The opening shot of Bhalobashar Shohor, which translates to City Of Love, has filmmaker Indranil Roychowdhury addressing the viewer. His tone is impassive, there is no apparent effort to be liked. The director proposes a deal to the audience- "If the film moves you, financially support us. If you don't like it, we won't despair," he says.
A Paytm account code appears at the end credits of the film where you can transfer any amount of money you deem fit.
It's a lose-lose deal, many would say. After all, the film is available on Youtube and Vimeo, that too for free. Which means that the filmmaker's chance of making money is solely dependent on the integrity of the audience. "The idea is to create a free platform for filmmakers, where they can show their films to their audience and make some money too," says Roychowdhury.
When Roychowdhury went to funders with this idea, most of them scoffed at him. "They said no one will give me a penny. The said people will watch the film and forget all about it," he says.
Yet, within a few hours of Bhalobashar Shohor going online, money started trickling into Indronil's account. "We have not yet started promoting the film. So I am hopeful about the prospects of this film," says Roychowdhury.
By the time this story went online, Bhalobashar Shohor had roughly 86,000 views on Youtube. "I have already got around Rs 60,000 in my account. Individual donations varies from Rs 1 to Rs 5000," says Roychowdhury.
Bhalobashar Shohor, which chronicles a single mother's struggle to nurse her comatose daughter back to health, is also a sharp commentary on the socio-cultural reality of today's India.
The decision to release Bhalobashar Shohor online was also determined by the dismal state of Bengali cinema. "The independent Bengali cinema is as good as dead. Today, the industry is ruled by a couple of big production houses and they just want assembly line products," says Roychowdhury, who had to struggle to release his debut film Phoring in 2013. The film didn’t find the backing of any big production house of Tollywood and got a limited release. He hasn’t made a full feature-length film since then.
"I was very angry till about a year ago, now I have just made peace with the fact that I will have to do my own thing," says Roychowdhury.
Even if he earns about half of what he invested on the film, Indronil Roychowdhury will make another film in this very format. "I firmly believe that this is the future of independent cinema in this country," he says.
You can watch Bhalobashar Shohor here: