Stage 32 Success Story: The Making of TAXII (India & US Production)
Stage 32 Success Story: The Making of TAXII (India & US Production)
I am from the small town of Dibrugarh in India, situated on the banks of Brahmaputra river. My love for theatre and cinema goes back to my childhood. Growing up in an artistically inclined family, I was actively involved in drama right from my school days, I acted and participated in a number of plays. In Class VI, I wrote and directed a one-act play on my own. I was also a founding member of Dibrugarh Aakhara Ghar, a drama workshop. Drama has always been an undying passion for me and my love for cinema goes back to the 1980s smash Bollywood hit Betaab, with Sunny Deol and Amrita Singh in the lead. The movie had a hypnotic effect on me. Interestingly, more than the narrative, it was the cinematic presentation, the craft and the artistry involved in the making of the film that left an unbelievable imprint on my mind.
After my schooling, I moved to Guwahati city to attend college and there I was a regular in the plays and I won many prizes. In 1994, I was awarded Best Actor at Arya Vidyapeeth College. It was then that I realized my true calling. Not academics, but theatre and film, where my heart truly belonged.
After college, I moved to Delhi to chase my dreams. There, I enrolled myself as a dedicated pupil of theatre activist Berry John, to hone my acting skills. After my workshop, I joined the well-known theatre and film personality Piyush Mishra in a Hindi theatre group. Equipped with formal training in theatre and drama, I relocated to Mumbai in 2004 to give flight to my cinematic ambitions. A number of short films and documentaries soon followed. However, as luck would have it, I had to come back to Assam, my native state, due to situations beyond my control. After my return, I completed my Masters in Business Administration and joined a Multinational company as the Northeast Regional Head of Marketing, I fell in love with a girl and got married. After one year I was blessed with a baby girl, Barbie. However, my passion for drama would not let me rest. Whenever I would go to watch a film or one of my theatre friends’ performances, it was frustrating for me, but people did not understand me. I felt Mumbai calling me again and again, I wanted to quit my job, but it would be another two years until I made that decision. In 2014 I flew back to Mumbai and became actively involved in a number of projects.
After quitting my corporate job, I moved to Mumbai to pursue my dream career as a filmmaker. It wasn’t easy shifting industries at this stage in my life. I was trying to learn more about filmmaking by attending workshops as well as networking in Mumbai. I worked on a few short films as an AD, but I had a passion that kept me awake at night. I wanted to create my own film.
I saw a news story on television about a rape case and an idea came into my mind. I shared it with my writer Sanjeev Giriwer and he encouraged me to write the screenplay. I thought to myself, “I have begun pursuing my dream.” The name of the film is TAXII.
To further my networking, I joined Stage 32 to look for collaborators worldwide. One day, I found a member named Brandi Thomas who is a music composer. I messaged her saying, “Hi, How are you?” We had a very natural conversation and immediately became friends. I didn't take much time to share my story with her. She was very enthusiastic about the project, so I asked for her SoundCloud link. It was a perfect creative match. I sent her an email with a rough draft of the script shortly after. I did not have a single penny to offer her, but she was so passionate about the story that she was willing to come on board.
This encouraged me to keep going. Once my final script was ready, I discussed Taxii’s story with my writer friend Sanjeev and my artist friend Nirupam, but the major problem was money. How do I make a film without money? I was networking on Facebook and suddenly I found a woman there named Jitumoni Teron who was interested in investing some money in TAXII, and she became TAXII’s producer. I had the fuel I needed to launch my dream. I met Riya Khound on Facebook as well. She is an actress and I approached her for TAXII’s lead role. Sanjeev was ready to play a role and he introduced me to another actor, Avdhesh Kumar. for Taxii and Dharam Chandel was cast later. It was so exciting to see everything come together and it felt like a dream. I spoke to Brandi throughout the whole process through WhatsApp messages, voice messages, emails, and video messages. Technology has brought us together as a team, although we are thousands of miles away from each other.
By this point, pre-production was complete. The storyboard was done by Nirupam Borborah. I wanted to have a vision of the film in my head before shooting, so when I saw the storyboard and a rough version of the score together, it was a huge confidence booster for me. Finally, we were shooting the film on Mumbai roads, but once the shooting was done and the edit was locked, I found that I did not have money for post-production sound.
Finances were my enemy through this process. One day Brandi asked me for an update, since she hadn’t heard from me in a while. I told her the truth, that I did not have money to do post-production sound. She suggested I try crowdfunding on Indiegogo. Brandi herself contributed funding. At around the same time RB, founder and CEO of Stage 32, inspired by our story, the connections to the film and the global nature of the project came on board as our Associate Producer.
Again, finances got in the way. The Reserve Bank of India was very hesitant to give us access to the funds, since all the contributors to the fund were from the US, making it a foreign fund. I fought for six months and finally, one of my friends and contributors Siddharth Shankar Kalita came to my rescue. I finally got the funds I needed to finish my film.
The film was completed in December 2016 despite many struggles in my personal life (including my divorce ), so I organized a press screening. People liked it, but Brandi told that there were parts of the music that were overlapping in a very distracting way. I could not send it to festivals like this, so I again found myself needing money to fix it.
This brings us to 2017. I started working as an independent director, working on music videos, short films and commercials. My life went on, but Taxii was still not completed, but in January 2018, I was finally able to fix the score with the help of my dearest friend Aparajita Bhuyan and TAXII was ready for festivals. Now Taxii is screening at festivals in India and the US and we are waiting to hear about many other festivals through this year. It makes me feel good that people are responding so positively to my film and its message.
I must admit that it would not have been possible without the support of Brandi. She is an amazing person and super talented music composer. Her music has taken Taxii to a different level. Thanks is a very weak word to express my gratitude to her.
I would also like to thank the entire Stage 32 team – this magic happened only because of Stage 32. I would also like to thank RB, CEO of Stage 32 and associate producer of Taxii, my sound mixer Boloy Kumar Doloi and all the cast and crew in India and the US.
At times, I did not have a place to stay and did not have food to eat, but my spirit was on top of the world. My friends have helped me so much. Prodip Paul, Manas Protim Goswami, and Nirupam Borborah are the people who gave me a place to stay without hesitation. My friend Ravi Kumar and Sandeep Chatarjee helped me a lot as well.
One thing I can tell everyone is that dedication, determination and relentless persistence is the key to achieving any goal.
This story has not yet ended. There is much more to come. Brandi and I will be working on a short film very soon.
About the Author
Arunjit Borah is a Mumbai based Indian filmmaker, originally from Dibrugarh, Assam India. He was born and brought up in an artistically inclined family. From childhood, Arunjit was involved in dramatic arts. After few years in a corporate job, Arunjit launched his film career in Indian Cinema as...