South Asian Projects
Redlight to Limelight-Bipuljit Basu (India)
The sex workers and youth form CAM-ON, a film production house in the Kalighat brothel, Kolkata. They set up an economic model, transforming the brothel into a sustainable film colony.
Two Journalists from Frontline Magazine contacts me when the Covid infection is under control in Kolkata, India. They will write a follow-up story on CAM ON in Kalighat brothel, observing them where they stand in the post-pandemic situation and how they sustain their dream of making the brothel into a film colony.
Sex workers’ regulated film production house CAM ON was big news in Kolkata. In March-April’2020, South Asia’s leading socio-political Magazine Frontline published a big story on them.
In 2019, I discovered a group of wonderful, young amateur filmmakers, all children of sex workers in the poor red light area of Kalighat, Kolkata. They had arranged an old outdated DSLR camera, cheap sound boom, a self-made tripod, and dirty reflectors used for shooting. Even some of them use pirated editing software installed in their broken laptop. They were energetic and creative amateur short-film-makers who usually uploaded their zero budget, independent, community films on YouTube.
I hired them as Line producer for my short fiction film ‘Midnight Blues’. Gradually not only the children but also their mothers joined the production as technicians. They formed their own production house CAM ON. They plan to set an economic model to sustain their film initiative and transform Redlight area into a professional film colony.
Meanwhile, Covid-19 hit India in early 2020. It has devastated the economy and the social balance and the film initiative in the brothel is shut down.
The sex workers and the youth want to come back with their production house in post-pandemic time. They want to connect with OTT platforms, which can stream their films on revenue sharing basis. They also try to connect to the film divisions of various organizations where independent issue-based films are promoted.
They are going to start their shooting for an issue-based, Zero Budget film. Will they be able to finish their films to overcome a variety of social challenges? Will their films find a place on the OTT platform? Will they be able to set a revenue model for their proposed film colony? Will they be able to mobilize mainstream film professionals and influence them to accept Cam-On as a film technician? Will the Frontline Journalists find something worthy of publishing on them?
After one year, I also plan to follow the journalists, Cam-On team, and their community again and make another self-reflexive, participatory feature-length documentary about their revival in post-pandemic time.
It is a story about a relationship between a vulnerable community and me as a filmmaker, how we go forward with achieving the goal together. Simultaneously, it’s a story of a trust we keep for each other. By producing my film Midnight Blues, they came united for the first time in 2019 and gave birth to an initiative. Since then, we have been considering it a collective journey that we are fostering together, sharing new ideas, resolving conflict, and making the film together. This film must reflect them all on the screen.
Cam -On team has become an integral part of my filmmaking career. They will be working with me as a Line Producer in my future projects too. I always believe in bringing marginal issues and art forms together to create an impact, representing the truth, taking it towards the better prospect and development for each other socially. The experience and process of filmmaking with Cam-On are such a social experiment that makes all of my long-nurtured objectives fulfilled.
In this hybrid documentary, the film starts from the moment Frontline Magazine and I decide to go back to see the Cam-On team again in Kalighat Covid-19 attacked India as soon as they formed the film-production house.
In this film, I will be intensively participating with the community and observing and how they are determined to sustain their initiative and grow with cinema after the pandemic. Cam On team members challenge this stigma, trying to make a sustainable economic model, transforming themselves through using the art and crafts of film making process as a change agent tool.
THE BROTHEL ALLEY
The narrow lanes and alleys of the brothel hold the spirit of the Cam On team. At night-time, they engaged themselves in the sex trade. When the sun rises, the community members come out of their tiny rooms, carrying the camera, tripod, reflectors on their shoulders to work in the film production.
In carrying out this creative struggle, the community finds their creativity and emotion on the community slum’s rooftop. They carry out sex work profession standing at the roadside, alleys, lanes, and the small slum rooms. However, they dream of making the cinema sitting on the rooftops only.
KALIGHAT, A HINDU PILGRIMAGE
The film will also explore the colorful geographical and cultural area of Kalighat too. It is not only a Hindu pilgrimage, but it is also a place of religious pluralism. People practice religious customs rigorously in hundreds of temples scattered over there. Irrespective of their religious differences, an underprivileged community keeps their religious, inter-personal relationships intact and stays together.
NGOs AND BROTHEL POWER POLITICS
The NGOs working in the brothel are completely against this independent film initiative. They want the community to depend on them and showcase the film initiative as their project to their funders. They threaten a few of Cam-On members to terminate their field workers’ jobs in NGOs. Local politicians and brothel brokers are not ready to allow them to work independently.
A SUSTAINABLE FILM COLONY
Kalighat brothel will get makeover slowly. They are developing a revenue model in the brothel. Working in other productions and OTT helps them to raise funds. They have arranged second-hand equipment so that they can afford to make zero-budget films. The make-over of the colony is a symbol of their inner transformation and liberation of their thoughts through cinema.
Bipuljit Basu is a Social impact writer-filmmaker and Indian TV non-fiction director. He works with the leading media houses producing less known Indian marginal stories in mainstream cinema and media creatively in India. He works as a TV Episode Director in India’s National TV channel Doordarshan. Bipuljit is mentee under Martijn Te pas, the senior programmer, IDFA & Nordisk Panorama, Europe under the impact film making programme. He is also an Asian Jury for the Science Film Festival organized by United Nations Environment Programme and Goethe Institute (India). He has directed ‘Midnight Blues’ a participatory hybrid film in 2021.
We carry out the production plan very cautiously under this pandemic situation. The timeline fixed for the production is being delayed because of covid second-wave attack in India.
December’2020 to August’2021 – Development of the production ( the schedule will be delayed a bit because of 2nd wave disaster in India)
September to December 2021– from Production Shoot start to end of the production.
January’2022 to April’2022 – Post Production phase
Release – May’2022
Total – 1,67,000 Euro
Fund Secured – 25,000 Euro
Fund required – 1,42,000 Euro
We are in the advanced development phase in Kolkata. To date, 25,000 euros has been raised under the proposed budget. We have pitched the film at DocedgeKolkata in May’21. Martijn Te Pas, Ex senior programmer IDFA works with us as a creative consultant in this film. Max Tuula from Marx Film, Estonia has joined as a co-producer in this project in April. Askold Kurov the BAFTA winner cinematographer from Russia has joined the team as a consultant from April’21 onward. We are going to start a fundraising campaign under the fiscal sponsorship program of Film Independent, USA from August’2021.
Phone: +91 9831902821