Even after being in the city for more than ten years, both Sanjay Suri and Onir claim that they have a lot more to explore here. “We still don’t know much about the city. Nevertheless, we like hanging out at Indigo Café because of its ambience,” says Suri of the venue for our cup of coffee. This inclination to explore and learn can be seen in the way they make their films as well, and an instance of this would be their forthcoming release I AM, born of true life incidents. “This is India’s first crowd-sourced film, where about 400 individuals from 36 cities across the world are involved. We used social networking sites and our database to get in touch with people who wanted to be a part of it because of the subjects it tackles,” says filmmaker Onir. Suri, who has been co-producing all of Onir’s films states, “The first step was to make the film, and its completion is our reward.”
While Suri is busy ordering cappuccinos, Onir tells us that after all these years of doing experimental cinema they have achieved the freedom to come up with unique concepts like that of IAM, which is a compilation of four different but relevant stories. “We did each of the films as we were collecting funds and we did not want to leave anything incomplete,” says Onir, who started off with I AM Abhimanyu and then moved on to make I AM Omar on gay rights, I AM Megha about Kashmiri Pandits and I AM Afia on sperm donation. “But I was fortunate with the casting. Whoever I approached agreed to do the film.”
Suri who plays Abhimanyu tells us that besides the fact that Onir did not give him a choice, the story really touched him. “It was the story of a child abuse survivor. I don’t claim that cinema changes life, but it does sensitise you to a certain extent,” says Suri as he sips on his cappuccino only to realise it’s cold. He then summons the waiter to take it away and microwave it.
While they again await their coffee, we ask the duo about their friendship which started almost ten years ago on the sets of Daman. “In fact, it was Sanjay who encouraged me to turn director,” says Onir. Suri smiles and explains, “One day our director Kalpana (Lajmi) had to leave the shoot because of an emergency. So she put Onir in charge. I was surprised by the way he handled the shot.” Ever since then they tried making a movie together. The critically acclaimed My Brother Nikhil in 2005 was the fifth script that finally got made into a movie, Onir informs, after which he also did Bas Ek Pal and Sorry Bhai!.
Their coffee finally arrives, after a long wait, but the two haven’t lost their cool. We realise that patience is a virtue with them. This perseverance has come from knocking on the doors of several producers and corporates when they wanted to make their first film. “But each time we were asked to alter the story and add some sensational element to it,” says Onir. Suri agrees, “We then became producers by default and made films with the help of friends and family and still continue to do so.”
The duo believes in staying away from star names. “It is a two-way deal. If they aren’t interested, why run after them,” says Suri. But Onir and Suri now wish to encourage talented filmmakers through their production house. And the Ashwini Malik-directed Kill Chhabra will be the first such project from their banner.
* Pedra Almodovar
* Luis Bunuel
* Ritwik Ghatak
* Guru Dutt
* Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
* Sir Ridley Scott