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My film on farmers’ suicide killed me; had only Rs2,000 left: Producer Atul Pandey

But the independent producer, who was speaking at the Lonavala International Film Festival, has no regrets. 

Keyur Seta

There have been instances of producers spending almost all their savings in making a film. Two examples that instantly strike us are Raj Kapoor and Kamal Haasan, who showed such daredevilry for their films Bobby and Vishwaroopam respectively. 

People attending the Lonavala International Film Festival of India (LIFFI), which concluded recently, came to know of another such example in the form of producer Atul Pandey. During the Q & A session, he revealed that he spent almost everything to produce Summer 2007 (2008), a film revolving around the farmers’ suicides in Vidarbha. 

But while the risks taken by Kapoor and Haasan turned out to be worth the gamble, the same wasn’t the case with Pandey. Summer 2007 bombed at the box-office, leaving the producer almost penniless.

He revealed, “I was sucked into the world of film sharks. After Summer 2007 I had made a promise to myself that I will not get sucked into this again by sharks, who extend a small bone and basically suck you in. Everything was right about the film. It had a bit of a commercial appeal. It had a very strong story, based on the prominent issue of farmers’ suicides in Vidarbha. But when you make a film like that, you end up disturbing a few political wings. I don’t know; it’s just that everything is connected to the other.”

Riju Bajaj, the organiser and moderator of the discussion pointed out, “After producing Bhairavi (his debut film), you didn’t sell it outside and didn’t give it to Zee. Having a film already in a can, you went ahead to shoot Summer 2007. What prompted you to produce yet another film without having released your first film?” 

Pandey answered, “Independent producers are weird. They don’t know anything else except making movies. I can’t sell anything else and I have not been able to sell what I make. So, I don’t know where I am headed. We set up a beautiful film. But that film killed me. You won’t believe, but it’s a fact. The day the film released, I had almost ended up spending everything I had till that day. I had only Rs2,000 left and nothing else!” But Pandey looks at it in a positive way. “But the beauty of it is that I have no regrets. I will still do it again.”

Following this, Pandey went on to produce Money Devo Bhava, which is yet unreleased. Bajaj asked him, “How do you gather this strength?” Pandey said that he had no other choice. “Strength comes from the fact that there is no option. I have to live; I have to survive. I have to express myself. I think I always have something to fall back on. As long as that happens, I will keep making films,” he said laughingly. 

Pandey is hopeful of a positive future due to the boom of the online medium. “I have a lot of hope in the digital age of cinema. It’s a democratic medium. You don’t need to sell yourself to promote your film. Sooner or later I think it will take over. I am not saying every film will get justice. But I am sure some of us will survive.”