From actors to money, how a Malayalam filmmaker is redefining the concept of ‘crowdfunding’

By Shafeeq Hudawi,

Kozhikode: Palakkad may be a favourite among tourist destinations in Kerala, with its numerous waterfalls, forts and temples. But one young filmmaker, Sudevan Peringode, a resident of Palakkad, has been trying to put the district on a cinematic map with a twist: every movie that Sudevan has made until now, including his latest upcoming project, is funded by ordinary citizens. And this, despite the fact that none of his movies have stars; but instead feature citizens from all walks of life.

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Sudevan Peringod.jpg
Sudevan Peringod

The idea of looking towards crowdfunding is not new, especially in Kerala. People who follow Malayalam cinema would remember John Abraham, the Malayali film maker who rebelled against the establishment by redefining the ways of filmmaking and leading a nomadic life. The genius left his mark in the history of Malayalam cinema by starting a people’s cinema movement, a form of independent filmmaking through his Odessa Collective in 1980s. Spectators, who contributed him amounts they could spare, were the stakeholders of his films, some of which were later listed among the top Indian films.

Three decades later, Sudevan is set to look towards the crowd of cinema buffs again as he attempts to make a three-hour portmanteau movie comprising five short films under the collective Pace Trust by raising fund of Rs 15 lakh from people. Sudevan is now calling up on the film lovers to be stakeholders of strong alternative films after successfully bringing out five finely crafted films, Varoo (Come), Planning, Randu (Two), Thattumborathappan and Crime No. 89.

Unlike John Abraham and his companions, who wandered seeking funds from everyone, Sudevan accepts contributions from those who love his films.

“We collect money from those who like our movies. There might be people, who don’t like my style of filmmaking. They have the right to know about what they are spending for,” Sudevan says.

Pace Production, the first form of Pace Trust, developed into an entity in 2004 while a group of film lovers joined their hands for a novel cause, people’s film. Varoo and Planning, the first film made by a handy cam in 2004 and 2008, brought this collective attention and few awards after being exhibited in some of the film festivals.

Poster of first film Varoo.jpg
Poster of first film Varoo

Pace Production’s tale is an unprecedented one as it was started as a five-member group of common men, who were without film background. Their love towards movies brought the team, which comprised artists, school teachers and coolies, together and led towards a novel movement. In short, not only does Sudevan depend on people to contribute financially, he also depends on the ‘crowd’ for providing him with actors.

The first film was made with a budget of Rs 5,000, which was collected from the members while collection reached Rs 8,000 in 2006 for the second film Planning.

“We needed Rs 20,000 for the third film and we were unable to meet the expenses with our income. The well wishers, who loved our movies came in helping us,” Sudevan said.

Sudevan says that raising funds was not an easy affair. “We have to convey them significance of our movies and give an ear to their responses,” he adds.

Randu and Thattumporathappan, the third and fourth movies by Pace Production, were awaited a better turn as they won several awards and accolades from film lovers across the state. Thattumporathappan, which dealt with the spiritual cults and beliefs, was exhibited at around 200 venues across Kerala while 2,500 DVDs of these films were sent to film lovers who contributed financially to the collective.

In 2011, when the collective started to receive money from various parts of the globe, Pace Production was formed as a trust named Pace Trust. “It was need of the hour to make it a trust in order to keep our functions and transactions transparent,” Sudevan said.

Poster of film Randu.jpg
Poster of film Randu

In 2013, CR No. 89, one of the finest Malayalam films in recent times was brought out by the group spending Rs 7 lakh, contributed by the well wishers and fans. To add to the pleasure of the collective, CR No.89 won the Kerala State Award for Best Film and Best Second Actor in 2013 and the NETPAC Award at the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK).

No wonder then, Sudevan’s attempts have earned him a lot of praise from the film makers in Kerala.

“People’s film movement or independent film movement is getting strong ground in Kerala and Sudevan is an important part of it. The new culture helps filmmakers to bring out more artistic film and get rid of the compulsions of the commercial interests,” says film director Sanal Kumar Sasidharan, who is part of the independent film movement through making his feature film Ozhivu Divasathe Kali (An Off Day Game).

“In this kind of film making, directors need not compromise the quality as marketing is not a concern for them at all,” he adds.

Sudevan’s films continue the legacy of John Abraham while it comes to extend strong resistance against the establishment and social decay. “Characters in my films are nameless. Names represent castes,” he says. Quoting Sree Narayana Guru, the great social reformer in Kerala, Sudevan says “don’t say and don’t ask caste”.

The professional artist who used to work as a painter to earn a livelihood, Sudevan is now fully engaged in materialising the dream of making a package of short films.

“We have completed one of the four short films using the money in hand. We will make it as campaigns, aimed at finding out the rest of the amount, are evoking a good response,” he adds.


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