How an Assamese filmmaker brought Kung Fu back!
Posted on 17 July, 2017 by Team Wishberry
He has acted in Mary Kom, Shanghai, Phata Poster Nikla Hero, and will be seen playing Subhash Chandra Bose in Tigmanshu Dhulia’s upcoming project Raag Desh. Yet, he is most known and celebrated for directing and acting in the Assamese cult films – Local Kung Fu and LKF 2.
Kenny Basumatary quit his engineering course at IIT-Delhi to participate in a scriptwriting workshop in Mumbai. After the script didn’t pick up, he decided to direct his debut film in his hometown with the help of friends and family. The film was a raging success and got Kenny to work on a sequel by raising the money via crowdfunding.
We got in touch with him and had a long chat on crowdfunding, and the films success in general. Here are excerpts of our conversation:
So, how was your crowdfunding experience?
Kenny: There was so very much going on during that time - I don't think I've ever been as stressed in my life as I was in those days. We had set ourselves insane deadlines. Around September or so we'd selected April 21st as our release date (which was a week after the release of Baahubali 2), hence we decided to try and release the film on 19th April, a Wednesday, instead of a Friday, so that we could get two days extra. Amidst all this, our crowdfunding campaign was to end on 2nd April, and it would take another 10 days for the funds to be transferred to us, which gave us a margin of barely 7-8 days from getting our hands on the money, to releasing the film!
When I look back, I get a post-dated heart attack and wonder what on earth made me go for such crazy deadlines!
I'd never do it again. But we really had no choice. If we'd postpone the release, we wouldn’t find any decent dates till August-September. And it would have disappointed our backers. It would imply that we met the campaign target but went back on our word to release it early.
Cut to the beginning: Our target was 8 Lakhs. Now, the normal approach would be to drop a mail to everyone like how one goes about inviting their guests for a wedding, but I wasn't really comfortable with that. Local Kung Fu had a huge fan base; surely some of them would chip in. And with that thought in mind I only mailed people who I thought were in a position to spare some cash. This is probably not an approach I would recommend for everyone, but it's the way I did it - hoping that our pre-existing fan base would come through.
Wishberry informed us that the graph of contributions goes up in the initial days and then dips for a while and then goes up again towards the deadline. This is what our trajectory looked like too. In between, we received a couple of boosts. After we organized a press conference to spread awareness about the campaign, a couple of enthusiastic supporters also helped us through their widely followed Facebook pages. With 48 hours to go, we needed around Rs. 1.5 Lakhs, and fortunately many people did chip in in those last two days and we crossed the target.
Bottom-line: Crowdfunding is not as simple as saying, “Yo, I wanna make this, gimme money.” There's tons of selling and marketing required. My personal opinion is that crowdfunding should be done only if one has a pre-existing fan base, or a very strong network, or a strong body of work.
So, what have you done since the crowdfunding campaign?
Kenny: Well, we released the film! The reception has been overwhelmingly positive with majority of the audience mentioning that the sequel is a step up. Also, I spent numerous nail-biting moments awaiting a positive revert from UFO, Scrabble and Qube (digital cinema networks). The absolute peak of stress was the Censor certification, but to my eternal gratitude, we got an open-minded censor committee that passed LKF 2 without any cuts.
How difficult is it for an Indian independent filmmaker to complete a film given the many limitations?
Kenny: I don't think I can answer for indie filmmakers all over India, because things vary from state to state. In Assam, our biggest problem is the lack of theatres. For instance, it's almost impossible to recover budgets of more than Rs. 40-50 Lakhs with the limited number of screens, and even that is an upper limit.
Sure, there are tons of problems while making a film, but it's always worth it if the end product is good.
How did you get people on-board for the project?
Kenny: All the hard work was put in my first film. The film was massively popular in Assam. There was no dearth of people willing to work on the sequel. It was just a matter of taking some time to cast and find a crew who I could gel well with.
What was the most challenging part during the making of this film?
Kenny: The heat. Ideally, one should never ever make an action film in summer, especially when one can't afford air-conditioned studios. We had to shoot in yards and gardens, at the peak of summer. The weather would be nice and cloudy on the days we were shooting other scenes, but whenever we had to shoot action, the sun would blaze out in full glory.
You’ve been holding screenings of the film and it is online for Pay Per View as well. How has the reception been?
Kenny: The theatrical release in Assam was a grand success until Baahubali 2 came along. Numerous shows were sold out. The film has been received well on MovieSaints.com, hitting over 1,600 paid views so far. We've also had four on-demand theatrical shows through 1018mb.com in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Pune and Noida.
The reviews have been lovely! The Hindu, The Wire, Film Companion, have all said wonderful things in praise of LKF 2. I'm tickled pink by the comparisons to Angoor and Andaz Apna Apna.
And best of it all is actually sitting with an audience and hearing them laugh their hearts out. Especially kids.
What are the most important things an indie filmmaker on a budget needs?
Kenny: A tight script, and perfect casting, and a fast internet connection. People might pay money to watch Brad Pitt drink coffee, but not an unknown actor. So there has to be something interesting going on at all times, which means the script must be engaging. And the actors must be appropriate for the roles. Most of my cast consists of friends and family, but I never cast anyone without an audition. You never know how someone is actually going to perform until the record button is pressed with 3-4 people watching.
Is there something that you’re working on at present?
Kenny: I intend to work on something in Hindi next. I have 2-3 options, an ensemble romantic comedy, a detective action comedy and a noir-ish martial arts actioner. I'll do whichever I get funds for.
What kind of work are you looking to do in the future?
Kenny: I want to make films in all genres. And hopefully they should all have repeat value.