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A still from ‘Lucia’
A still from ‘Lucia’

Lucia | By the people

An award-winning, crowdfunded Kannada film is set to release in theatres

“I wasn’t even aware of the concept of a Kickstarter when I began this," says Bangalore-based film director and actor, Pawan Kumar, talking about the making of his film Lucia, which won the Audience Award at the London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) this year.

Kumar’s film found Kannadiga investors from across the world. The project began in February 2012 when Kumar, ready with a script and concept, wrote a blog about not being able to find a producer for the film. “I had directed Lifeu Ishtene (2011, That is All Life is) that did very well, yet no producer was ready to take a risk with my script. They were interested in remakes from the Tamil and Telugu industries," the 30-year-old director says.

In the last decade, the Kannada film industry has been in a slump. Good, theme-driven films are a rarity. Kumar found that original scripts with experimental stories didn’t see the light of day because producers are only looking to put their money in the formula.

Within hours of putting up his blog, Kumar received an offer for 2.5 lakh from a UK-based Indian. “Her name is Shilpa and she wrote in saying that she hadn’t seen a good Kannada film in ages," says Kumar. He intended to reach a goal of 51 lakh in 100 days, but managed to collect the amount within 27 days of opening the public funding account on Crowdsourcing.org. “People were so excited," he says. If the film makes profits, the investors not only get their seed fund back, but also the percentage of profit as per the investment made.

Having written the storyline for box-office successes like Manasaare and Pancharangi, directed by Yogaraj Bhat, and also having directed Lifeu Ishtene, the people betting on his film had no doubt about the outcome of his film. “I am yet to share the story line, but I was completely transparent through the making and can account for every penny spent," he says.

At the film’s premiere at LIFF in July, Kumar showed it to a packed audience. “Word about the film had gotten around. It was just like sitting in a multiplex in Bangalore," he says. Kumar started making the film in May 2012. He is still reluctant to reveal plot details: “It is a coming together of various stories."

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A still from ‘Lucia’

In a second funding attempt for promotions and distribution, Kumar has opened pre-order sales of the film online. Lucia can be pre-ordered for a streaming view online at Hometalkies.com. “When someone orders the film, he becomes a distributor himself," explains Kumar, about the concept that currently works only for viewers overseas. If a person buys the film online, he gets a link to the film. He can post the link on his blog or Facebook and he gets a portion of the money made from every purchase made through his link in an automated process. So in effect, the viewer is making money too.

The film already has more than 800 distributors across the world. The money from online sales is being used for promotional activities for release in theatres in India. Kumar is already in talks to remake the film in both Tamil and Hindi. “There was interest in the Tamil and Hindi industry about the story before I started, but I am keen on first proving a point in this industry," says Kumar.

Lucia, a PVR Directors Rare film, will release in select theatres on 6 September.

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