We are connected to films in different ways. My journey started in 2004 when I took my first film production class. It took many years of hits and misses before I had the opportunity to co-produce a 32-minute film called Heart Has Reasons. The story was based on the increased risk of heart disease afflicting South Asians. Upon completion of the film, Kiran Harpanhalli, who edited and provided the background music score, proposed that the team focus on a full length feature as our next project. So began the journey of Love Pyar Whatever.
I managed to get funding only because of my day job as an accountant. Several of my clients were happy to invest because it was their “childhood dream to make a movie.” I had a six-figure budget and managed to get 12 investors.
When the concept for the movie was being developed, we wanted to capture the dreams of professionals and students from India who come to the United States every year and the reality of the cultural and communication differences, including dating issues, they have to face once they arrive in their new country. For our Indie film to compete with high budget Bollywood films, we agreed that the plot must be a romantic love story with a tinge of raunchiness.
The story of Love Pyar Whatever is about a young Indian student who travels to the United States in search of his true love. After a series of mishaps, he finally meets the girl of his dreams. Will his inexperience cost him the girl or will he finally find what has been missing from his entire life—everlasting and true love?
The Right Director and Cast
Carlos Mora, a filmmaker of Latin American descent and very active in the San Francisco film scene, agreed to be our director and took up the tedious task of writing the screenplay. He was intrigued by our suggestion that the movie have Hindi Bollywood style songs. We met several times to go over the screenplay and fine tune it until it had the right balance of American and Indian sensibilities.
Pankaj Dubey, an accomplished dancer and actor, was selected to play the lead role of the young Indian student coming from India. Zoë Winter, the lead actress, came with several years of experience and she delivered a performance that is emotionally charged.
One of the critical functions was that of the the 2nd Assistant Director, Natteri Varadarajan, who was instrumental in organizing and scheduling actors and crew. This was a monumental task since this project had multiple locations and many actors. The movie’s cast of over 45 actors is a blend of professionals from both Indian and American backgrounds. There were 121 scenes to be shot and over 15 locations to be negotiated.
There were instances when we could not get volunteers to show up for critical scenes.
One was the airplane scence. We had rented an aircraft for four hours and sent out word for volunteers to show up. At the appointed time, very few people came and we had to scramble to convince our close relatives to drop everything and be a part of the production.
At a shoot at the Ohlone College (when the campus was closed), we needed students as part of the scene and the only way we could persuade them was to offer them a $20 remuneration. I remember walking around campus with a wad of notes and distributing it to students who came to the sets.
The Movie Has Legs
In one of the classes I attended on filmmaking shorts in San Francisco, I was told that every good movie has to have three “Oh My God” scenes and one “Oh Fucking Shit” scene in order to be successful. When I think back to Love Pyar Whatever, I can easily identify the one enactment that fits the latter prototype. It is a beautiful portrayal where the hero helps the heroine drape a sari around herself. The scene is tasteful and sensual.
The movie making business is a hard nut to crack. First we must be convinced that our movie has legs, only then can we sell the movie to theaters. Even if we have a good movie, there are distribution hurdles to cross. In August 2013, I went to India with a rough cut of the full film. We met with many film industry producers and distributors, without making much headway.
We screened the film at Eros Cinema in Mumbai and invited college students to serve as a focus group. They compared the movie to the commerical blockbuster Chennai Express and gave us feedback that we took heed of. I believe distribution will happen if the movie works. And I am convinced that the movie will work.
My journey started when I was asked to create my “tombstone” story or “How will you like to be remembered?” pitch at an event I attended 10 years ago. In that soul-searching process I came to realize that my obituary would read a little lacklustre. While I had a few professional degrees to my credit, there was nothing in my resume and accomplishments that struck me as “remember-worthy.” So I began to think about what I would really like to do and stumbled upon movie production. The rest, I hope, is history.
Parveen Maheshwari is the producer of Love Pyar Whatever