Kanika Batra’s Journey From A Viral Short To A Crowdfunded Feature Film
Posted on 24 August, 2016 by Team Wishberry
Very little is spoken about the beautiful relationship that is shared between a father and child. As kids, we’ve all grown up wanting to be like our dads. Somewhere down the line, life gets in the way, and the next thing you know, your dad’s grown older and you, busier. Plans are pushed to "another time" and a whole lot of wishful thinking. Meanwhile, time continues its ravage. Project Papa is a feature film that explored this same dilemma, but in a new light.
Written and produced by Kanika Batra, the film took to crowdfunding on Wishberry and raised Rs. 30,65,010 from 154 backers for pre-production. It raised funds successfully in April 2016. We got in touch with Kanika to learn everything that she and her team has been up to since.
Give us an update on all that has happened since the crowdfunding success?
Kanika: We jumped straight into pre-production after the campaign was successful. Now we are at the near end of completing a crazy, hectic, and fabulous shoot schedule.
You’ve been a part of the theatre scene since forever; you even acted in an indie psychological thriller film titled Station. And, now you’ve taken up filmmaking. How has the journey been so far?
Kanika: Project Papa is an extension of me in every area - writing, producing, acting - everything - and so it followed naturally that I would also be heavily involved in the direction as well.
However, since I also play the lead character, there is no way I could’ve done this without a director who could take my vision and translate it on screen.
Project Papa is directed by Jeet Singh along with me. Jeet is also a first time feature film director and an established music director. He came onboard only 2 days before the scheduled shoot, and has done a fabulous job with the film. I trust him wholeheartedly, and this wouldn’t have been possible without him. With something new to learn about every day, this entire process has been invaluable, and has served as my film school of sorts.
The beauty of being able to take people, emotions, locations, dialogues and put them all together in one frame is truly a joy.
There haven’t been many movies on father-daughter relationships in Indian cinema, where did you get the inspiration for this film from?
Kanika: I never thought about Indian cinema. This is something I wanted to do with and for my dad.
I realized he was growing older, and around the same time, some of my friends lost their dads and were coping with the regret of not having said the things they wanted to say, under the assumption that tomorrow would come. Along the way, as part of my research, I interviewed around 35 fathers and daughters and asked them questions about their relationship. What unfolded was magical, and that led to my first short film titled Call Dad Now - #TellHimNow, which went viral overnight and was extremely well received by global audiences and media houses. I felt strongly that there was a message that was worth a movie, and that further inspired me to tread along and create this film.
Can you elaborate your approach for making a feature film? Which filmmaker is your constant inspiration?
Kanika: While the approach to making this film can only be looked at in hindsight, it was a first time experience and a lot of learning on the go. But I’m a lot more aware and confident now on the approach one should take. Operationally- it’s important to learn how to corporatize a creative process, without stifling the creativity.
Technically - work with people who are far more technically sound than you are, and trust them completely but also learn what you don’t know.
Emotionally - find the right team, work with a script that the team connects with, and then shut out the background noise of the naysayers, and keep moving forward.
This process has made me realize that there is something inspirational about every single filmmaker, who has ever made a film. Stories and storytellers inspire me, and I see things differently now. It's harder now to be entertained by films, than it is to be educated by them.
Is Project Papa being made keeping film festival audience in mind? Does it influence the filmmaking process?
Kanika: I believe that the audience for this film cannot be boxed into a category. The only thought that consistently drove the filmmaking process was to make something that mattered. I believe that the film festival audiences, like any other, will connect to, relate to, or be moved by some or all parts of this film, and more importantly the story behind how it came to be.
What has been the most challenging part of the journey so far?
Kanika: I’m grateful for the tenacity I’ve developed to challenges through this process, as a day without one or more hurdles to overcome has been extremely rare in the past year and a half.
For me, it was a bit of a challenge to manage the operations of my business on the side, but the brilliant team at work took the burden off my shoulders, and gifted me the brain space to make this happen.
The big picture challenge for the film was the journey I had to embark upon to find the perfect team. A film is such a collaborative project and the need for a congruous team is paramount. The challenges were worth it because the team is the one that’s pulls all of it together. This has by far been the happiest, most harmonious team I’ve ever worked with, and I couldn’t have asked for a better one. When there is so much positive energy focused on a singular goal, the challenges become fun. Everyone around me made this happen for me, and this joy belongs to everybody on the team.
What kind of work do you want to keep doing in the future?
Kanika: I embarked upon this venture to make this film. Never with the intention of becoming a filmmaker. And I struggle with the acceptance that this actually makes me one. I consider myself to be more of a storyteller. While I have acted in two feature films before, the mammoth task of spearheading a project is physically, emotionally and mentally consuming, and becomes an obsession. Right now, I’m too obsessed with this to think about the future, but I hope that when I do make another film, it is also a manifestation of something so close to my heart and the hearts of many others.
Take a look at her impressive campaign page HERE.