Monday, October 10, 2011

A few questions with Atlanta Nagendra

Posted By on Mon, Oct 10, 2011 at 10:00 AM

The Atlanta-filmed, Bollywood-rooted Mumbhai Connection screens this week at Cinefest on Thursday, Oct. 13, at 7 p.m. as part of the 7th Annual Atlanta Asian Film Festival. The Hindi film with English subtitles follows computer support worker Faisal as he tries to sell IT to the Atlanta mafia. Before he knows it, he’s in over his head. I caught up with first-time director Atlanta Nagendra (who adopted the city's name as part of his moniker in gratitude) to learn a little more about the film.

What’s your background?

Atlanta Nagendra: I am from India. I went to school in India. I completed an Engineering degree in Computer Science and started working as a Software Engineer.

I have always been passionate about film making and have been self-learning film making while I was in India. Upon moving to US, I got the opportunity to study film making and completed several courses here in US. I have attended various workshops with emphasis on screenwriting, editing, direction and acting. I also took acting classes to better understand the skills to get the best out of artists.

How did it come together? How long has Mumbhai Connection been in production?

AN: I always had a desire to tell a story that is the not usual run-of-a-mill story. The moment an Indian mentions that he/she is making a film in America the perception is that it will be about the culture clash story of Indians living here.

I want to work towards changing that perception and have been thinking about different yet interesting stories to tell. And that’s how Mumbhai Connection was born. Being a Software engineer myself, I thought about exploring the world of IT (Information Technology) with a backdrop of underworld Mafia. As one of the characters in our movie describes mafia as- "They too are running a business. Why won't they need IT support?"

Mumbhai Connection has been in production since 18 months. It has been selected for various film festivals across the US. It has been officially selected for Third World Independent Film Festival, 8th Dixie Film Festival, 10th Urban Media Makers Film Festival, 7th Atlanta Asian Film Festival and many more in the pipeline. Mumbhai Connection has been awarded the best comedy film at Third World Independent Film Festival.

When you’re not making films, what do you do? How did you manage to balance that with the production of Mumbhai Connection?

AN: I am a software engineer by profession and a filmmaker by passion. I work for a technology company full-time. That leaves me weekday nights and weekends. It was and is still very difficult to balance work and movie making. Most of the actors also had other jobs; the only time to shoot was during weekends. If we had to shoot in the restaurants, we had to shoots on week days since weekends attract more customers. But since the actors were only available on weekends, I have shot overnight, on 18 hour stretches sometimes. I used to shoot during long weekends, Thanksgiving holiday break, Christmas break and so on. I used all my vacation to shoot the film, and it was very tiresome. After the entire shoot because of the hectic schedule, I fell ill so badly mainly due to stress and had to take complete bed rest for 20 straight days.

How does this film combine Bollywood and American film-making styles?

AN: The story of my movie (Bollywood) is set and shot in Atlanta. We have used American technicians (Dubbing Studio, Digital Intermediate and Colorist) and actors. Since working on this film with crew based out of here, I got a chance to explore the culture and style of films made in Hollywood, and Americans had an opportunity to learn about Bollywood. Audiences can feel the flavor of both worlds while watching my film.

What are some of your favorite films, both Bollywood and Hollywood? Did they inspire Mumbhai Connection?

AN: Bollywood movies Satya and Company for its portrayal of Mafia. Laagan and Saalam Bombay for its uniqueness in script.

The Shawshank Redemption for its strong plot driven story, Forrest Gump for its portrayal of struggle in a realistic yet comic fashion, The Godfather for its fantastic narration and direction. I watch 4-5 films on an average every week. As a filmmaker, every film inspires me in one or the other way. It's very difficult to pin-point a single movie.

What do you hope audiences take away from your movie?
AN: Don't sell IT to the mafia :) At a slightly deeper level, our movie also is homage to the saying, "Necessity is the mother of invention". When backed into a corner and fighting for survival, the human mind WILL adapt and innovate and fight back. Just trust it.

This is your first feature length film. What’s next?

AN: I have a few ideas in my mind and have started writing it. It's too early to talk about my next film. I can promise you that it will definitely be an unusual plot like Mumbhai Connection.

Mumbhai Connection screens at Georgia State's Cinefest on Thursday, October 13, at 7 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.cinefestfilmtheatre.com/. Tickets can be purchased at the door.

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