‘Contrary to popular belief, independent films do turn a profit’: Filmmaker Praveen Giri

Independent filmmaker Praveen Giri talks about his debut film, Mankhurd, portraying social divides in his film, and the commerce behind independent filmmaking
Filmmaker Praveen Giri
Filmmaker Praveen Giri

Behind the bustling lanes of Mumbai lies a quiet suburb called Mankhurd. At the centre of it is a railway station that doesn’t have a west exit. Self-taught independent filmmaker Praveen Giri then pans his camera towards his protagonists who are wrongfully accused of a crime after violence breaks out at a politician’s house.

Praveen, whose debut feature film Mankhurd, which is based on true events, was screened at The Chennai International Film Festival in December last year, explains that it was important for him to showcase the other side of Mumbai and explore the political milieu of the city.

“Even those living in the city aren’t aware of this area. There is no public transportation and the only way to get there is by taking an auto, run by a minority community from Govandi. It was also eye-opening to look at the religious politics in the area where Muslims are a majority. Several families from Tamil Nadu and Kerala have migrated there,” he shares, adding that this was the reason he chose to feature Tamil migrant characters.

Praveen always wanted to become an independent filmmaker. “I couldn’t jump into the industry right away due to family commitments, but I was working on short films on the side. There is a sense of freedom and independence associated with the creative process here. I don’t think Mankhurd would have happened had I pitched it to a producer from the industry,” he says.

Praveen started his process by making his short film Nightingales in the Cocoon (2023) at the Jio MAMI Film Festival, where it won the Gold award. “We needed funds for the post-production work of Mankhurd and this award helped us finish the film,” he explains.

During a poignant moment at the beginning of the film, a text on the screen reads, ‘Terrorism is merely an imposition of an ideology.’ “Apart from showcasing caste-based discrimination, I wanted to register that we are bound and restricted by an ideology. Many are still caged inside it, but it is never too late to wake up and look at the reality,” he remarks.

According to Praveen, the audience needed to understand the world of Mankhurd to understand the depth of the story. “We made sure we got the basics right—from making the actors who play politicians speak Marathi, filming with live sound, to placing shots that are more than just for aesthetic purposes.”

This also meant that he had to approach scenes exposing police brutality and interrogation with sensitivity. Praveen explains, “ I did not want to glorify violence. Instead, I wanted to reveal how painful it can be. I could have made these scenes even more emotional and amped up the drama, but that wasn’t my intention. That is why the camera never uses close-ups to capture their reactions.” Praveen understands that not a lot of independent films are accessible to audiences and movie enthusiasts.

“It is still a challenge. Like PS Vinothraj (Koozhangal), many want to share their stories and are passionate independent filmmakers, but are unaware of how to present them. Contrary to the notion that independent films struggle to turn a profit, there is a huge market for it.”

Praveen’s team, which has self-funded this film under the production banner, Unchained Pictures, is also looking at supporting other independent filmmakers. He also emphasises the importance of having a minimum of eight films released annually to amplify the impact of independent cinema.

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The New Indian Express