That was the question on every journalist's mind. Is she trying to float her independent banner to come out of her husband's shadows? What is she up to? In a press conference at a Mumbai suburban hotel specially called to announce a unique hitherto untried Internet campaign to find out the real audience of Anand Gandhi's film SHIP OF THESEUS, she put all the speculation to rest.
Kiran Rao is not floating a new banner. She is just presenting SHIP OF THESIUS and working towards ensuring a decent promotion and release strategy for a pure art house film of this kind while letting the independent producer have complete control over how his/her work, in this case Anand Gandhi, and Recyclewala Films.
She was aware of the fact that involvement of AKPL would have dwarfed the producers of the film and she simply did not want that to happen. She is a great believer in a film being discovered by its audience and was certain that getting AKPL on board would prove counterproductive from this perspective. Rao probably thinks that way because of her DHOBI GHAT experience. She set about to making a low budget film in guerilla style. Involvement of AKPL and Aamir Khan changed the entire dynamics of her filmmaking and marketing by generating expectations DHOBI GHAT was not meant to fulfill. Though the film recovered its investment, it did not help her cause of exploring alternative ways of producing and distributing independent art house films that may not have an effective mainstream release owing to high costs of marketing and distribution.
She is doing that now with SHIP OF THESEUS. She has UTV on board and they are trying to keep the cost of promotion and distribution as low as possible with an extremely focused Internet based niche-marketing campaign. It's the film that will choose its target audience. That is how it looks like. Right from its intriguing poster to its philosophical title and subtle yet sublime visually stunning trailers, the message is loud and clear. It is not run-of-mill mainstream cinema. It requires a different kind of engagement and aesthetic and intellectual sensibility from its audience. It is the firm conviction of Kiran Rao and Anand Gandhi that such an audience exists and the only challenge before them is to create that alternative low-cost promotion and distribution model to make the twain, the film and its desired audience, meet.
Written and directed by Anand Gandhi, SHIP OF THESEUS releases on 19 July 2013 in India after having performed very well in the global film festival circuits, winning a plethora of honors and prestigious accolades. It is produced by Sohum Shah and distributed in India by UTV Motion Pictures. Its international sales and distribution is handled by Fortissimo Films.
(Rajesh Kumar Singh is Editorial Consultant for Festivals and Markets for BollywoodTrade.com. He is a filmmaker, critic and market analyst)