post is called now as against the earlier Chief Producer, he quickly realized that the system that Films Division had developed over the years actually put off the spirited independent documentary film maker or kept them out of it's range. He opened up the organization to people who otherwise would not have entered into it's premises at Peddar Road. Consultation with independent documentary film makers became the norm.

One of the major reforms he had undertaken in his tenure was to streamline the online application process and make the process seem transparent. After the applicant submitted his / her proposal on line on to the Films Division web site, an internal committee within Films Division that included in-house directors made a short list. This list was handed over to a regional committee that comprised of two outside documentary movie makers and a Films Division in-house director. The applicant had to make a detailed pitch of his proposal to this committee. On the recommendation of this committee, the applicant would have to pitch once again to the final selection committee. This committee too consisted of two independent documentary movie makers who were not in the regional committee, along with the Director General and his deputy.

In the years that Kundu Saab was heading FD, a lot of interesting projects were commissioned. It was not necessary for the applicant to have a track record of a body of films. Eagerness and a fierce commitment to made a movie too was a consideration. For those who could not give a give a bank guarantee, he had proposed that they give personal surety of two persons. He also introduced the concept of mentor-ship for approved projects that were initiated by newcomers.  

Kundu Saab also started what is called the ‘FD Zone’, where every Saturday there was a curated thematic screening of movies at the Films Division premises. Each screening had one FD film and one outside film, the two were connected thematically. Simultaneous FD Zones were created in other centers like Delhi, Tiruvananthapuram, Chandighar and even in London. Under the suggestions of the documentary practitioners, he expanded the scale of MIFF – along with the main festival that happened in Mumbai, many mini MIFF occurred in other centers like Bangalore and Chandighar. 

Quite often one bumped into the likes of Pankaj Rishi Kumar, Karan Bali, Malathi Rao, Piyush Shah, Nistha Jain. Avijit Mukul Kishore, Surabhi Sharma, Madhavi Tangela,  Mohandas VP,  Batul Mukhtiar, Jabeen Merchant and others at Peddar road - either they were FD Zone curators, regional selection committee members, final selection committee members, MIFF pre-selection committee members or were pitching their own proposals. For anyone wanting to make a movie for Films Division - in house directors or outside producers - they had to go through this pitching process. 

Lohit Diary

This was the period that saw me making ‘Lohit Diary’ a 72 minute documentary on three personalities trying to make a small difference in the Lohit Valley in eastern Arunachal Pradesh, amidst the growing opium culture and the resultant drug addiction. I had the luxury of shooting for two seasons, as the opium flowers bloom just once a year, and if you miss one you would had to wait for twelve months to get the other. The rough cut approval committee headed by Kundu Saab himself; ably aided and abetted by the irresistible in-house director, painter, cartoonist, singer, a co-FTII alumnus and the quintessential renaissance man R Premraj, tried their best to convince me to reduce the length of this willfully meandering film – spending almost an hour and a half discussing it's various aspects with me. But when I struck to my points, Films Division was gracious enough to let me off asking me to make some minor changes. This would have been an unimaginable proposition in an earlier regime.

It was not that there were no hiccups as such. ‘Lohit Diary’ was never sent to any film festivals apart from the one that Films Division conducted or any award consideration. Earlier, an internal pre-selection committee had selected ‘BV Karanth: Baba’ as one among the seven films that were to be sent for consideration for National Awards for documentaries.  But a ‘policy decision’ saw that the film being dropped from the list – the logic was that there was one more biographical film that was also selected among these seven movies and it was not advisable for two entries from the organisation to compete for the ‘Best Biographical’ movie category. The probability of Films Division winning an award would then be reduced, as two movies were blocked in one category – so I was told.  That was a strange logic. I came to know about it at the last stage when the deadline for application was almost but over. Even if I wanted to make a case for Karanth, 

The involvement of freelance documentary practitioners in the selection process for directors saw the sidelining of the in house staff, so it seemed. Earlier, an internal committee had the power to judge any proposal or the rough cut that came to FD. Now 'outsiders' were ruling the roost, so to say. Being in the various selection committees also brought it's own awkward moments. Many times, one had to pitch to people with whom you have worked with, many other times you had to listen to their pitches. Then there were these super seniors one had to deal with. It must have been odd for them too to be pitching their projects to people much younger. How do you convey to your senior that the documentary approach that is being taken is kind of dated? It might have created some heart burns. 

