He's young, creative and not afraid to take risks. Independent filmmaker Agneya Singh, whose debut work "M Cream", a "socio-political commentary on contemporary India", is doing the festival rounds, says cinema must, once again, be used to bring about a revolution in the country.
"I think that we need to bring cinema back into the socio-political sphere and wield it once again as a weapon of the revolution. 'M Cream' is our very own protest against the rising tide of conformity," the capital-based Agneya Singh told IANS in an interview.
"M Cream", made at about Rs.2 crore (Rs.20 million/$325,000), was named the best feature film at the 18th Rhode Island International Film Festival earlier this year and is on a festival tour in the US. It will next be screened at the Indie Spirit Film Festival in Colorado, before a showcase at the FilmColumbia Festival in New York.
It will also be travelling to Europe.
Portraying the new and rebellious generation, his movie follows the exploits of four friends who set out in pursuit of a mythic form of 'hashish'.
"After growing up in the superficial 1990s, I was struck by the resurgence of radicalisation among youth of India. This film is really an ode to the spirit of revolution, inspired by the brave and reckless defiance of my own peers and contemporaries," said the filmmaker, who's all of 25.
Son of journalist Seema Mustafa, Agneya Singh is an alumnus of the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. He had conceptualised "M Cream" during his stint at film school itself, but it turned out to be a reality after "an endlessly painful period of pre-production".
The going was tough, given the lack of funds, the "commercialisation of cinema" and "many highs and many more lows" - but, it was worth it for Agneya Singh.
It's no mean feat for a filmmaker as young as Agneya Singh, who says "it all comes down to taking risks".
"Established filmmakers are comfortable in their big budget bubble. They are used to churning out films that are guaranteed to work at the box office. All it takes is a star name, a rehashed script and voila!
"On the contrary, I think the young filmmakers of today are not afraid of taking risks and that's where the difference lies," said the director, who screened "M Cream" in the capital last month and is planning an official festival premiere for the movie in India later this year before releasing it next year.
Agneya Singh says his movie "epitomises the definition of risk".
"Even though we have received so much encouragement from young and old alike, there are those moralistic finger pointers that have already started objecting to the counter cultural elements of the film such as drugs or sex without even trying to understand what the film represents.
"Failing that, there are others who have objected to the politics of the film that are unequivocally egalitarian, humanist, environmentalist and rebellious," said the filmmaker, who truly believes that "people are interested in seeing films with an original voice and are relevant to the times".
(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>)