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Island City: The making of an indie film

Director Ruchika Oberoi had the script for Island City, her film on Mumbai, ready in 2009. It finally gets its theatrical release today

HT48HRS_Special Updated: Sep 01, 2016 15:12 IST
Manali Shah
A still from Island City
A still from Island City

Director Ruchika Oberoi had the script for Island City, her film on Mumbai, ready in 2009. It finally gets its theatrical release today

Like so many others, director Ruchika Oberoi (43), too, first arrived in Mumbai to study. In 1993, as a 21-year-old, she found the freedom the city offered her to be liberating, “especially coming from Delhi”. “I was a student at XIC (Xavier Institute of Communications) and lived in south Mumbai. I liked the fact that you could take public transport and hang out at night,” she says.

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Post a film-making course at FTII (Film and Television Institute of India) in Pune, Oberoi returned to Mumbai. A lot of Oberoi’s personal impressions of the city find their way into her debut feature film, Island City, which releases today.

It’s been a long journey for Oberoi. Island City premiered at the 72nd Venice Film Festival, where Oberoi took home the FEDEORA Award for Best Debut Director. She wrote the script in 2009 but could not find funding. “I didn’t know who to approach. I wondered if the struggle would ever end,” she recalls.

In the meantime, to make a living, she freelanced with MTV for Filmy Funda and also taught film-making and scripting at Digital Academy. “While the work with MTV was fun, it was not what I dreamed of,” she says.

Ruchika Oberoi (centre) with her team (Photo courtesy: Ruchika Oberoi)

Island City (which features Vinay Pathak, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Amruta Subhash) tells the story of a middle-aged bachelor, the family of a man on life support, and a woman in a loveless relationship.

Oberoi finally got funding in 2012 as part of National Film Development Corporation of India’s Film Bazaar Screenwriters’ Lab. “Things are better for debutant and independent filmmakers now, with technology changing and smaller production houses cropping up. But there’s still no real support structure. It’s never easy to get an indie film made,” she shares.

Island City releases today.