Facebook fans bankroll 'risque' Bollywood film

As Indian director Onir applied the final touches to his new movie "I Am", he paused to pay tribute to the 400 people who responded to his Facebook campaign to help finance the project.

"Thank you all for being a part of 'I Am'," Bollywood's only openly gay filmmaker wrote on his Facebook page. "I am because you are."

Onir, who uses one name, cannot wait for the film's release on Friday - a success achieved against the odds after he nearly gave up due to lack of studio backing. Producers were scared off by the "risque" content, one critic said.

The movie explores subjects considered taboo by many in India, from child sexual abuse to police harassment of gay men and a single woman's search for a sperm donor.

Onir says he raised about one-third of the 30 million rupees ($675,000) budget through donations, most of them from a network of Facebook contacts.

The smallest donation was just 1,000 rupees ($23), but the 55 top donors who gave more than 100,000 rupees each will be rewarded with a co-producer credit and a share of any profits.

"Lots of people outside the industry would ask me how they could get involved in films," he said. "So I decided to post a message on my Facebook page asking people to donate money to this project."

Just six weeks later, he shot the first scene in Bangalore, as donations began to arrive from India and as far afield as the United States and Australia.

Among the major backers were Boston-based psychotherapist Sarah Loper Sengupta and The Humsafar Trust, a gay rights campaign group.

"Some people said they liked the film's subject. Or they wanted to learn about filmmaking. Or they simply wanted their name in the credits," Onir laughed.

Bollywood is famous for its song-and-dance extravaganzas, but a new genre of Hindi cinema has taken off with "indie" films that choose gritty realism over melodrama.

Even so, the 41-year-old Onir was familiar with rejection after his first film, "My Brother... Nikhil", which told the story of a gay Indian man who fights discrimination after being diagnosed with HIV.

"I remember taking the idea to different producers, and everyone wanted me to make the protagonist straight," he said. "One producer actually asked me, 'Why can't the guy get AIDS from a popular Bollywood actress?'"

"My Brother... Nikhil" did finally get made and became a critical - if not commercial - hit when released in 2005.

Film critic Anupama Chopra, who was impressed by Onir's debut movie, admitted that Bollywood was still not good at taking risks.

"Many producers are pushing unconventional films these days, and big-name actors are backing them, but in the case of "I Am" the material is just too risque for studios," she told AFP.

"Bollywood is an inherently conservative industry and producers assume that the audience is also conservative, so they tend to back safe films."

Chopra said the funding of "I Am" could prove a useful lesson to experimental directors.

"If it finds its audience, it could make things easier for newer filmmakers following in his footsteps," she said. "In a country of a billion-plus people, there must be enough viewers interested in a film dealing with tough issues."

But others are more sceptical.

"Onir's method can work in a one-off case but it's not going to become a popular way to fund films here," Komal Nahta, founder-editor of the Bollywood website koimoi.com, said.

"Unlike most Bollywood films, this is not a terribly commercial film, it's small budget, it's really the exception that proves the rule."

For Onir, the fact that the film is about to be released is both a personal triumph and an acknowledgment of the power of social media sites to mobilise campaigns.

"We shot footage as and when we got funds. Sometimes I used to wonder what if we don't get enough money? What if I get stuck midway with an unfinished film?" he said.

"Now I just want people to turn up and watch the film."

Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Oscars
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
music
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
film
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
architecture
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower