One of the quarantine center’s in-charges complains, “Pagdi aur chappal ek hi almari me nahi rakhey jaatey (turban and shoes are not stored in the same closet)” to an upper-caste priest. He is afraid of living with a lower caste guy. This scene from Andaman, a recently produced video about the Covid-19 disaster, demonstrates the many difficulties rural administrations may have faced in dealing with the crisis.
Smita Singh, a journalist-turned-filmmaker, directed Andaman, a story about a failed IAS aspirant in charge of a quarantine center in a village. An honest and straightforward look at rural India’s response to one of the world’s gravest humanitarian crises, this low-budget, primarily unknown cast film runs for 1.52 hours.
Thank you to performers like Sanjay Mishra and Rajesh Tailang for their cameos in the film, which they consented to do without charging a single dime. I am truly thankful.” Their belief that the film should have been created, and they encouraged me to go ahead with it, Singh added.
It was, nevertheless, a challenging undertaking for the director’s debut. Due to financial constraints, we were unable to approach big-name actors.” My friend Anand Raj wrote the screenplay, who played the protagonist in the film, and we enlisted actors from Lucknow and eastern Uttar Pradesh. They had returned from Mumbai after the city was put on lockdown to play the supporting roles. The outbreak of Covid-19 left them without a job.
The picture was snubbed by distributors since it had many unknown actors. It had no recognizable faces. Even the OTT platforms turned it down; the problem was finding the correct audience for the film. That’s why they created a new platform for young filmmakers who have a hard time getting their films out there.
“This film, Andaman would not have been possible without the help of many regular and unrecognised individuals. Distribution was the biggest problem. A large portion of the OTT rejected us because of the unfamiliar faces. So we came up with Open Theatre, a website where anyone can view the film for for Rs 45. The only thing required is to fill out the form and pay the little fee. In exchange, they will receive a referral link that they can pass along to their friends and family. A payback of Rs 15 is offered to those who recommend the movie to others. They can recoup their investment even if only three people see the movie based on their recommendation.”
“We want to make this film available to as many people as possible. Moreover, with our own OTT platform, our viewers will become our customers and our profit partners. According to Singh, aspiring filmmakers who are having difficulty getting their films seen can take advantage of this forum.