Monday, September 14, 2015

Flying Colors

Flying Colors
An inspiring story of a young girl with a hearing impairment who leaves a village and makes it into a city comes alive in the film Flying Colors. The brainchild of Raja Krishna, Flying Colors is all about activism with a heart.  

1. Can you start by telling us something about yourself?

I am Raja Krishna, born and brought up in a middle class family in Warangal, Andhra Pradesh. My parents worked very hard, and took us from a poor financial life to a middle class lifestyle. I saw how my family had transformed from the poor to the middle class. From childhood, I was fascinated by rags to riches stories and stories of sincere and hard working women like my mother. Being happy and funny all the time was not my style. When I was in the 12th Standard, I began realizing what my parents had gone through to let us study in college. It motivated me and I got through to a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science at the National Institute of Technology in Warangal. During my college days, I used to be unique and different. I never fit into any group. I personally tend to be more individualistic than belonging to any group. I used to be an average student in NITW. But then again, come Campus Placements at the end of the 3rd year, I was motivated to get into a big company. That was my family’s dream, and to some extent, mine too. I prepared for the interview in my own style, found some innovative ways to tackle the written test and three rounds of interviews. I was the only one to get selected for the Software Development Engineer position in the world's biggest company, Microsoft IDC from my class. I worked there for one year and three months, didn't like the job or the mechanical work I had to do, so many limitations, heavy work load which don’t need your creative abilities, so I resigned from Microsoft, applied for Design courses in the US and all universities rejected me. I then learned Design on my own, sitting at home for 18 months, got placed in Clarice Technologies in Pune, worked there for a while, and found limitations in the company again, they didn't want me to explore new ways of designing software though I found glitch in their design process, so I resigned from Clarice and moved to Mumbai to become a filmmaker on September 4, 2013 with no experience, not much knowledge, not even a single known face in the industry. So I like to be free you see and do some exciting work. That's my journey.
Image (c) Raja Krishna

2. What inspired Flying Colors? What inspired the theme of women’s empowerment?
I was working in Clarice Technologies in 2012, and the Delhi gang rape incident happened that December. I was planning to move to films as a career. I was moved by the Delhi incident and in January 2013, I decided to make a short film centred around the issue of rape. I wrote a short story and moved to Mumbai with the story. I narrated the story to a Bollywood cinematographer (through my roommate in Mumbai then), he criticized the story a lot and said it was bad. After giving it some thought, I realised that I wanted to inspire women to move ahead in life. I decided to make a feature film, so I started with some research on the current status of women in India. I gathered data from the internet, and after analyzing the data, I found that 90% of Indian women wanted freedom. They didn't want somebody to judge them or tell them what to do or not to do. That was the genesis of Flying Colors. I began writing the script. I was fascinated by the rags to riches stories, so I designed the girl's character that way, as a girl from an underprivileged background in challenging conditions. The story evolved to showcase how an underprivileged girl in challenging conditions fights her way to freedom. If, despite all the adversities life throws her way, she could do it, then it is easy for girls to see that they can do it.

3. What went into making the film?

First, I started a Kickstart crowd funding campaign to gather funds. It was a failed attempt. Then my brother came forward to finance the film. Initially I thought I could make the film within the budget of Rs. 6 Lakhs. I was not ready for the shock. I had Rs. 6 Lakhs and then went onto putting the cast and crew together. I knew that I was a beginner and couldn't make a film in the mainstream way. I needed a cinematographer who would listen to me, who would understand my raw ideas and translate it into a shot. I started looking up people on Facebook and on YouTube. After a lot of time searching, I found Vishal on Facebook. I saw some of his photos and I liked the way he thought about a visual and how he captured it and what that visual conveyed. Casting was a big challenge. The character was unique, never seen before in Indian movies. Just 10 days before the shoot, I came across Bhavna Mali's profile. I contacted her, met her in Infiniti Mall Andheri, narrated script, she liked it, done. Bhavna had no idea about acting, so we both watched Girl Rising (2013) documentary film together and I explained her each and every shot. Why a character did something in a shot... She understood the basics. I also explained a bit about Method Acting which I had learned during my software days (I wanted to be an actor first), and she was ready for the shoot.

The shoot started and the first day was a nightmare for everybody! The real non actors except Bhavna were not able to perform, so it took us 4 hours to capture 3,4 min scene. My cinematographer and sound recordist looked at me like what is going on? I knew it was not happening but I pushed my crew and cast to do more, and managed to finish some part of the shoot on first day. It's always challenging to shoot with non-actors. It was very challenging. Bhavna was able to act really well, and that also gave me confidence that well we can do it with her. The first day taught me one thing, you can't have set of plans for this kind of film. From the second day, I changed the working style, we shot in a beautifully chaos way, improvised everything on location. Then I could see the improvement, everybody enjoyed shooting. We had fun doing something creative and exciting every day. Most of the shoot happened outdoors. We covered most parts of Western and Southern Mumbai. On the last day of the shoot, unfortunately, we lost our camera and sound equipment. It was a big blow. Rs. 3 Lakh worth of equipment! I finished the shoot by hiring new equipment. Minimal crew is a boon and a problem if you are not active all the time. We were beginners, so I didn't blame anybody. I was happy at finishing the shoot in 22 days, and a bit let down by not controlling everything properly. 

Post production was the biggest life changing experience for me. I wanted a genius editor who could understand my thoughts, how I shot the movie, and how we improvised each shot, my vision and all. But the budget was very less. So, I took matter in my own hands again. I edited the movie myself. I showed the movie to some Bollywood music composers and sound designers. They criticized the movie length. Again, I don't blame them. After giving some thought, I understood what editing, what pace was, what storytelling is. The process of making the movie was very enriching.     

4. What were some of your key challenges in portraying some of the realities your film shows?
I had written a scene, the protagonist girl struggles with Periods one day, she had no shelter, how she copes up with it all alone with no money and all. We shot the scene, I edited it. During sound work my sound mixer told me that it didn't look like she had periods, something else. I think I didn't execute it properly, somewhere in conceiving and executing the scene I lost it. A female filmmaker could have got it right I guess. So I had cut it out of the movie. There are two segments that portrayed attempts of rape in the movie. The people portraying the molesters were very shy on location. They couldn't even be serious, so I had to invent new editing style to get the right experience. One day, when we were shooting a scene in a somewhat less developed area, a large crowd gathered around us to see the shoot. It was challenging to guide them to a particular position and capture the shot so that the camera wouldn’t capture the crowd.  

5. In a day and age where there is so much value in storytelling and filmmaking, how does Flying Colors fit in, to tell truths that the world should know?
I believe that a great director can make a terrible movie if the cause of the movie is bad. A struggling storyteller can make a cult movie if the cause of the movie is great. How about the basic idea of a poor 15 year old village girl's fighting life in a big busy city? Can it do something good for the audience? I think yes. Can it do anything bad? I think not!

6. What are your plans for the film?
The first would be a theatrical release. Next, I am at showing the movie to underprivileged girls whenever I get a chance after the release. After the release and during my future career in films, whenever I get a chance to meet such girls, I will show them the movie in Laptop or mobile or in any way I can. It will go on forever as long as such girls exist.