New Delhi: Cinema which was once considered profane, offensive, with producers and distributers not wanting to touch with a barge pole, are gradually finding their way on the Hindi screen. This has been possible as directors like Onir, who had fearlessly taken up issues prevalent in our society yet are not liked to be talked or discussed in a whispered tone. The director known for critically acclaimed movies like ‘Bas Ek Pal’ and ‘My Brother…Nikhil’, has once again urged Indian audience to notice the unnoticed with his third movie called ‘I AM’.

Onir’s ‘I AM’ is an out-of-box cinema but is able to connect with audience, a film which hits you strongly with its simple presentation of bold topic range from artificial insemination, child sexual abuse and homosexuality. The film was shot in a mere 24 days at a budget of nearly Rs 3 crore.

While talking to Neha Nagpal of Jagranpost during the Jagran Film Fesitval, Onir confesses of not having money to pay his actors but somehow managed to assemble a strong cast comprising Nandita Das, Juhi Chawla, Rahul Bose, Sanjay Suri and Abhimanyu Singh.

Joined by the star cast and co producers of the movie - Juhi Chawla and Sanjay Suri at the film festival, Onir shared his experience and how he has matured as a director with his third movie.  Excerpts from the interview:

What made you think title your movie ‘I Am’?

There are three key reasons which inspired me to keep such a title. First, it is a movie which has been made by raising a portion of the budget through networking sites such as Facebook and others. It helped us in activating the audience and volunteers who are also the co-owners. So looking at their contribution, it’s the apt title which says ‘I Am’ also a part of it.

Secondly, the characters in the movie have been blemished for wanting to live their life with dignity. The title connotes about four people who come to terms with their own identities and the choices they make in life. We explored each facet of the title through four individual stories which sensitively touch upon different social concerns.

And thirdly, the title aptly fits when I decided to prove those filmmakers, producers and distributors who refused to be part of such movies. Yes, ‘I Am’. 

You have mentioned that you have raised funds through audience. How did the idea strike you? 

We make movies for audience, so it is important for us to know how people relate to bold subjects. Moreover, we did not have enough funds to make and promote the movie. Hence we thought of attracting volunteers who would like to be part of it with finance starting from Rs 1000.

We posted this on Facebook giving synopsis of the movie and then asked for financial help. The overwhelming response of 400 people helped us in encouraging the active audience and volunteers, who are also the co-producers of the movie.

You confessed that you had low budget, then how did you manage to assemble such a cast? 

We did not have money to pay the actors. Each of the cast members did this film only because the script excited them and they could relate themselves with them.

Which is your favorite story out of the four?

'I Am Megha' is very special to me as it is based on the loss of home and identity. I was born and brought up in Bhutan and had to leave the country due to political situations. Loss of home is a subject that touches me personally.

Will you ever make a commercial film? 

Every filmmaker makes a film with a commercial sense or else how will he continue to make films? I would like to make big-budget commercial films if the script personally touches me. I would like to direct any movie which gives me freedom to use the best of capabilities and creativity. The cinema which gives me satisfaction as a human being!!

Would you use the same funding model for your future projects? Please share your future projects?

Yes, I am looking at the same model for other projects too. But have not decided yet. Talking on the future projects, I am working on a film called ‘Shabd’ which is set in Delhi and deals with the story of multiple relationship and the other one is called ‘The Face’ which is set in Kashmir and is a political thriller.