The filmmaker reflects on the various challenges of successfully releasing his film on a major OTT platform during the pandemic
The new wave of Malayalam films has undoubtedly created a new space for aspiring young filmmakers to hone their craft. The exponential growth of streaming platforms during the global pandemic has become a blessing in disguise for several filmmakers across India. That being said, it does take considerable time and effort to release a full-length feature film as Jishnu Harindra Varma explains.
“My background is in automobile designing and ad-filmmaking, so people had warned that I shouldn’t aim for the bigger platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, and should try with the regional platforms. Nevertheless, I decided to send a trailer cut of the film to Amazon Prime and the initial responses were positive. We did not have the complete film to showcase at the time. Then it was a race against time to get it done before the deadline to have it reviewed by Amazon”. Varma adds that the film has undergone further alterations to fully realise his vision for the movie.
“The film is probably not for everyone; seven out of ten might not enjoy it. [This is possible] because I have used evoking scenes with authenticity to highlight themes on drug abuse. The ideas stem from Requiem for a Dream, and I hope to give the audience a similar sense of themes being explored in that film”. The young director, who also wrote the film, believes that the framing of these shots is unlike any other film, so much so that the certification board had asked to tone down several sequences depicting the consumption of usage.
“They explain that it is not the scenes involving the consumption of drugs that is the issue but rather the process involved in the lead up to the usage. They asked us to cut it by 25%. These scenes were challenging for the actors as well. For instance, the female lead, Sreeja Das, does not smoke in real life. She had to learn just for a few scenes, and we would take breaks in between as she ended up having migraines on a few occasions. In fact, all of the actors, including Lukman Lukku and Sudhi Koppa, were brilliant to work with.”
When quizzed whether his lack of experience as a director created further hurdles, he explained; “ It wasn’t actually my role as a director that gave me sleepless nights, but that as a producer that was challenging. The valuable experience I gained by working with Madhu Ambat (renowned cinematographer) helped me ease into the role of director. The support I received from Sreejith, the editor, and the confidence Lukman Lukku had in my script was significant in getting the project over the finish line.”
“The initial idea for the story developed from a real-life incident surrounding the death of a couple who had eloped, and it was meant to be a short film for YouTube. But then the story developed and now we have a feature film releasing on Amazon Prime Video”, adds Varma as he reflects on the film. “The film itself was shot in 12 days, but the sound design took nearly seven months to complete as I was adamant that the music had to be perfect”.
Varma hopes that his efforts will be recognised even if it’s a minority of the audience, considering how dark the plot of the film is. No Man’s Land is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.