Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ashvin Kumar did not want to compromise on his storytelling on Kashmir, and hence chose to crowdfund online for his next feature film ‘Noor’, in which the Valley’s conflict forms the backdrop of a love-story.
The protagonist in the film – set in United Kingdom and Kashmir – is a 15-year-old Kashmiri girl from Britain whose father had disappeared soon after she was born. When her mother brings Noor to Kashmir to visit her grandparents, she begins to discover clues about what happened to her father.
Kumar’s critically acclaimed short film ‘Little Terrorist’ was nominated for the Academy Awards in 2005. Two of his documentaries on Kashmir – Inshallah Football (2010) and Inshallah, Kashmir (2012) – had bagged him national awards.
For Noor, Kumar chose to raise funds through a unique online campaign on Kickstarter – a web-portal which helps filmmakers, musicians and artists to crowdfund their projects -- after he felt that producers offering to fund the film were putting restrictions on the story.
Crowdfunding by like-minded people gave the director the freedom to remain ‘unbiased’.
“Most investment comes with demands,” Kumar told Hindustan Times, speaking over Skype from London where he is casting for Noor. And these demands, Kumar said, “pushed towards self-censorship.”
“I really wanted to have an Indian producer or studio back the film because it’s actually an emotional, beautiful love story about teens coming of age, but felt frustrated by the same predictable response – ‘Oh! It’s about Kashmir, could you tone down the politics a bit?”
Although Kumar did not disclose the total budget of the film, the Noor campaign page on Kickstarter says that the “goal” is to raise £74,000 online -- a part of the total budget, rest of which has been promised by well-wishers and enthusiasts. As on Friday morning around £14,000 had been ‘pledged’ by 64 ‘backers’.
If you are contributing to the crowdsourcing, the campaign has rewards for you. For example, if you are paying £5-10, each week you’ll receive a weekly diary entry from the film’s shooting – news, stories, behind the scenes photos and a video.
If you are paying £2,500 – 3,000, you will be rewarded with two tickets to the London premiere of Noor, apart from a signed poster and DVD of the film. The person who contributes 5,000 gets a small role in the film or an associate producer credit.
“The crowdfunding campaign, along with the rewards, is also an effort to build awareness about what we are doing before the film is made,” Kumar said.