December 3, 2009 / 7:03 AM / 9 years ago

Bikes, bulls: Indian spoof cinema redefines filmmaking

PANAJI, India (Reuters Life!) - What does it take to make a movie? A bicycle, a bullock cart, a small handycam and a soaring imagination — that’s what Indian director Shaikh Nasir will tell you.

Nasir is one of several makers of low-budget, spoof movies set in the industrial town of Malegaon, around 300 km (190 miles) from Mumbai, the home of Bollywood, and a world apart from the glitzy sets, big-name stars and lavish productions of the world’s most prolific film industry.

For 10 years, Nasir has made films with local actors and almost no equipment, often on a budget of a little more than $1,000. Many are parodies of Bollywood hits.

“We don’t have fancy equipment like trolleys, so we mount our camera on a bicycle instead. A bullock cart functions as a crane. A handycam is our camera. But our films have heart,” Nasir said.

Although crudely made, the films are a hit with Indian audiences, and two of the country’s film festivals — the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) and the Osian Film Fest — have special showings for these productions.

“These are immensely popular films, at least in the areas they are released in,” said Bhupendra Kainthola, who heads the Indian section at this year’s IFFI.

“They may be low budget, and may be not technically as polished, but they are nevertheless a part of our film culture.”

Nasir, a former video parlor owner who took to filmmaking after watching Bollywood cult classic “Sholay,” edited his first film on VHS as he had no access to computers.

“Ye Hain Malegaon Ka Superman” (Here is Malegaon’s Superman) is Nasir’s latest project, and Malegaon’s most expensive film yet, made on a budget of $2,200.

The film deals with local issues, has local actors and is in the local language. Malegaon’s Superman is skinny, wears shorts and flies into electric wires. His mission is to save a village from a tobacco-loving villain.

“We crib about so many things in Mumbai, but here are people who have far less and yet are so happy. Our film industry can learn from them,” said documentary maker Faiza Khan, who made a film on Malegaon’s movie industry in 2008.

As for Nasir, he has his sights set on Bollywood, but it’s not what you think.

“I would like to meet some of my favorite Bollywood stars someday and tell them about the work we do. Our films may be small, but we love them just as much as they love their films,” he said.

Editing by Matthias Williams and Miral Fahmy

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