Making the Cheapest Film on Earth

By , posted 18 October 2006

Remember a story about a small town Malegaon, 285 kilometres from Mumbai (India). In this particular part of the world, Shekh Nasir a young enterprising fellow courts news by making movie remakes of Bollywood blockbusters. His films commercially screened in the small town video parlours created a hysterical fever among the public elevating his films into blockbuster status.

The production technique that this guy employs would disparage the smartest low budget filmmakers in any part of the earth to shame. Nasir shoots with a VHS camera. If a retake in the shoot is required, the tape is rewind and reuse. The camera is scrupulously mounted on a cycle seat for tracking shots and a indigenous bullock cart substitutes for a crane. The innovative actors apply cheap paper gum to stick their false moustache and body powder for make up. Hardly paid the dedicated artists do it for the sheer passion they endorse and the little adulation they enjoy from the public. Engaged in manual labour for a deprived living of bread & butter, they sort out a time every week for their shooting schedule. The superstar of the town who also sport a sunglass to flaunt his status works in a welding shop. So you can effortlessly imagine the vocation of the rest of the cast.

How do they manage to remake Bollywood blockbusters that are laden with multi-million budget? In the original film if there is a feral chasing sequence of a train by a gang of dauntless robbers on horses, Nasir is also an inventive man of his craft. The running train is amusingly substituted with a bus and the horses with bicycles.

What happens to a scene that involves a helicopter? Well Nasirís is also an inventive man of his craft. A mini plastic toy helicopter substitutes it.

The scene is shot by tying it with a string and hanging it loose against a blue sky. Nasir also doesnít lack technical skills. The actors getting down from the helicopter is succinctly shown by placing it in the foreground and a defocus actors walking away in the background.

The postproduction scenario also easily proves Nasirís mettle. 2 VCRís are employed to edit the footages using the play, pause, record buttons and his hands splice the shots with great ease and proportion.

These days, people like Nasir rave of a new revolution with digital cinema; cinema that pushes the limits of filmmaking where talent thrives while budget takes a nap. However, nothing has concretely changed much commercially. The authorities are shutting down even the video parlours in Nasirís Malegaon town terming them as illegal.

I have seen hordes of digital films in film festivals with a length as short as 30 seconds. Is that why they say digital is accessible, a socialist technology. The hype and the ideals it preach seem to be a marketing ploy for those conglomerates or corporate houses to garner huge profits.

Digital cinema has commercially blessed only four kinds of people. Firstly, the manufacturers of digital cameras and editing software. Secondly, the established filmmakers who are looking for some extra publicity stunts. They would evocatively whip some noise (or rather endorse the products for the corporate houses) that lend hope to the young wannabes and 'poof!', they vanish; back to old flame celluloid.

Thirdly, the wedding video makers.

Lastly, the porn filmmakers.

The sole problem of digital cinema lies with distribution that proposition returns for its aficionados. Even a few of the worldly successful digital films had to be blown up on 35mm for distribution that doesnít sound very idealistic for the cheap medium it or rather corporate houses flaunty boast of.

A day should dawn when theatres around the globe would support screening facilities for this medium. Only than can we discuss about "making the cheapest film on earth" with digital technology.

The writer is based in New Delhi, India. You can write to him at

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