The Truck of Dreams was for me a complete labour of love. It was my first feature film and I gave my all to creating a piece of magical realism which I thought would engage and inspire audiences around the world. Being of Indian heritage myself added another layer of excitement to the project and a deep desire to create a team from both London and Mumbai that would work together harmoniously to bring the film to completion.
It was a two year journey from conceiving the concept in April 2004 to the completed film having its two successful screenings in film festivals in London and Washington DC in August 2006 where it won the World Cinema Award for Best Feature Film. After that to my complete surprise and horror the production company in Mumbai announced that they would no longer release the print for any “free screenings”. I tried to communicate with them repeatedly without success. The UK based Executive Producer disengaged from the project completely saying that she hadn’t had her expenses paid and there was nothing more she could do.
The production company then informed me that the film had reverted to the studio that financed it as they had severed their relationship. The studios, Sahara Motion Pictures, are one of the biggest movie producers in Bollywood and part of the Sahara Group that encompasses everything from real estate to aviation and the media. They are also notoriously secretive with a high turnover of staff. It was now the summer of 2006 and I tried repeatedly to try and find someone in Sahara who knew about the project. The production company Percept Pictures had said to me that the prints and the HD master of the film had been sent to Sahara and it was now no longer anything to do with them.
Eventually I had to give up and I began to focus on other film projects for my own sanity. Then at the 2008 Cannes film festival I saw that Sahara had a stand. I set up a meeting and spoke to the newly appointed Head of Production Gayatri Singh who said she knew all about the film and promised to find out what had happened to it. After Cannes I wasn’t able to contact her again and I soon found out that she had moved on from Sahara.
For the next few years I focused on other film projects but always at the back of my mind was the question of what had happened to my film? To make matters worse I didn’t even have a copy of the film as Percept were paranoid that it would be pirated. It was an impossible situation. Sahara Motion Pictures as a film studio were then relatively inactive for the next couple of years with no movies at all released in 2012.
In January 2013 Sahara announced that Sandeep Bhargava was being appointed as the new CEO to release a new slate of pictures and take the studio forward in a new direction. I tried contacting him repeatedly but got nowhere. In February 2014 the supreme head of Sahara Subroto Roy was jailed for financial mis-dealings from where he continues to oversee his business empire. I decided that was it as far as getting my film back was concerned.
A recent trip back to Mumbai for the FICCI FRAMES market – my first trip back since I finished the film not only brought back memories but also reintroduced me to the energy and scale of the Mumbai Film Industry which has now progressed far beyond traditional Bollywood films. I also reconnected with some of the people I worked with on the film who all were keen after all these years to see it released. It seems that not only my film had disappeared, others made for the studio at the same time had too.
I decided then that I would now finally try and get my movie back and get it screened and that my journey to do this would be a very entertaining and insightful film in its own right.
My vision is to take the viewer into the nuts and bolts inside world of the Mumbai film industry. We will go beyond the superficial glamour and stereotypical singing and dancing into the heart of the worlds biggest film industry. This is a chaotic yet colourful world that is both frustrating and entertaining at the same time.
I will take the viewer on a journey during which we will meet a cast of characters who themselves wouldn’t be out of place in a Bollywood movie. The film will follow me as I paint a picture of the industry by meeting and interviewing key people involved with the The Truck of Dreams. I will get their take on the what happened and their thoughts on why it happened and what I should do now to get the film back.
I will also interview Bollywood celebrities including actors, producers and movie moguls to get their take on how to engage with Sahara and persuade them to release the film to me.
The film will be shot on the move in natural light. An air of urgency will be injected by having a 3-week time frame within which to find and secure the film. The colour and chaos of Mumbai street-life will provide the background to interviews with our key participants. The complete lack of time keeping within the film industry and the difficulty of getting around the city due to the sheer weight of traffic will create a curious mix of tension and comedy.
I intend to use moments from classic Bollywood films to illustrate emotions and reactions as they occur in the natural course of the filmed interviews. The Truck of Dreams contained a number of moments from classic Bollywood cinema that illustrated the thoughts and dreams of the protagonist Meera. In a similar fashion I will use moments and scenes to illustrate my emotions and feelings as the search unfolds.
We will film interviews on location in Mumbai revisiting the locations where we filmed originally as well as the post houses where all the post was done.
This will be a very personal authored film and the audience will get an insight into the mind-set of a film director trying to rescue his work which he spent years creating. The journey will be humorous and emotional in equal parts and the audience will also get an insight into the worlds largest film industry in one of the world’s most vibrant cities.