Sarthak Dasgupta, a Mumbai based indie filmmaker, talks to us about his record success in the crowdfunding scene in India, with his latest film, Cutthroat.
Cutthroat is Sarthak Dasgupta’s latest project, which has recently taken the Indian crowdfunding scene by storm, gaining the record for the most money raised by crowdfunding for a film in India.
Dasgupta was born and raised in Mumbai, but has not always been in the film industry. Originally completing an Engineering degree (majoring in Electronics) and then a MBA (Majoring in Finance), but then a few years in, quit his job to make films. We had a great chat to Sarthak about his crowdfunding endeavours, so read on for some great tips and messages from the new indie filmmaker in the limelight.
How long have you been making films?
Intermittently since 2001, when I made my first short, Easy Chair.
What made you want to become a filmmaker?
I did my Engineering and then my MBA and then took up a job with the Capital Markets Regulators of India, SEBI. It was a clear path to a corporate and perhaps later, an entrepreneurial career. The first bump on that road was my making friends with a bunch of film students when I was doing my MBA. They followed their paths to Mumbai for work after their graduation. So did I. Interacting with them over weekends and then reflecting on what I was doing in my job versus the fun (well, it looked like a lot of fun then) that they were having – struggling to stay afloat in the shark infested waters of the Movie world, got me up to a deep analysis of what was it that I really wanted to do with my life.
The second bump was along the way – perhaps been simmering on a slow burner for a long time. I have been interested in life more from a spiritual standpoint than any other. Maybe my subconscious needed a medium, a language, to access and play with my thoughts and observations on that topic.
It slowly became evident that for me, there was no better way of observing and understanding life than making films. It is now not only about life, but also about nature and every other phenomenon that is the slow and seamless unfolding of the Divine. Filmmaking allows me various vantage points to observe that seamless roll-out.
On screen, inside me, in the process of conceiving, writing, filming, in the interactions with people, at the rendezvouses of ideas, intents, progresses, struggles and failures – It gives me a vocabulary that breaks grammar, it gives me a music that binds genres, and above all, it gives me a home without a fence or a boundary.
I’ve recently read an article about you titled, ‘Can’t Run the Kitchen with Indie Films‘; do you think the independent film market in India will grow in the future?
I’m anti-apocalyptic in my views. The universe trends towards freeing man from every kind of bondage. Cinema, as a form of expression, also needs to be free and independent. And I strongly believe that the culture will grow. People, mindsets, business and technology will bend and consolidate to support it. And I do see it happening slowly and steadily.
How do you feel about digital distribution, rather than traditional distribution where not many films find distributors after they are made?
Digital distribution is an inevitable path on the way to freeing mankind in the realms of Cinema. I can already sense the social drift in that direction. Some early adopters will bear the brunt of the teething problems – technical, social, regulatory etc. Eventually once the path is paved, everyone else will follow. But it is inevitable. Audience taste is getting more and more fragmented. Only digital distribution can serve niche tastes.
We read that Cutthroat broke the record of money raised for a film by crowdfunding in India, what do you attribute this success to?
‘Cutthroat’ is the highest crowd-funded project on an Indian crowd-funding platform till date. There have been other films that have privately raised more amounts based on a crowd-funding model, but not on any organised crowd-funding platform.
For me it was the first time that I went out in the open to raise funds for a film. I’m still not sure what exactly worked. But something did, and we were over-subscribed by the end of the funding run.
I imagine our integrity as filmmakers worked in big way to remove any apprehension that people may have had at various points in their decision making process. We were also relentless in talking to people on social media and through emails, answering questions. Also I think, the subject that the film is about has gone a long way to garner interest and support. The film is an MBA school drama. There is a strong resonance there about that amongst the target audience, though its niche.
Do you have any tips for fellow filmmakers thinking about crowdfunding in India?
Stay humble. Say and mean genuine things. Be smart. Choose your subject wisely. Reach out and stay available. And, be very grateful.
How much more money do you need in order to complete Cutthroat, and when will production be finished?
I have raised less than 1/10th of the funds required through crowd-funding. We are in the process of firming up the project. If all goes well we will get on the floor early next year.
Will you be doing more fundraising?
Yes we will have to raise the balance of the funds. But not through crowd-sourcing. We will be raising the rest of the funds through the private equity route. We are confident.
What kind of jobs have you worked at to fund your movies?
I have done various odd jobs to survive the cold winters. These were not in any way enough to fund films, but just a little so that I could survive, stick to the dreams and keep sharpening my filmmaker’s mind. I also depended a lot on my wife financially.
Over the last two years, I got steeply involved in writing for television. Various shows. I have again slowly moved out of all that to concentrate on my films.
This concludes part 1. of our Sarthak Dasgupta interview, we will be back next week to talk to Sarthak about his experiences with the Sundance Film Festival, along with tips for filmmakers heading there.
In the mean time, enjoy this trailer for The Great Indian Butterfly, Sarthak’s debut into the Indian Silver Screen.
If you want to follow Sarthak’s progress as a filmmaker, you can find him here: