After 4 years of hard work, travel, persistence, crowd-funding and very emotionally volatile journey; I managed to finish my first independent film. Stick to Dreams is an observational documentary about Andrea Thumshirn and her dream to teach field hockey in rural India. I have been deeply interested in photography for past two decades and started my professional journey as a Sports Correspondent for NDTV in 2006. I became interested in the craft of film-making, especially Cinematography thanks to beautiful poetic images filmed by stalwarts like Santosh Sivan and Rajiv Menon .. but way back in 2006 making a film seemed like an inaccessible dream. A lot changed between next few years in terms of digital imaging technology and filmmaking was democratized.
At the same time, I was getting more and more comfortable with the dynamic process of TV News and making 100 second reports that would go on air every evening. I was given a chance to report on some big sports stories of international importance.. I was enjoying the whole process … But there was something missing. I was reporting on many issues quickly with facts and objectivity … However, I felt that it became a bit superficial.. less emotionally connected… I had no time to immerse myself into an environment and understand my story deeply. I had no scope to connect with my subjects at an emotional level.. Visuals played largely a supportive role to my narrative script.. I was more interested in the cinematic form of storytelling.. As a student of visual communication at IDC, IIT-Bombay I was introduced to designerly approach to filmmaking and the world of independent film-making opened for me.
Picking a story
My initial plan was to travel all around India and capture the magic of field hockey in all major hockey hubs in the country … From Punjab to Coorg and from Mumbai to Manipur. I felt it would be a colorful documentary with cultural diversity.. But I soon realized that there are two or three problems with this approach.. Firstly, it would be too big a project to make a debut film for a one-man crew.. secondly it would have been a very journalistic storyline.. something I definitely wanted to avoid.. thirdly, I wanted to make an entertaining film that mass audience can connect with and not a serious documentary only for the hockey fans. I decided to look for a human story which everyone could relate to.. Hockey was now a backdrop… I came across three interesting stories. Jude Felix, a former India captain had identified an orphaned child with hand amputated and was training him to become a goalkeeper… Andrew Enrich, a Spanish olympian quit his international career to start an academy in rural Andhra Pradesh.. and Andrea Thumshirn, a German hockey player had moved to rural Rajasthan to achieve empowerment through sports.
All the three stories were interesting.. I met Andrea in Mumbai in a small hotel in Bandra for the first time when she was bedridden due to severe back pain and she narrated her incredible story.. we connected instantly as friends.. She was keen to express, to articulate her point of view.. I did not want to make a typical TV style documentary with a VoiceOver in baritone and visuals to just overlay with some bites in between.. I wanted to use ethnographic direct cinema method.. Having a good rapport with my subject was absolutely essential for this and Andrea seemed to be a perfect candidate for this project.