But what the hell… all these were not life and death kind of a situation and I am still alive writing this article.

Everyone in the documentary circle thought that Kundu Saab will get an extension of tenure, considering the 'perestroika' and 'glasnost' that he had introduced in FD. But somehow the feeling is that people are wary of anyone who has an independent bent of mind.  Let me give you an hearsay example. V. Packrisamy was an old hat in Films Division. After Babu Ramaswamy retired at Chennai CBFC, Pakiri too got himself deputed to Chennai CBFC. By that time it was clear that no film maker within Films Division will ever be the Director General at Films Division and head it; only a bureaucrat would.

In Chennai, certain groups took to the streets protesting over a movie that was given a certification by CBFC, under Pakiri. There was a huge political lash out, and I am told that the local leaders in Chennai put pressure upon their central leadership asking them to impress upon Kundu Saab to take Pakirisamy back to his parent organization. An additional hand at Films Division of a utility man like Packirisamy would always be useful. Knowing fully well that Packirisamy had gone by the rule books at CBFC Chennai, the story goes that Kundu Saab resisted the pressure. So, it was only when Pakirisamy’s tenure at CBFC ended that he came back to FD. By that time, Kundu Saab had gone back to his original Haryana state cadre.

Virender Kundu's display picture in social media

After Kundu Saab’s departure, under other Director Generals, the staff of Films Division did manage to carry the good work that he had initiated – at least for some time. As Packirisamy used to say, in a government set up it takes time for a new person to change an earlier existing government order. The pitching secessions continued. A lot of us continued to get involved in this process, as outside independent directors looking keenly for a spark in the proposal, the offbeat track in the treatment or the relevancy of the subject. The rough cuts were still coming in even after Kundu Saab left. Packirisamy, who by then, was back in Films Division convinced the then Director General to include a outside director within the rough cut committee too. Depending on our availability, a few of us like Karan Bali, Batul Mukhtiar and me were called to these weekly meetings and viewings.

I should say that these rough cut meetings opened up a lot of things for me. For one, it showed me a mirror to the kind of uninspiring work that I did for FD in the first part of my association with it. Some rough cuts, I could see had no clear cut approach to them. Some others had approaches that I could not even think of. It was humbling. It was also a challenge to see the rough cut from the point of view of the director. You would personally not like to hold on to a shot and detest the lingering quality of the movie, a jerky hand held camera or an image that has grains on it. But what if all of it is there by design? If your judgment is purely on the basis of your personal preferences, likes and dislikes, then every movie would be similar to yours. I guess the same logic would apply to any jury that sits to confer any awards or to select something out of a few.

On one level, it is difficult to remove your subjectivity from your judgment. On the other hand you have to get into the mind of the director, the pattern that has been used, the choices of concerns that has been made – only through the body of the movie. If a director who is making a documentary on a nomadic community in Gujarat wants to cramp information after information of the ethnographic kind into the body of the movie because she thinks that it has to be documented before their culture goes extinct, on what basis are we to ask her to loosen the narration? The only narration she knows for the movie is the bombardment of information. Or if a project is selected on the strength that it’s form mimics the TV documentary format – and quite a few films did get passed under a Director General who came post Kundu Saab, whose association with TV was legendary – then on what basis I could say that the said director should remove the proposed anchor from the film, although I might be of the firm opinion that the usage of such a device would take Films Division to stone ages?

There was a churning going on not only in my mind, but also in the organization. The result was there for all to see. There were a variety of movies with varied forms that got produced during and post Kundu Saab era - movies like  ‘An Old Man with Enormous Wings’, ‘Nostalgia for the Future’, ‘Kapila’,  ‘Remembering Kurdi’, ‘Dancing Death Away’, ‘Killing Fields’, ‘Chasing Tails’, ‘Even Red Can be Sad’, ‘I am Bonnie’, ‘Phum Shang’, ‘Rangbhoomi’, ‘Tracing Phalke’, ‘Tender is the Sight’, ‘Nadi Smriti’, ‘Born Behind Bars’, 'Neeli Raag', ‘Sax and the City’, ‘The Story of Binodini, ‘Poet, A City and a Football’, ‘Of Exiles and Kingdom’, ‘The Last Adieu – Sukhdev’, “Naachi se Baanchi”, ‘The Monk Who Won a Grammy’ and others. If at all there was another period in the history of Films Division after the late nineteen sixties that oozed of talent as evident by the films that the organization produced, this was it.

I am not sure what sort of historical lineage is this, but it was extremely stimulating and creative for sure.

****

My involvement as an evaluator of rough cuts and scripts at FD not only allowed me to introspect into my own practices of documentary movie making, but it also enhanced the quality of my work beyond Peddar road. The point in case is the independently produced "The Unbearable Being of Lightness’. It got firmly entrenched and embedded into my mind while I was grappling with the rough cut committee meetings that the approach of the movie is as important as the matter of the film itself and that the two of them cannot be separated. I was already moving towards that direction briefly earlier with ‘Voices of Mini Tibet’ and then steadily with ‘Miyar House’; and strongly with ‘BV Karanth: Baba’.

I was conducting a documentary workshop at the Hyderabad University Mass Communication Department immediately after the students strike ended post the death of Rohit Vemula, a Dalit research scholar at the University. He had written a chilling note before he killed himself alleging discrimination against the administration. I was entering the epicenter of the matter, and I would have been a fool not to have made a movie on it. I decided to document the workshop hoping that the issue of Rohit Vemula would come up, sooner or later. You bet, it did. I also recorded my own journey into Hyderabad, giving a personal and reflective nature to the movie. I knew I had to incorporate the suicide note into the structure of the movie, as that is what had initially had triggered something me. Plus there was a poem sung by a group at the protest site at Hyderabad written by the late poet Fayaz. Also available was an in-depth article by a writer Sudipto Mondal where he digs into the caste based origins of the research scholar’s family. I decided to use portions of it, acknowledging that it is an article. 

So, half the movie had documentation of the ‘real’ kind. In the rest half, I was using secondary material as my primary source. The juxtaposition of the forms I thought worked to my satisfaction. A few people who saw the preview also agreed. I had shot the movie on a small pocket camera of the cybershot kind, as I was a one man unit. I decided not to touch base with the Vemula family, because they had just encountered a tragedy. I was also clear that it would not be a ‘who killed Rohit Vemula’ kind of a movie, as I decided to concentrate on the historical nature of Dalit discrimination. The Rohit Vemula agitation was a well documented one, albeit people were visually doing so on their mobiles. I decided not to use any of those material. It is during the making of this film that I firmly realized that movie making is all about the choices that you make - choices that gives your movie a distinct character. A decade back, given the limited production choices that one had, I could not even think of doing such a movie.

A still from 'The Unbearable Being of Lightness'

One friend who saw the preview of this movie asked me to go slow with it, for it seemed that it takes a position contrary to the one that the ruling regime had. I had then said, ‘Don’t worry, I am not an activist film maker like Anand Patwardhan’.  A few months later I was running around in Kerala, fighting court cases. The movie had got selected in the competition section at the Kerala Documentary & Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK). As is the norm, a list and synopsis of films not certified by the CBFC needed to be sent to I & B Ministry, so that they could issue a exemption from certification for screening at the festival. Three movies, including mine, was not issued this exemption. It effectively meant that the movie would not play in any other film festival too, as every time an exemption is sought, it would not be given.

