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8 Projects Chosen for Inaugural Mumbai Mantra | Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab

8 Projects Chosen for Inaugural Mumbai Mantra | Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab

The Sundance Institute and Mumbai Mantra, the media and entertainment division of the Majindra Group, have selected eight feature film projects by Indian screenwriters for the inaugual Mumbai Mantra | Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab.

The Screenwriting Fellows will work on their scripts with the support of established screenwriters and directors during a five day workshop at a Club Mahindra resort.

The Creative Advisors will include Shekhar Kapur (“Elizabeth”), Michael Goldenberg (“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”), Marcos Bernstein (“Central Station”) and Guillermo Arriaga (“Amores Perros”).

“We are at an exciting storytelling stage in the history of Independent Cinema in India,” said Rohit Khattar, chairman of Mumbai Mantra. “With the help of our exceptional partners, Sundance Institute, we are keen to recognize, nurture and hone talent in India and across the world.  We welcome to the lab the 11 remarkably talented ‘Creative Advisors.’ We congratulate the 10 Screenwriting Fellows selected for the first Mumbai Mantra | Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab and look forward to their next films with great anticipation.”

Press release below:


Mumbai, India — Mumbai Mantra, the media and entertainment division of the Mahindra Group, is collaborating with Sundance Institute for various initiatives. The inaugural Mumbai Mantra | Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab 2012 has selected eight feature film projects of Indian screenwriters – chosen through an evaluation process of submissions from around the world, including the United States and France. 

These Screenwriting Fellows will have the opportunity to work intensely on their feature film scripts with the support of Creative Advisors (established Screenwriters and Directors) in an environment that encourages innovation and creative risk-taking. Through one-on-one story sessions with the Creative Advisors, the Screenwriting Fellows will engage in an artistically demanding process that offers indispensable lessons in craft, a fresh perspective on their work and a platform to fully realize their material.

This year’s Screenwriting Fellows who will go through an immersive five day workshop (March 11-16) at a Club Mahindra Resort are: 
Charudutt Acharya (Sonali Cable Centre)
Shonali Bose & Nilesh Maniyar (Margarita, With a Straw)
Vikas Chandra (Toothache)
Rajnesh Domalpalli (Avani)
Prashant Nair (Umrica)
Anusha Rizvi & Mahmood Farooqui (Opium)
Ajitpal Singh (Manjhi
Kartik Singh (Public School)

The distinguished group of Creative Advisors, include Guillermo Arriaga (Amores Perros, 21 Grams), Marcos Bernstein (Central Station, Foreign Land), Michael Goldenberg (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Contact), Asif Kapadia (The Warrior, Senna), Shekhar Kapur (Bandit Queen, Elizabeth), Kasi Lemmons (Talk to Me, Eve’s Bayou), Anjum Rajabali (Rajneeti, Aaraakshan), José Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries, On the Road), Howard A. Rodman (Savage Grace, Joe Gould’s Secret), Malia Scotch-Marmo (Hook, Once Around), and Audrey Wells (Under the Tuscan Sun, Guinevere).

Rohit Khattar, Chairman, Mumbai Mantra, said, “We are at an exciting storytelling stage in the history of Independent Cinema in India. With the help of our exceptional partners, Sundance Institute, we are keen to recognize, nurture and hone talent in India and across the world.  We welcome to the lab the 11 remarkably talented ‘Creative Advisors.’ We congratulate the 10 Screenwriting Fellows selected for the first Mumbai Mantra | Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab and look forward to their next films with great anticipation.” 

Founding Director, Feature Film Program, Michelle Satter and Associate Director, Feature Film Program Int’l, Alesia Weston said: “Sundance Institute is excited to work with Mumbai Mantra on the launch of this first Screenwriters Lab in India which reflects our ongoing commitment to supporting a world community of independent artists. We are extremely grateful to the accomplished screenwriters who are bringing their expertise and generosity to the Lab as Creative Advisors and the very talented group of Indian screenwriters who have been selected for the Lab.”

The Mumbai Mantra | Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab is the first step in a three-year creative and strategic partnership that includes a robust plan to help Indian filmmakers connect to ever-increasing global audiences. Mumbai Mantra received over 500 applications. For the selection of the eight projects for the Lab, the Selection Advisory Committee comprising of eminent screenwriters, directors, film critics and film academics considered over 90 screenplays. After an intensive selection process in consultation with the Sundance Institute, the final eight projects were decided. The committee included Zoya Akhtar, Ira Bhaskar, Pubali Chaudhuri, Anupama Chopra, Aniruddha Roy Choudhary, Tigmanshu Dhulia, K. Hariharan, Feroz Khan, Ram Madhvani, Ranjani Mazumdar, Anuradha Parikh, Anjum Rajabali, Konkona Sen Sharma, Meenakshi Shedde, Vinay Shukla, Rohan Sippy, Singeetam Srinivasa Rao and Anna M. M. Vetticad.

The partnership with Sundance Institute extends over a three-year period, and in addition to the annual Screenwriters Lab, the group has also instituted the Sundance Institute | Mahindra Global Film Making Award (GFA). The 2012 award winners were Etienne Kallos / Vrystaat (FREE STATE) (South Africa), Ariel Kleiman / Partisan (Australia), Dominga Sotomayor / Tarde Para Morir Joven (Late To Die Young) (Chile), and Shonali Bose / Margarita. With a Straw. (India). Each of the four winning filmmakers received a cash award of $10,000, attended the Sundance Film Festival for targeted industry and creative meetings, and will receive year-round mentoring from Institute staff and creative advisors, participation in a Feature Film Program Lab, and ongoing creative and strategic support.


Sonali Cable / India (Writer/Director: Charudutt Acharya): Set in the cable internet turf war of Mumbai, Sonali Cable is the story of a ghetto girl and her ‘internet boys’, who take on a greedy conglomerate that’s out to decimate their spirit of enterprise.

Charudutt Acharya is an award-winning writer of Indian TV drama shows like Haqeeqat, Kagaar, Jassi Jaise koi Nahin, Siddhanth, Rajuben &Crime Patrol. He has also co-written Hindi feature films Dum Maro Dum &Vaastushastra. He has directed short fiction films and is working towards making ‘Sonali Cable’ his first feature as writer-director. Charudutt is a graduate of FTII, Pune and Royal Holloway, London.

Margarita. With a Straw. / India/U.S.A. (Director: Shonali Bose; Writers: Shonali Bose, Nilesh Maniyar): A brilliant and funny mind trapped in a disobedient body, Laila falls repeatedly in love, yearns to have sex and wants to be a Bollywood songwriter.

Shonali Bose did an MA in Political Science at Columbia University followed by an MFA in Directing from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. Her first film, Amu, was based on the 1984 genocide against Sikhs and won two National Awards (Best Film, Best Director) and the FIPRESCI Critics Award as well as ten international awards. Bose co-wrote Chittagong, slated to release this year, with her NASA scientist-turned-filmmaker husband Bedabrata Pain. She is the first Indian to receive the Sundance Institute-Mahindra Global filmmaking award, for her script Margarita. With a Straw.

Nilesh Maniyar did his engineering from MIT, Pune (India). Thereafter he worked on Feature Projects with Studios like UTV, STUDIO 18, WALT DISNEY, WARNER BROS, in different capacities such as Assistant Director and Associate Casting Director. He has been part of projects like Shaurya, Havai Dada, Kaminey, Saat Khoon Maaf and Chittagong. His most recent work was as the 1st AD on an Anurag Kashyap Productions and Studio 18 collaboration feature project titled Aiyya.

Toothache / India (Writer/director: Vikas Chandra): Toothache is a bittersweet tale of a North Korean expat wife and her husband in Delhi during the Emergency of 1976 who yearn to be back in North Korea. 

Vikas Chandra is the brain behind the recent international collaborative short film PROJECT 11. The 11 odd minutes long film was shot in 11 cities with 11 directors co-directing one story. He regularly writes for Indian films and television. He is obsessive about not losing the one trait that brought him into this career – the joy of watching movies.

Manjhi / India (Writer/director: Ajitpal Singh Dhaliwal): A troubled soul’s battle to find dignity and love. 

Ajitpal Singh Dhaliwal has made several short films, including Empty in Me, which was selected for Talent Campus 2007, New Delhi. It is one of the most popular experimental short films on the online film festival website, Culture Unplugged. He was selected by the Goethe Institute to explore co-production possibilities with Germany at the Munich Film Festival. In 2010 he was part of DW Academy’s Film Festival Management Program. 

Avani / India (Writer/director: Rajnesh Domalpalli): Told as a rural fable and set during a time when the monsoons have failed, Avani relates the story of 8-year-old Mangi, who learns a new respect for life on earth while bringing her family together.

Rajnesh Domalpalli comes from Hyderabad and is a graduate of IIT Bombay, SUNY-SB and Columbia University. His first feature, Vanaja, garnered 32 International Awards including the Best First Feature at the 2007 Berlin Film Festival. Roger Ebert, America’s Pulitzer Prize winning Film Critic, placed the film in the Top 5 Foreign Films of 2007. Written as an environmental fable set in rural South India, Avani is his second feature.

Umrica / India (Writer/director: Prashant Nair): When Udai bhai abandons his native Jitvapur for a bigger and better life in the United States of Umrica, young Ramkant must follow in his footsteps to find out what truly happened to his brother. 

Prashant Nair is an Indian/French writer and director, residing between Berlin, Mumbai and Prague. A former social media entrepreneur, his writing and directing credits include the short films Max & Helena and Yes as well as the feature film Delhi In A Day

Opium / India/Mauritius (Director: Anusha Rizvi; Writers: Anusha Rizvi, Mahmood Farooqui): Opium is an adventure thriller set against the backdrop of the Opium trade and the migration of the Coolies to the islands of the Indian Ocean. It is a love story, a revenge saga, an adventure romance and an action drama set at sea.

Anusha Rizvi is a Delhi based writer and filmmaker. As an independent documentary filmmaker she has worked on a number of commissioned and independent films. Over the last five years she has helped revive Dastangoi, the lost art of storytelling in Urdu and produced its New York shows in June, ’09. Peepli Live (2010) was her first essay as a feature writer and director.

Mahmood Farooqui is a Delhi based performer and writer. His first book, Besieged: Voices from Delhi, 1857 (Penguin, 2010) achieved great critical and popular acclaim and is due out as a paperback this year. He was the co-Director and casting director of Peepli Live. Over the last ten years he has effected a major revival of Dastangoi, the lost art of Urdu storytelling. (www.dastangoi.blogspot.com)

Public School / France (Writer/Director: Kartik Singh): Things will never be the same for Ravi Malhotra, a high school student in Paris, when he is told that he must remove his Sikh turban if he wishes to continue attending Public School.

Paris-based Kartik Singh loves telling stories about outsiders and underdogs. His best known film, Saving Mom and Dad, is based on his experiences growing up Sikh in Middle America. In a similar vein, Public School examines the ways people of different backgrounds overcome the many obstacles to getting along.

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