Immigrant Indian drama, Minimum, set in Belgium

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Saba Azad, Shiladitya Bora, Namit Das, Rumana Molla (sitting), Radhika Lavu, Geetanjali Kulkarni Photo: Praull Gosain

Minimum, an international drama, will be helmed by writer-actor and 2022 Berlinale Talent Rumana Molla as her directorial debut. Set in Belgium, the film deals with transactional marriage and migration, with love, affection and friendship at the core.

The cast includes Saba Azad (Rocket Boys), Geetanjali Kulkarni (Chaitanya Tamhane’s Venice winner Court, SonyLIV series Gullak), Namit Das (Mira Nair’s Aarya) with Rumana herself playing one of the major roles.

Minimum follows the story of newly-wed immigrant Fauzia, who lands in a house that is not hers with her mother-in-law, Ruxana, who insidiously keeps her captive. She finds out that everything she had been told about her husband Ali was a lie and loses all hope until a French tutor, Laurie, is hired to teach her the basics. An atypical friendship is forged, secrets are revealed and Fauzia learns to demand more than the bare minimum.

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Brought up in Belgium herself, Rumana has appeared in many Hindi feature films including Irada, which went on to win two National Awards in 2017. Along with the greenlight for Minimum, 2022 started on a great note for Rumana, who was selected for the prestigious Berlinale Talent Program in February. Apart from her, the film has three ex-Berlinale Talents, cinematographer Pooja Gupte (Crossing Bridges), Serbian Line Producer Parija Stojnic and producer Shiladitya Bora (Masaan, Newton).

Produced by Shiladitya Bora (Platoon One Films) and Radhika Lavu (Ellanar Films), the film is slated to go on floors in June 2022. Bora had also earlier produced the Marathi film Picasso, which has just won a Special Mention at the 2020 National Films Awards, as well as Yours Truly, a drama starring Soni Razdan, Pankaj Tripathi and Ahana Kumra, which premiered at Busan International Film Festival 2018.

Shiladitya, the founder-producer of Platoon One Films, who is well-known in the industry for backing fresh talent and pushing the envelope of Indian films internationally, says: “I’ve always felt drawn to stories that have a strong emotional connect, that push the envelope of Indian independent cinema while staying true to its roots. Minimum is a perfect example of that, and Rumana’s vision is one that I truly believe in. We’ve managed to assemble a fantastic team and a superb cast, and we’re so excited to bring this film to audiences across the world!”

Producer Radhika Lavu, founder of Ellanar Films that has to its credit Zee5’s hit series God and the acclaimed period saga Unheard, which was the first Telugu series to be acquired by streaming giant Disney+Hotstar. She says, “Our souls are not hungry for fame, comfort, wealth or power. Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter. Rumana’s story about Fauzia reflects similar emotions and ideology. We’re excited to take on this new journey and are eager to share this endearing film with the world.”

Saba, who has been flying high on the success of the much-loved series Rocket Boys, says “I knew I had to be a part of Minimum as soon as I read it. It’s a very unusual story.” The actor, who plays a French tutor in the film, feels the character of Laurie “is possibly the toughest I’ve taken up as an actor, mostly because I have to do this in a language I’m not familiar with. That’s what pulled me to the film. I knew it would test my abilities as an artiste.”

Geetanjali Kulkarni, a doyen of Marathi cinema and theatre, stated, “I liked the story a lot. It is a very honest and detailed depiction of the life of an immigrant family. The character I am playing is a a survivor trying her best so that she and her son could live a better life. Rumana is a young and promising director and I’m very much looking forward to working with her,”

Namit Das shared what drew him to the film. “I was intrigued by the name itself. Whatever Shiladitya does, I find it very hatke and soulful. As I drowned myself in the script, I realized that it’s a deceptively simple film, with complex layers in it. I’m fascinated by the world of these characters.” On working with debut director Rumana, he says, “Right away in my first meeting with her, I realized that she knows what she wants, and that’s the best quality of a director. I love her warmth and her vision – Minimum is her world that she dreamt about and is bringing to life – and I can’t wait to dive into it!”

Rumana adds, “I’ve always felt inclined towards writing and it was just a matter of finding the right story that stood the test of time. The inspiration for Minimum came from my own observations. I have seen a lot of transactional marriages of different kinds. Especially abroad, there are a lot of people who get married but don’t reveal the entire truth about themselves. But more than that, the uniqueness of the film will lie in its treatment of such situations – exploring our cultural differences with warmth, affection and humor.”

Rumana feels “blessed with such an amazing cast. I have been throwing curve balls left, right and centre and they have embraced each and every one of them at every step of the way. The level of enthusiasm and commitment that I have observed is rare to come by.”

The film aims for a Summer 2023 release.

 

 

 

 

 

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