The irony was that it was screened in the competition section in the prestigious Kolkata International Film Festival earlier, without any hitch. The difference was that since I had no time to write an elaborate synopsis, I had written these words while submitting the movie – ‘A film about a suicide letter, a shopping complex and a few gazes’. It was this vague synopsis that went to the Ministry. But while applying for Kerala, I had time. So, the synopsis was a detailed one, it included the name ‘Rohit Vemula’. The name is literally a hot pan cake for the ruling regime. My assumption is that the moment they saw the name, they marked and crossed the film.

The initial letter that the I & B Ministry sent to the Kerala Film Festival authorities did not provide any reason, although by law they need to provide one in writing. The film festival authorities exercised their rights and appealed for a reconsideration. The other movie makers approached the Kerala High court, but were told that the court would not interfere till the Ministry decides on the appeal. I moved the Delhi High Court where the Judge ordered the Ministry to watch the movie and give its decision, two days before the festival ended. The ministry officials presumably saw the movie on a Sunday and by evening they struck by their decision. This time, they gave a reason – that the subject of my film had created 'law and order' issues in University campuses in the past.  Based on this order, the organizers of the Film Festival then approached the Kerala High Court, making the movie makers a party to the case. The court refused to provide a stay on the order that would allow the movies to be screened at the festival. But it wanted to see the case to its logical conclusion, as a matter of principle.  

Many months down the line, out of the three movies that were not shown at the IDSFFK – the court opined that the order given by the Ministry was illegal with regards to two of the three films, including mine. It was clearly stated in its judgment that ‘public order’ is larger concept than ‘law and order’. It is the duty of the state to deal with the later and that freedom of expression could be restricted only if there is an apprehension of the former. There was nothing in the ministry order that betrayed the fact that the government was apprehensive of a mitigation of public order. Accordingly, in the next film Festival that the organizers conducted in Kerala, both these films were screened - as a matter of right. Now, what has all this got to do with Films Division? 

Well, everything.

Way back in 2004, just when I was withdrawing myself from the documentary scene to concentrate on fiction feature length movies, Films Division held it's bi-yearly film festival, MIFF.  This time they laid a new rule that movies that do not have a certification from the CBFC could not participate in the festival. This had never happened in any film festival before, probably anywhere in the world. Independent documentary film makers led by Anand Patwardhan saw this as an attempt to keep some contentious film that embarrassed the then ruling regime, out of the film festival. They held a parallel film festival called "Vikalp' (Alternative) opposite the MIFF venue, to screen these contentious films.

Subsequent protests forced the organizers to roll back the certification rule for their film festival. But no government would want to let go of any control so easily. The I & B ministry then issued an order that needed the film festival authorities to send list of uncertified movies along with their synopsis' to them, so that they be granted an exemption certification for screening at their festivals, provided the movies adhered to the reasonable restrictions to freedom of expression that were mentioned in the Constitution of India. Over the years, this had just became a formality, till recently the ruling regime thought it fit to enforce the order - on films that they thought did not fall into their ideological ambit.


MIFF logo

And then, at the 2018 MIFF conducted by Films Division, the two movies that were allowed to be screened by the Kerala High Court, were not ‘selected’ by the pre-selection committee. But ironically, the movie whose ban the Kerala High court had upheld, was selected. Not surprisingly, the Ministry did not give an exemption from certification, the last minute order issued did not assign any reason – despite the Delhi high court stating in its order that the Ministry should give the reason in writing in my case.  

Many independent documentary film makers led by the irresistible Anand Parwardhan  spontaneously protested at the MIFF venue. We met the then MIFF director, who also happens to be the Festival Director. We impressed upon him to at least exercise his rights and appeal against the order. He did oblige, but privately he told us he was not hopeful of a reversal. The festival ended without the movie being screened in it. By now, the makers of the documentary were too exhausted to make a case out of it in the court. They had to move on to make other films, and rightly so. So it goes. In India you can't just be a documentary film maker. You have to deal not only with the politics of the subject and of the form that it takes; but also with the politics of its exhibition - an aspect that directly stems from the politics of its subject. At times, I do wonder how Kundu Saab would have dealt with the situation that the Festival Director then was facing.

