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Posts Tagged ‘Nasir Sheikh’

Low-budget film-maker from India flies high with Superman of Malegaon

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2010 at 6:08 PM

Courtesy of The Times Online

By Rhys Blakely

When Slumdog Millionaire wowed audiences having cost a mere £15 million to make, the film industry’s savants foresaw a new era of super-frugal, post-credit crunch cinema.

They did not know the half of it. The latest darling of the festival circuit is a dirt-poor director who learned his trade shooting wedding videos in a backwater Indian town. His latest movie was made for just 0.01 per cent of the budget of Danny Boyle’s movie.

When Shaikh Nasir, 33, a shopkeeper with a unshakable passion for cinema, embarked on his first feature film in the industrial hub of Malegaon in 2000, his measly 50,000 rupee (£650) budget meant a bullock cart had to serve as a camera crane and neighborhood tradesmen were roped in to star.

Even the plot was second hand. The film was a spoof remake of Sholay, a hit 1970s Bollywood action adventure — even if Mr Nasir’s villain’s had to forgo the horses ridden by the original’s bandits, to travel by bicycle instead.

The homage, with its Python-esque eye for the ridiculous, delighted local audiences and won the director a cult following, but its DIY appeal never extended beyond the subcontinent.

Now, six super-low-budget films later, it appears that Mr Nasir is finally on the cusp of breaking onto the world stage. His latest project, Malegaon ka Superman (Superman of Malegaon), made for a relatively lavish 100,000 rupees, is winning international acclaim.

Something of Mr Nasir’s agreeably ramshackle — if slightly loopy — style is gleaned when he recounts his influences. “I learnt my craft from the English classics,” he told The Times. “James Bond, Jackie Chan, Charlie Chaplin, Commando, Rambo.” Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that while Malegaon’s Superman dons the red and blue of his Hollywood namesake, there the similarity ends.

Mr Nasir’s hero is played by Shaikh Shafique, a skinny factory worker who was paid about £1.30 a day in what was his first acting role.

Superman’s lycra outfit hangs from his scrawny frame. He wears flip flops over his baggy blue leggings, threads hang from his billowing shorts, and his asthma means he is not always up to fighting his nemesis, a local tobacco baron.

This may not sound like the type of fare worthy of winning gongs, but a documentary, called Supermen of Malegaon, which records the making of the feature film has clinched awards at film festivals in Los Angeles, Prague, Pakistan and Italy.

When Malegaon ka Superman was shown at a festival in Goa this week, international buyers jostled to snap up the rights. Consequently, a worldwide cinema release is — astonishingly — on the cards.

Such a move would put Malegaon, a gritty industrial town previously best known for ugly inter-religious violence, on the world cinema map — a status it surely deserves given the dedication of its hard-pressed film makers.

The region, about 180 miles northeast of Mumbai, is famous in India as the site of a bizarre parallel movie universe. Home-produced spoofs of Bollywood blockbusters made by a handful of budding amateur directors are more popular in Malegaon than the originals they parody.

The appeal of the spoofs, which are shown on VHS tape in local “mini theatres”, owes much to the incorporation of local idioms and the escape they offer audiuences from the monotony of 14-hour shifts in local factories, Mr Nasir says. There is also the delight to be had in spotting the neighborhood postman hamming it up as, say, an evil henchman.

The Superman film marks the first time Mr Nasir has sought inspiration from Hollywood, but it remains true to his cottage industry ethos. It may have the biggest budget yet and be the first to be edited on computer. But the production process still rests on improvisation.

Superman is only able to achieve the illusion of flight, for instance, because he is held up horizontally above the heads of three of the crew or rolled along on a plank of wood placed on top of a bicycle.

Now, with Superman proving a triumph, Mr Nasir’s fans want to know what source material he will tackle next?

Malegaon ka Dinosaur” — a remake of Jurassic Park — and “Malegaon ka Rambo” have been mooted as “dream projects”. However, a remake of another superhero franchise seems most likely: “Malegaon ka Spiderman“. Unless, presumably, Hollywood’s lawyers consider that an homage too far.

