By Priya Bhattacharji

It is always refreshing to read the “About us” of a production outfit that focuses on its collaborative creative  processes, as opposed to a flamboyant declaration of the wide range of services it offers. The people at Jamun confess to being “turned on by creating unique visual narratives for inspiring concepts and people.”  Self-described as a ‘collective of co-conspirators’, the director-producer  team at Jamun, Ayesha Sood and Udayan Baijal, have an impressive background in film. Having worked with some remarkable directors {Deepa Mehta, Mira Nair, Rahul Bose, Farhan Akhtar, to name a few} Ayesha has honed her film-making skills through both independent and commercial cinema.

Udayan, the  producer, matches Ayesha’s prolific  background. An awardee of the prestigious INLAKS Scholarship, he has worked as first assistant director on notable films such as Zero Dark 30, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

Similar professional paths {read: foreign feature-films and non-Bollywood films shot in India}, similar views on cinema and a common passion for crime drama brought the two together to work in an office in Hauz Khaz Village.

LBBD caught up with the Jamun duo to talk about their unconventional approach, their diverse body of work and their latest film for Oxfam.

Jamun-Office

LBBD | Describe a regular work-day at Jamun.

UB | Endless eating and drinking and hours of internet jasoosi. However, when a project is on – it is all about meeting deadlines!

AS | As much as Udayan likes routine, there isn’t really a regular day. Between projects, we try and feed our minds and our bellies. On shoots, we run like a regular production house – early mornings and late nights!

LBBD | And what’s it like to have an office in “The Village”?

UB | We are REALLY lucky to have the space we do. It is the most beautiful space to work and create from. I remember the first day I walked into this office – I was like – I want to sit there and work!

LBBD | How is it working together? How do you complement each other?

UB | I plan Jamun’s schedule a year in advance, while Ayesha doesn’t really plan her days. I think we make a good Director – Producer pair. I try to create an environment where Ayesha can be creative and free of the logistical nightmare that film production is. I love the fact that Ayesha has such a clear, uncompromising creative vision. It drives me to make sure she has all that is needed to make her ideas translate onto screen.

AS | Udayan has great energy and pushes me in just the right way to be productive or creative. He’s the perfect balance to my scattered and disorganized self. He likes numbers – they give me hives. It’s fascinating that our work processes are on the opposite ends of the spectrum, but our tastes and core aesthetics are strikingly similar.

LBBD | Tell us about some really interesting projects you’ve worked on..

AS | I was asked to direct Season 2 of the Dewarists, a part music documentary-part travelogue that takes independent musicians to diverse locations to collaborate and inspire. I really liked their visual aesthetic in Season 1. The exciting bit was the use of DSLRs and mobile studios. At Jamun, we are interested in how film technology offers tools to create new aesthetics with many possibilities.

AS & UB | We were asked to shoot a behind the scenes video for an independent street fashion brand – BHANE – on the streets of New Delhi. This was a unique and unconventional campaign, which would organically expand the BHANE pool by spreading the word through social media.

AS & UB | The December 16th rape had a deep impact on us. We made two films in January this year – Delhi Rising –  that tried to give a voice to people in Delhi and capture their sentiments. Following the Delhi Rising films, similar initiatives in other Indian metros followed. The films inspired flash mobs, teach-ins, protests, and a huge media coverage. With over 60,000 views, the films touched the sentiments of many.

LBBD | You recently released a video for Oxfam India “Give women their share”. What was the experience like,  making this film?

AS | Oxfam is exactly the kind of work we’ve wanted to do. It was a complex narrative as it required being inclusive of both the rural and the urban context. You needed to feel for both the urban and rural women and their feelings of ‘landless-ness’. This was also a chance for us to work with many people we admire and flex our muscles as collaborative filmmakers. We were very lucky to work with OXFAM – they do great work and were great clients.

UB | It’s been a great project to work on. We got Divakar Mani, a feature film cinematographer, to shoot the film. Sanjeev Maurya helped out with casting. It was a real challenge to get the text right, and Isha SIngh Sawhney  helped find the tone and voice straight away. Gaurav Raina and Ankur Tewari composed a beautiful track. Shilpa Shukla did the voiceover and that’s really held it tightly.

LBBD | Which have been the most satisfying projects you’ve been a part of?

AS | The most satisfying seem to be the ones that we want to do for ourselves. For example, Elma’s and the Delhi Rising films were something that we wanted or needed to do. These are projects we are most proud of.

LBBD | What are your views on Delhi as a cinematic landscape? Is it a city conducive to film-making?

AS | Delhi is well-positioned – it is the gateway to the desert and the mountains. Also, people here aren’t weary of invasive film crews. Yet.

UB | A lot of feature films and commercials are shot in Delhi these days, however these productions are mounted and crewed up in Bombay. Bombay is getting harder and harder to shoot in and a lot of people have been moving their productions outside of Bombay, and a lot of work has come Delhi’s way.  It’s a great city to shoot in.

The traditional cinema space – Bollywood – doesn’t exist in Delhi. There is an emerging, alternative, independent space outside Bollywood. A space that digital technology and the internet has enabled. You no longer need expensive equipment, processing labs, or editing studios to create quality work. This is the space we are in and I think it’s going to grow.

Give Women Their Share | A Film by Jamun for Oxfam India

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