Post Kundu Saab, there were many essayist films that were made by outside producers and in house directors – films that relied on a ‘voice of the god’ kind of narration, which were solely  interview based, which guided the audience with an preconceived argument. Earlier we had recognized various other forms too like the predominantly observatory mode, at times the poetic mode, the reflective mode where the makers themselves became party to the subject and the likes. Slowly, the frequency of such films have reduced. And then, soon Films Division's online application form on their web site closed, perpetually it would seem. ‘No funds are being  allotted, sir’, was the usual answer. These days there are talks of restructuring organizations like Films Division that fall under the ambit of I & B Ministry. To be back in circulation Films Division is making a lot of two to five minutes quickies on government policies for consumption on the net. 

The legacy of the creative documentary of the Gresonian kind seems to be slipping away steadily.

It was time to be de-addicted yet again.

****


A still from 'Double Life'

This write up or the de-addiction that I am referring to would not be complete without the mention of the last short movie I made for FD called 'Double Life’. There is an old bungalow in the Films Division Peddar Road campus called 'Gulshan Mahal' within which a film museum is being planned, for devil knows how many years now. In January 2017, FD came up with his idea to make small little films that would explain the process of film making and that which would be shown to the prospective visitors of the museum. The online call for was tempting, but this time I thought I would give in a fiction proposal on how double roles are done in movies. The story was about a boy who wanted to be in two places at the same time in real life. He enrolls a mad technologist who has the means to do so. In the process, we experience broadly how double roles are being made in movies.

I was sure that this proposal would not be considered in post Kundu Saab era. To utter my surprise, it was shortlisted and I was called for a pitching secession. My double life in Films Division was never more evident on that day when I sat before a panel of seven to eight men and women. Just a couple of days back, I was on the opposite side of the table, judging other's proposal. One of the members said that since this museum is affiliated to the National Science Museum in Kolkata, one would expect the movie to be scientifically informative, ie.. the film should technically show and explain how double roles are made in movies. I gave them a detailed screenplay and told them that I am going to show and let the audience experience how double roles are being made in a simple and non technical way, therefore the usage of the fiction form.

I was devil-damn-sure that I would not be making the cut. A few days later I received a letter from FD stating that the project has been approved and that I should complete the film before March 31st – the financial year ending date – if not the allotted money would go back to the central finance department. I was game, managed a bank guarantee for the advance amount that I was to be take from FD and promptly handed it over to them. I planned to begin shooting in February, with an idea that the rough cut would be ready by the end of the same month. So, I had one whole month for approvals and the final masters before the financial year ended.

The shooting went off as per plan, but the advance from Films Division never came. Initially I was told that it would be transferred online before my shoot began, but later I was told to go ahead and shoot, the money would follow. I gathered all the financial managerial experience that I had gathered over the years for whatever it is, to manage the expenses of the shoot – the advances to be paid etc... and completed the shoot. The rough cut was ready and submitted by the last week of February. Technically, if this rough cut would have been approved instantly,  I would have been entitled to some more advance apart from the one that was approved but not yet given. But alas, life in not always a fairy tale.

Aneesh Pandelu and Saumesh Bangera in 'Double Life'

While Films Division sat on the rough cut, I kept wondering about the urgency shown while handing over the project. After all, didn’t they have to complete the movie before the 31st of March? In the first week of March, I get another letter from FD stating that the film is 'not suitable for a museum audience'. One of my characters lived in a dilapidated house, the rough cut committee thought that it did not 'help the film'. I also had a scene in the film were a young boy and a girl are having ice candy. It was felt that the 'boy is too young to have a girl friend’.

This rough cut committee was an separate special one put together for the museum films. I was a bit taken aback by the comments. In the proposal and then in the pitching, I had clearly mentioned and outlined all these three elements that were objected to. Besides, after the pitching I was told to give a script after making it 'more' explanatory in nature. So, I had a whole sequence in the end where the actor talks to the audience directly explaining them how double roles are being made, quoting the story that had just been enacted. That script was sent to all the committee members, and I had got an approval letter from FD for the same. If at this late stage, when I had spent my own money on the shooting of a concept and script approved by you and if you are seeking a change in something as basic as these, then something is terribly wrong. Unmindful of the advance that had not yet arrived, I wrote back a strong letter to that effect.

