‘Releasing an Assamese film is a huge problem,’ Kenny Basumatary
This kind of entertainment in an Assamese movie is rare. For two hours we thoroughly enjoyed the movie. Every frame was a piece of art. Can you tell us about the budget for this kind of a movie?
This was our costliest production so far. I am not at liberty to disclose the exact figure but I can tell you this that if we don't recover the budget I might have to go back to Mumbai and direct TV serials again.
The bare bone expenses for the release of an Assamese film: well, you need around five to seven lakh rupees, just to pay the hall screening fees to start with. Then you need money for publicity. Its cost can be infinite. Between five to ten lakh rupees is a good amount for publicity in Assam. Then you have your post production budget and it depends on whom you hire, where you hire from, somebody from Mumbai - depends on their individual fees. Then the studio expenses, dubbing, colour studio expenses. There are lots of stuff and it can be again anywhere from to 10 lakh to 20 lakh rupees. And then you have your production costs, the cost of shooting. For our crew size, on a daily basis it would be twenty to twenty five thousand rupees per day on food, transportation and everything else. Then we have cast and crew payments. So, for an Assamese movie, basic budget is thirty to forty lakh rupees.
Was Suspended Inspector Boro (SIB) shot in one stretch?
Utkal is a sports teacher at Gurukul Grammar School. So we started on weekends, on second Saturdays in May. In June we got a few weekends and then in July he has a summer vacation. So, most of the shooting was in July and some in August. That's how it was.
Where has the funding for SIB come from?
We have a producer couple, Bishen Rai and Priyamo Goswami who have done most of the funding and the rest of it from me and my family.
How did Utkal and Poonam and the rest come about?
I have known Utkal since we were teenagers. He is one of the best students my mama (who is a Kung-fu teacher) since 1995. After I came back from Delhi we reconnected again, played some music together and then we got our hands on a handycam one day sometime around 2005-06. So, we thought let's make a fight video and made a few more fight videos just to see how things work. So we made a couple of shots that way. In 2008, I left for Bombay and after working for two years, in 2010, I realized that a good way to start would be to make my own low-budget film. I already knew them and we had done so many fight videos together and we had an idea on how to film action scenes. So, mom said she had one lakh rupees to spare and we decided let's make a Kung-fu comedy and that's how we started the journey.
There is a park in Bombay where we go to practice and there we saw a girl (Poonam) doing long jumps, doing stretching and workout and she was doing pretty good. So, we got introduced to her and learnt that she had done some kickboxing. After that we got connected and rehearsed a few fights. She is so dedicated and has a lot of patience. So, I realized that for this story she is the one.
Did you face any problem in releasing SIB?
Releasing an Assamese film is a huge problem. You can somehow make a film but to release it is a big fight. The first fight is to get a release date. Say, you pick out a random release date, for example let’s take February, there will be matriculation exams, March will have HS exams, April is Bihu and people will go to their homes, May there might be flood, June would be the heat. And finally when you get a good date when there are no exams and there are holidays, you will come to know that the Aamir Khans and Shah Rukh Khans are releasing their films during that period. We had a choice between December 7 and December 14. We had Robot 2 in the first week and then Zero on the 21st. If we released on 7th we were not sure if we would get the shows and Robot 2 will eat the second week, too. And if we released on 14th December, Shah Rukh Khan's movie would come and over-shadow ours on 21st. Plus, outside distributors wield a lot of power because they bring the big budget films plus our theatres also can't stand up against their pressure; a hall needs to survive after all. If we had released on 14th December we either fight with Shah Rukh Khan or on 7th we fight with Rajinikanth. So our situation was die with a bullet or be hanged till death, take your pick. That was our choice. So, we picked 7th expecting a hard first week and then a second week as there were no Hindi movies during that period. So, for this film, this was the difficulty in figuring out the dates.
I have a feedback from a viewer. The comparison between local Kung-fu and SIB. Local Kung-fu had that flavour of a homemade fabulous dish and SIB has this flavour of a finely-finished factory product.
I am really happy about it as we had made a conscious effort to make it look like a professional product, with good production values. The whole effort right from the trailer to what you see on the big screen - it should look like a big screen professional movie. This is an action thriller and should look like a film you should bring your family to watch in halls. So, that was what we wanted to present and if we have been successful in that then I am very happy about it.
Is there a conscious attempt in the script or in the making of the movie so that the viewer will watch it again?
It just comes from wanting to make engaging movies, entertaining movies. I like making films which people will enjoy in theatres, because I like hearing people laugh or react. So, bringing out this element is my top priority. I think this is one reason that the re-watchability factor is there.
Is Assamese cinema moving towards better productions after yours and earlier Village Rockstars?
Good films weren't made so what will people watch? For many years the quality of Assamese movies was down with only a few good films in between. The audience got used to the fact that Assamese movies aren't worth spending time over. They didn't have any hopes left. Thankfully for Mission China and Village Rockstars, their box office performance really encouraged us to believe that it is possible for an Assamese movie to make back its money even in our limited theatres.
We have put the movie in 35 theatres. I have realised it's a two-way street. Unless there are good five to ten Assamese movies each year this industry will be in a fighting back space without the mass reach. When it becomes strong like the Malayalam industry where there are brilliant films every year that become box office hits. At the end of the day it's a commercial form of the art so it is a requirement. Once we start making films with good box office performances then the audience will be attracted to it. For Local Kung-fu I and II we had hoarding partners. This time when I look at a hoarding it just makes me wonder about the amount spent on it. There are limits to how much one can do.