Low-budget blockbusters

• The low-budget zombie film Colin, which featured at Cannes festival this year, was made for £45. Marc Price, the director, said that the budget was spent on “a crowbar and some tapes”

• Robert Rodriguez raised almost $7,000 to make El Mariachi, his first feature film, by taking part in clinical drug trials. He went on to make blockbusters such as Sin City

• Oren Peli’s film Paranormal Activity cost between $10,000 and $15,000 to make and grossed more than $106 million

Superman who spits!: How commerce corrupts, and less money means more honesty

In Uncategorized on June 24, 2010 at 7:50 AM

Versus

Courtesy of Mumbai Mirror

By Mayank Shekhar

Nasir Sheikh is one of India’s most passionate film-makers. You may not have heard of him. Chances are, you’ve heard about some of his films. He’s made two. As we speak, he’s finishing his third, the most ambitious project yet. They’re certainly the talk of the small town he comes from.

Like many  contemporary directors in this country, Nasir learnt film-making at the films. He did his “rehearsals” with Hollywood, studying “master directing, master lighting….” Hindi movies, he feels have “weak direction”. James Cameron’s The Abyss, it appears, is one of his favourites. It played for a month in the video theatre he once owned. He now runs a clothes showroom in the same space, which is evidently not his calling.

Years before, Nasir had taken up a moving camera to shoot local weddings. He does remakes of popular blockbusters now. They are fresh works still. Only the premise is borrowed. For this, he even names the original movie on the title. Nasir is evidently untouched by the credit-stealing ways of Bollywood, though he only lives about 300 kilometres from Mumbai.

It’s a place called Malegaon, known for many things. One of them, a local says, is its unlimited passion for movies, where a Shah Rukh hair-cut sells for Rs 101, and a Sanjay Dutt one for much more (Dutt’s hair needs better styling at the back).

A river divides this town between Hindus and Muslims. Both live on either side but rarely mingle. The segregation is complete. This is no different from the sub-continent itself, where two upset neighbours, separated by recent history, are still united in their love for Bollywood films.

Malegaon is predominantly Muslim. Faiza Ahmed Khan’s hilarious and tender documentary, warmly called the Supermen of Malegaon, takes you into the heart of this mofussil district. It is clearly the most amusing film you’re ever likely to watch on the making of another movie.

In the film, Nasir says he’s already taken on Bollywood, having directed both Malegaon Ka Sholay and Shaan. This time his ‘takkar’ (battle) is with Hollywood. Computers can make this possible. He will shoot the film on chroma, where actors perform over a green sheet, and the background images are generated digitally. It would cost him Rs 2 lakh at a Mumbai studio. With Rs 2 lakh, he could make four movies, he says. He’d rather do it on his own. Nasir needs to balance his means with quality, instead of the other way round, where budgets seem inversely proportional to content.

Nasir is going to make his hero fly. He is making Malegaon Ka Superman! The first four parts of the American franchise, he says, were commercial successes, but the fifth Superman failed because they’d merely remade the first one. This was unnecessary. There’s so much in the concept to take it forward.

Nasir’s parody takes Superman to Malegaon; dancing in the fields; saving his love from slick goons; flying up to catch better signals when the cellphone network is weak. This Superman, in a rich baritone, says he wants everyone to “thooko” (spit) everywhere, on the streets, in the restaurants… Because, “I louv filth!”

It’s quite a moment in Faiza’s documentary when Nasir finally reveals his Christopher Reeves: a worryingly thin, short, dark man Akram Khan, who appears in a Superman sky-blue suit with M for a new emblem, and the long nada of his boxer-shorts deliberately left hanging. Akram has taken leave to play the main role. He works 12-hour shifts in a power-loom, like most of Malegaon, which hardly gets power for a few hours in a day.

Akram’s underpants have been split from the bottom. He’s made to slide into a log of wood that juts out of a cart. A few people wave his red cape from behind. The cart moves forward taking Akram along. The cape’s flying in the air. Superman tears into an autorickshaw and drags a villain out. You’ll want to clap.

Most other times, Akram remains hung to a horizontal pole pretending to fly. In one scene, Nasir dropped his camera in water. The crew left Superman alone in a pond, floating on an air-tube. The camera was fixed later.

The movie, I hear, is ready. It’s worth looking forward to. You at least know these guys were only honestly making a film, not thinking of everything around it, but the film itself.