And then for two weeks I heard nothing. By the beginning of the last week of March, I got one more letter. This time the rough cut was seen by an 'empowered rough cut committee' which had felt that the films 'fails to give a proper technical explanations on to how double roles are shot'. I was also asked to use 'more footage of films that have double roles in films'.  The one that I had shown in the movie is when the boy shows a film that has an actor playing double role in it from YouTube, to the technician – as an example as to how he could be in two places at the same time in real life. I had made it clear in the pitching secession itself and as well as in the script about the level of technical information that would be given in the movie, as well as the number of films that would be used as an example of films that have double roles in them. I had got approval letters after both the events. Now, if you are falling back on it, isn't it a breach of trust. I wrote a letter to this effect, the very next day.

Even as all these were happening, the advance that was to come before the shooting stage was no longer in sight. In accounting terms, I was simply losing out on the interest on the bank guarantee that I had given to Films Division. Payments of the shooting stage were still to be managed. When asked, I was told not to worry and that the advance for the shoot that had already happened would come into my account before 31st March - ie.. the year ending.

31st March is a mystical date for any government organization in India. Every year the government organization or the department will have to provide a budget based on the previous year's expenses, clearly mentioning the headings under which the money would be spent. Finance would be sanctioned accordingly. All allocated money under each of these heads would have to be expended or shown to be expended by the financial year end – the 3st March. So every year, the intensity to spend money would begin to expand by December or January, when people realize that the financial year would soon end. A whole lot of expenses would be incurred, including the likes of repairs of extremely old vehicles or repairs and maintenance of building etc... My guess is that there was a budget allocated for the museum movies much earlier, but we were allocated the work under that heading in January. The money would be seen to be expended or expendable by March 31st. So, it was absolutely necessary for Films Division to have at least a contract with movie makers for these movies as soon as possible. That they did, they also got me to complete the shoot on my own expenses. And on 31st march, 2017, at about 8.30 PM two months after the shooting got over  I get a message from my bank that the advance money has been credited to my account.    

I quickly cleared all my shooting and some post production expenses. By the last week of April, I got a letter from FD that began by saying that the 'film is good', but it basically reiterated the points mentioned in the earlier letter. I was asked to resubmit a revised rough cut accordingly. I once again wrote back to them stating  that every aspect that is there in the movie was recorded in the script. In a fiction movie it is possible to foresee how the film could finally look like, because everything is on paper on a detailed screenplay in the prescribed tried and tested format, as against a documentary where many things would occur by chance. The final look of a documentary film could vary from the script / treatment given for they are only an indication, whereas the screenplay in a fiction format is precise. It seems that the Rough cut committee or the empowered rough cut committee did not take this into consideration. There was a valid suggestion submitted verbally from Packrisamy stating that the clipping of the film that was shown in YouTube in the movie be extended. I agreed, made another rough cut and submitted it almost immediately.

When I did not hear them for a month, in May I wrote to the Director General of FD inquiring about the progress of the approval process. When I did not hear from them for another two months, I wrote to the Director General again, reminding him of my earlier mail to him. In the meantime, I was being called to Peddar road to be a part of the rough cut committee for the regular movies of Films Division. I found myself siding with the director and his vision, more often than before in these meetings.

There was a proposal from an Ad hoc director (yes, they still exist and have an enhanced and reasonably directorial fees) that dealt with the grey of land and culture between the Bengalis and the Odiyas. The proposal given was just an idea and did not have a treatment to it. The FD officer in the committee meeting was inclined to summarily reject the idea. His concern was that why should FD get into a potentially hot situation that could replicate the tensions between Maharashtra and Karnataka over the Belgaum issue. It did not seem apt for me to come to a conclusion based on just an idea. The movie maker was asked to give a treatment note on the subject.

