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Fact or Fiction?—Sitting Down with Chicken Sambar

Chicken Sambar comprises a team of young filmmakers from the School of Communication, Manipal. What started off as a platform to express opinions and passions in college soon became a viable career option for these talented artists.

This team is now making a crowdfunded feature film titled ‘Fiction‘, starring the famous Raj B Shetty as one of the several important characters, Gandhi. With three different storylines that fit together seamlessly in the end, Fiction is a story of Gandhi, Maya, and Ansh—the protagonists of the film. Directed by Rahul Menon K and produced by Nishmitha B, this feature film has caught the eye of several critics—Rajeev Ravi and Sanal Kumar Sasidharan are among their mentors.

The Fiction trailer—Introducing Gandhi

The Fiction trailer—Introducing Maya

We had the opportunity to talk to one of the driving forces behind Fiction, Rahul Menon K—here’s what he had to say.

Chicken Sambar started out as a group of talented and determined students who wanted to voice their passions. What was the driving force behind your Genesis?

It was mostly frustration! We were frustrated and we wanted to do what we loved. It was also our love for cinema and stories. At the time, there was no place in Manipal that would help us go and make films. So that’s how it started—we wanted to provide a platform for artists and filmmakers alike.

A lot of hard work and effort goes into scaling a student-run organisation into something bigger. How has that journey been for you guys?

From the very beginning, Chicken Sambar’s team has been just us, students. However, at the same time, we were also trying to be independent artists. When we started working on Fiction, it was much bigger than anything we had ever worked on before, and that was really scary. But I think we’ve always been more of a family than a crew. So even though we were taking on something new and much bigger than ourselves, the fact that we were a family got us going. We were not alone. We were doing it for each other and this ended up becoming the most exciting part of this journey.

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Who do you feel is your target audience? How do you go about reaching them?

I don’t think it is fair to say that you can make anything with a group of people in mind. Fiction might have content which may not be loved by everyone, but we’re not making the film for anyone specific. We hope that people from all walks of life—age groups and places—can enjoy it. We hope there is something for everybody there.

Coming to the crux of your work, Fiction, how did you end up with your characters Gandhi, Ansh, and Maya? What inspired their stories?

Gandhi and Maya started off as characters without any names. The film, at that time, was a short film. I had shared the script with my brother, who read it and said: “Gandhi makes for a good name”. That got me thinking. As I kept developing the script around the character, I realized the character Nazir was so bad at his job of being a gangster because of his good heart. That’s how Gandhi was baptized. Coming to Maya, the character was supposed to be played by another actress, Ruhi Kumar. It was Ruhi who came up with the character’s personality and name, and it was her idea completely. And lastly, Ansh was my roommate from my first year in college! He is one of the most talented actors I have met in my life. The part of the film that features Ansh was the most realistic part of Fiction. Since we wanted to stick to that theme, we decided to keep the real name of the actor as well.

In this age of technology, where free content is available everywhere and piracy is still at large, do you think upcoming filmmakers can leave a lasting impression on their audience?

Definitely! In fact, this is the best time to get content out there because everybody, in every corner of the world, has access to everything. It is a great time for artists to showcase their work. Most filmmakers are against piracy because they might not be able to show their film in the quality they want it in. They would rather have their audience watch the movie in the theatre. However, a lot of filmmakers, especially those who have recently been discovered, have gotten really popular in India because of piracy.

Do you have any words of advice for those students actively seeking out a career in filmmaking?  

[laughs] We are still learning as well! I am not in a position to advise anyone yet. I am exactly where these students are as well. You will always be learning as a filmmaker. Right now, we’re at the very bottom of the heirarchy—the ground floor. Hopefully, the floors above have something interesting in store for us! The only real advice I can give anyone is to work hard.

Tell us more about how you arrived at the idea behind Fiction.

When we first started writing Fiction, the ideas just came to us. We didn’t really try writing it; it just happened as we progressed. Even before we got to the stage where we wanted to do a feature film, we had the script ready. The entire script is based on true stories and strangely extraordinary things.

Fiction: Behind the Scenes

Fiction is being crowdfunded. Does being on a tight budget restrict creativity and/or resources to a large extent?

We were never people who worked with a huge budget. We never had the luxury of having a lot of money to spend either. There were times when we were really scared to spend money on things owing to our tight budget. I think it can be looked at as something positive as well. Despite not having the money to spend, we had a team who was ready to work. At that stage, instead of focusing on the negative, we revelled in the fact that the little money we had was being spent in the right way. We were trying to make the best of what we had.

In what way has your college experience prepared you to take up projects of this magnitude?

Our college was never a place where we were tied down. We are given a lot of freedom to do what we want to. For us, it was all about using this freedom. We also had some really great professors as mentors who have supported us from the beginning. They’ve inspired us and without them, we probably wouldn’t have gotten this far. Most of my current crew is also from college. I think one of the most important things that our college did for us in the first year of making Fiction was giving us a room. That became our first office—we put up a couch, a bean bag, posters on the wall, and even a whiteboard. They basically provided us with any help that they could.

Chicken Sambar hopes to raise Rs 6,00,000 to cover the production and post-production costs.

We have raised Rs 2,27,712 so far. We have 19 days to go for the crowdfunding campaign. The last shoot of Gandhi is scheduled for the last week of June. We’ve not hit the panic button yet, thanks to the support from all you guys. We are sure that this is mathematically doable. Finding 200 people who can pitch Rs 2000 each hopefully wouldn’t turn out to be that difficult. We do have exclusive treats for our supporters!“, concludes Rahul.

To contribute to Fiction’s crowdfunding campaign, click here.

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