It was morning 9 in India when I called him in San Francisco. I wonder how often conversations strike so well the way it did that morning. Like usual, we were looking out to curate some unique story and this one made its way across all political borders.
We all have seen Dangal and we all know how daughters became wrestlers, although Mahaveer Singh Phogat wanted a son to live his dream. Dreams do not discriminate on the basis of colour, country, gender or any other biological factor. A father dreamt sons in North India and a mother dreamt daughter in South India.
Some four decades ago, in God’s own Country, Kerala, a mother had dreams of a daughter whom she would train for dance and music. By God’s grace baby boy was born but the lady continued with her plans. She trained the boy with Carnatic music and Bharatnatyam. Around mid 90s (1992-1996), in his teenage he joined a band Golden Waves. This was the old school romance age when Maine Pyaar Kiya was waving the country. Love stories brewed with elements of passion and chivalry. In 1998, after his own love story fell through, the boy went to Florida to pursue Masters and two years later bagged a job in California with INTEL. One Friday night a Salsa dancing club reconnected him with dance and music spree which he had left behind. This night tunned him with a group from where he ended up being a professional Salsa dancer and instructor.
The boy is Giju John, an electrical engineer by day and a music plus film producer by the side. In 2007, Giju launched his debut album ‘Rang Rangeeli yeh Duniya’ which was “Latin-Indian” fusion wherei music was rooted in salsa, cha-cha-cha etc, with Indian elements blended in it.
While his accomplishments went unstoppable, an old school friend from Kerala reconnected with him while he was in Mumbai for the production of ‘Dil Ko Kia’. Sandeep Mohan and Giju John were school friends since Kerala.
Sandeep Mohan is an Indie filmmaker and gave birth to The Great Indian Travelling Cinema. His recent Indie film Shreelancer registered itself with a distinction across the country.
We have already written about the character of the film and the character that created the film. Now, while the film is running successfully through the screens in US, we could trace another ‘vital organ’ of the film.
Talking further Giju chuckled and reminisced, “I was a Salman Khan fan and Sandeep was Amir Khan’s. The music video for ‘Dil Ko Kia’ was shot by Sandeep in Kerala. It was then I discovered how beautifully Sandeep gets into the elements of direction. His skills were impressive.”
While Giju was narrating this story I was so intrigued by this function of destiny. How we connect and disconnect with people and how bondings become faithful.
Now I was inquisitive to know his journey with Sandeep. Like a diligent and cheery storyteller he went on, “After ‘Dil ko Kia’, Sandeep wanted me to produce two songs in ‘Love Wrinkle Free’. I got him film producers from US who later detached due to some creative differences. Such stages are tumultuous and so was it. Now I was into production. After our primary funding, which gathered up from 48 people; I had to manage rest of the cost. The total cost of production was 92 lac. The film was made and had a PVR release but hurdles did not seem leaving us. The film got an ‘A’ certificate from the Censor Board for an absolute murky reason. Alas! No course of events settled it in our favour to obtain a ‘U/A’. Just because our protagonist sold underwears our film was inappropriate. Anyway, spirits can not be clutched and Sandeep came with another proposal of ‘Hola Venky’ framed in a budget of 10 lac. It was then he came up with the outstanding idea of self distribution. Such a peaceful yet powerful way to free from Censor Board. With a 4 member crew, 90% of the film was shot in San Francisco and 10% in Mumbai. There were 92 independent screenings in 13 indian cities and 10 overseas, including US, Sweden and Singapore.”
Usually professionalism and money mantra overpowers every business. Very rare people have the skill of balancing all the proportions right. Well, I guess I know two such now.
Coming on to Shreelancer Giju told me, “This time we had planned theatrical release. The beauty of the film is Sandeep because his simplicity and art is reflected here. He can make regular people fit for acting. This, I believe is a very laborious as well as spectacular part of his style. The filmmaking involved a lot of extensive travel. Like shooting in Kullu Manali during January was bone chilling exercise. Leisure is one splendour in snow but to work on a creative task is another. The challenges magnified for all of us. Second phase was geographically comfortable since it was shot in Bengaluru and Kerala. Manish Mundra backed us with distribution and the results are in front of all.”
Giju had made an interesting statement initially where he mentioned that he is married but has no kids. His baby is his drive for music, dance and films. After this story I could find the coherence with his statement. The man has been on a stupendous journey for which the itinerary has been so full of passion and commitment.
His future ventures are inclusive of acting in a Malayalam film, along with one film in pre production stage. Partnering with Shiladitya Bora, latter one is a Hindi venture. The film is being directed by Ajayan Venugopalan starring Arshad Warsi, Boman Irani and Piyush Mishra.
I hope to see him around in India soon for these endeavours.