There was another 'script' that came in from an approved project that was about the rehabilitation of orphan children of separatists killed in Kashmir though theater. The treatment did not have any details of the characters who would be featured. But as a prelude to the treatment, the proposal had a five to six pages essay on how militancy took shape in Kashmir. The background, though important, was not the focus of the script. Given the nature of mistrust over anything that is related to Kashmir these days, the FD officer in the committee was inclined to reject the proposal outright. I felt otherwise. The focus of the treatment is the rehabilitation of the orphans, a matter of child rights of Indian citizens. I was in favor of asking the maker to submit a revised treatment keeping the focus of matter on hand. 

My double life in Films Division, was sure manifesting itself with all its glory, for whatever it was worth.

An edit grab from 'Double Life'

And then one day after one such a rough cut committee meeting, I was shown a reedited version of my own film 'Double Life'. Apparently, the chief editor was asked to reedit the movie and make a shorter version of it. I was aghast. How can anyone tamper with  my movie and make a mess of it? The editor had joined FD when I was associated with it in my first phase of association with it. For one of my films of that era, I had insisted that I needed him, because by nature his edits had pace and my film needed a fast cut. True to his nature, he or his team had cut around three minutes of the pace of 'Double Life'. The Director General, I was told, too had liked the cut. If I were to only tell the story of a boy who wants to be in two places at the same time, the cut would have really worked. But along with the story I had to explain and let the audience experience the way double roles were being created. So, things had to be repeated; it had to have its own place. I rejected the cut.

Packrisamy who was coordinating all these was at his wits end. My association with Packri dates back to my student days at the Films and TV institute of India (FTII), when as a young graduate from the Madras Films Institute, he had briefly joined my film school in the production department, before he hopped into Films Division. With concern in his eyes he told me, 'This is a real standoff. There should be some meeting point'. Instinctively I told him that FD should allow me to give them my version of the movie and if they are not happy with it, they could re-cut it as they wanted – as they are the producers - but I need to remove my name from the credits of such a re-cut.  I could hear Premraj, sitting in the next chair give a gasp.

In November 2017, the rough cut was approved. The FD letter asked me to improve the ‘atmospheric nature of the visual character’ and bring  ‘clarity in the dialogues’. I presumed that they are asking me to do a colour correction and do some sound post production. The next two months I sent the film for sound cleaning, designing and mixing; I also send it to DI for colour correction. It took a month for me to get the certification from CBFC. By February 2018, I had submitted the master to Films Division. And on 31st March, 2018 I get the rest of my money for the 'Double Life', more than a year and a quarter after the project first got approved and exactly a year after March 31st 2017 - they date FD wanted the movie to be completed and delivered.  

During my rough cut committee meetings I had come across projects and movies that were three years old or in some cases even seven. Imagine the plight of the 'Outside Producer' making those movies, imagine the amount of interest foregone due to the bank guarantee that the producer might have submitted to Films Division, imagine the amount of money that is struck as security with the banks for that bank guarantee and imagine what it would do to the blood pressure or sugar  levels of the producer!

It took FD another four months to return me the bank guarantee that that I had given them. By this time Pakrisamy was transferred to Kolkata, just when a year was left to his retirement. Premraj had already started posting videos that had him sing melodious Yesudas songs on his Facebook page. The rough cut committees for normal Films Division films themselves as they existed are all but dismantled. The number of centers and the scale of MIFF Films Festivals seems to have been reduced. FD Zone hardly happens. More and more in-house directors are making shorter and shorter films that extol government policies. I am yet to get the earnest money deposit that I had to give to Films Division while making the film 'Double Life'. I am once again considering de-addicting myself from the legacy that I was desperately seeking all these years, so that I rehabilitate myself from brown thin files of Films Division that have red tapes wrapped around them, not withstanding the history of frequent relapses that have been occurring within me.

That then is my double life with Films Division; or shall I say the double life of Films Division? 


(Concluded.)

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