Producer Dheer Momaya© Getty Images

Producer Dheer Momaya On Why We Haven’t Won An Oscar Yet

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Nayare Ali

HELLO! catches up with one of the creative minds behind India’s official entry to the Oscars this year…

HELLO!: Congratulations on the Oscar nomination for The Last Film Show. How has the news impacted your life?

Dheer Momaya: “Thank you so much. It’s been extremely humbling. Ever since the news broke, we’ve received calls and messages from the biggest names in the industry. People have started recognising our work, but more importantly, it’s given me so much hope. It’s our responsibility to create content that moves and inspires people who walk into the cinema or stumble upon your work on a streaming platform.”

H!: What do you think makes this movie so special?

DM: “I believe it’s the simplicity of The Last Film Show that wins. It’s a pure and an endearing story of a young boy falling in love with the magic and science of light. Of stories being woven around matchboxes, and friendships being formed because of Kathiawari delicacies. It’s a raw, real and earnest form of cinema that’s driven by universal human emotions. It celebrates the power that our dreams can hold and takes you on an adventure where you’ll laugh, cry, smile and root for the protagonist.”

H!: Given the number of entries there have been from India, why do you think we miss winning an Oscar?

DM: “What most people here don’t realise is that being selected as India’s official entry to the Oscars is just the beginning of a long journey ahead. It’s tricky because we can apply only for one category — Best Foreign Language Film — which gets 100 entries from across the globe. And many factors like cultural differences, finances and publicity tend to impact the final nominations.”

H!: Has this placed more pressure on you in terms of people’s expectations?

DM: “Like most of India, all of us are rooting for the film to bring home an Oscar. We’re going above and beyond to ensure we tick the right boxes when it comes to international campaigning. It can get overwhelming, but I’d like to see this as an opportunity to bring audiences to the theatre to experience the film in all its glory.”

H!: Tell us about the kind of films you have produced.

DM: “We’ve produced two full-length feature films — Teen Aur Aadha, which was co- produced by Anurag Kashyap and is available on Netflix, and Namdev Bhau: In Search of Silence, which was screened at Busan, London, Gothenburg and multiple other well-known international film festivals. Both films take a nuanced and complex peek into a seemingly simple world.”

H!: Share a little something about the multi-season sports docu-series you’re currently working on for Netflix.

DM: “We have a young-adult drama-comedy series in production for Netflix, as well as an all-access behind-the-scenes documentary on one of the most prominent cricketing figures of our country. An official announcement on these will be made soon.”

H!: How did your journey with Jugaad Motion Pictures begin?

DM: “Jugaad was founded in 2018. It was truly our love for cinema that made us produce our first two feature films. They premiered at some of the biggest events, like the British Film Institute London Film Festival, Palm Springs, Tribeca and Beijing International Film Festival. But we felt we weren’t catering to our core audience back in India. So we shifted our focus to producing music videos, commercials and large-scale digital brand campaigns.”

H!: How did these collaborations and music videos come about?

DM: “Some of our most fulfilling work, which also brought us considerable validation, has been working on music videos for artists like Prateek Kuhad, Ritviz, Kshmr and Nucleya. Some of these were made in our earliest days. I think there was a sense of trust and mutual understanding, to dive into heavily narrative-driven music videos. We connected with the music they produced, and they connected with our stories. It was — and remains — an ideal partnership.”

H!: Tell us a little about your personal life.

DM: “Our personal lives — mine and my wife Daria Gaikalova’s — are very closely intertwined with our professional lives. For one, while we are married, we are also partners at work. I produce for her, and she produces for me. It’s fantastic. Also, our profession is quite unique — what we do in our personal life directly impacts the kind of stories we tell. Even on vacation, we visit museums, spend time writing, dive into historic folklore and try to explore the myths and legends of the place we’re travelling to. You just never know when there’s a great story lurking around the corner. You can’t wait to feel inspired. We have to seek inspiration; it’s like an elusive beast that you must hunt for.”