"Shekhar Kapoor patted me on the back and said 'All the best, son'. Needless to say, my ego is feeling real good these days." This seems like the typical self-aggrandising statement common on social media these days.
When you realise it comes from the producers of one of the cheapest films ever made in the world, Gagan Sky Judge and director-writer-actor Kenny Basumatary, you know what it truly means: that Kenny and Gagan will survive to make another film.
Critic-turned-filmmaker Sudhish Kamath wrote on Facebook: "The awesomest truly independent filmmaker I grew up idolising just sent me an email saying he loves Seema Rahmani & Good Night Good Morning!" Vanity? Can't be, considering this reference to Nagesh Kukunoor comes from someone who's waited four years to release his film. This praise is the fuel that will drive him to his second film.
When Kenny Basumatary gathered himself, his family, martial arts practice buddies, Rs 95,000 and a Canon 550D camera in his hometown Guwahati to make Local Kung Fu, he merely hoped to find a local cable channel to air it someday.
Surprised by the praise of those whom he showed the rough cut to, he realised that he could have a greater ambition for his quaint, Jackie Chan-style action comedy.
Today he has an offer for distribution and his film premiered at the Osians Cinefan where they had to repeat it on popular demand and where he rubbed shoulders with Shekhar Kapur.
Kenny is also writing another film on the insistence of Anurag Kashyap, who, impressed with his action and direction, has asked him to write a truly Indian, super-martial arts flick, a la Ong Bak.
Beauty does not become beauty without a beholder. Art does not survive without patronage. All of us like the portrait of the artist as a starving man, killing himself/herself for the sake of art. Part of Van Gogh's popularity is due to this.
But imagine Van Gogh with patronage, living and creating till he died of old age. The world would have been a profoundly different place if this energetic but asocial artist had found more supporters.
Now if Van Gogh were a filmmaker, could he have left behind a body of films like he left paintings? Is it even possible to someday discover a great filmmaker, now dead, who left behind a body of great cinema no one has ever seen?
Because more than any other creative field, cinema needs the greatest support and patronage - from creation to distribution.
Indeed, the history of 'cinema' is the history of patronage – begged, borrowed or rightfully claimed after a rebellion.
The very first cinema 'movement' in the world, the Italian Neorealism happened because critics ganged up and rejected the elaborate sets and style of existing Italian cinema after the Second World War. It died when the patronage of viewers in the early 1950s shifted to the optimism of Hollywood fare then.
The French New Wave beginning in the late 50s saw a similar uprising of film critics who criticised the status quo of existing French cinema, thus reducing the patronage of viewers towards them, and put the spotlight on the little guys who made exemplary films.
Hollywood, surprised by the attention of their viewers to low budget 'subtitled' films from Europe, began paying attention to maverick, young home grown talents in the late 60s. The result was a New Hollywood and giants like Scorsese, Stone, Scott, Coppola, Lucas and others.
In Iran, the movement of its masses towards home-grown, creative literature, superimposed itself on cinema that today sees Iran being literally and figuratively the capital of World Cinema, despite the many restrictions in the country.
In India, Film Finance Corporation (now NFDC) gave the opportunity and money to young, energetic filmmakers, many straight out of FTII. It led to the New Indian Cinema or Indian New Wave of the 70s and 80s. With NFDC's taps running dry, the movement collapsed in the early and mid 1980s.
Restoring order, and raising hopes of the possibility of a new movement, is technology that has brought in a semblance of democracy in the otherwise very nepotistic and incestuous filmmaking centres of India.
It has led to new kinds of patronage, and support is finally coming in from where it should - the masses. Sadly the quantity of this discerning viewer base willing to support the creation and viewing of creative cinema is still small.
This number would have been much larger, minus a problem of perception. Often lovers and creators of non-commercial, indie or low-budget cinema wrongly perceive themselves to be in competition with commercial cinema.
A divide has been created where popular entertainment lovers stay away from films with even a semblance of intelligence, fearing it will pollute their enjoyment, while fans of 'cerebral' cinema live in denial that once in a while they too enjoy a well made, mindless commercial film.
Let's face it, when we popped out of our mothers' wombs, we didn't demand to see a Tarkovsky or Bergman right away. Instead, we graduated from cartoons, to potboilers, to popular action or melodramas and finally to the sublime cinema of masters.
Commercial cinema is thus a stepping stone to cerebral cinema, which in turn becomes the relief audiences need to prevent their brains from popping out from watching too much mindless flicks.
The operative word is thus evolution. The need is to gradually nudge audiences to evolve their taste in cinema.
For evolved audience demand better films and are thus sought after by creative filmmakers. Even if that evolved population is a mere 5 per cent of the total population, the numbers are staggering despite their dispersed spread across the country.
Five per cent of India is 65 million people, or three times the population of Australia - more than the combined population of the last 100 countries of the world or the 20th most populous nation of the world if you were to look at it as a country.
Because of our large population, 'the long tail' (outliers in love with the unconventional) in India, makes for a really long tail.
Quite a few have indeed dipped into this pool to make their films.
Onir and Sanjay Suri made I Am through crowd-funding. The two intrepid producers are now helping debutante Bikas Mishra make his film on caste politics, Chauranga, using the same model.
Even an activist like Surya Shankar Dash from the hinterlands of Orissa can today dream of dipping into this people's pool to make his film. And the real cinema lovers, those willing to put their money where their mouth is, are gradually coming out of the closet.
This isn't the first time, though. Auteur John Abraham, a protegee of Ritwik Ghatak, in the 80s travelled the nooks and corners of his home state of Kerala, collecting as low as a rupee to finance his films. This father of crowd-funding made four films this way and also travelled back to the villages with a projector in tow, showing the films to his 'producers' for free.
Half a million farmers donated Rs 2 each to produce Shyam Benegal's national award winning film Manthan while many cinema cooperatives created by filmmakers had the masses pooling in money in the 70s and 80s and making some landmark films.
Back then, as it is now, the main challenge was not making films, but distributing them. In Bollywood parlance a film that has not been released, does not even exist.
Today, new digital distribution channels have led to some interesting experiments. PVR Pictures began by distributing award-winning foreign language cinema. Through the 'PVR Directors Rare' property, they have opened up a world of original Indian cinema for the masses since the last few months.
In a year, they would have released around 30 films that otherwise would perhaps have never seen the light of the projector.
Of course, not all of these films live up to expectations. Some are downright insipid while few others are nothing but desperate attempts of their makers to break into commercial cinema. Yet a rare few are exceptional. And it is the discovery of these exceptional few that make even the other ones bearable.
If PVR or others can continue this patronage of intelligent cinema for another five to 10 years, we might just see the birth of another cinema movement in the country.
But this cannot happen without YOUR, the viewer's, patronage.
The ideal day would come when a property like PVR Director's Rare would merely have to select the best of the indies available and the lot of us would throng to see the limited release of the films.
So far only one film has seen exceptional crowd, the hilarious documentary Supermen of Malegaon by Faiza Ahmad Khan that ran for three weeks in Mumbai's PVR properties. Slated to go off after a week, they ran it for two more weeks after audiences continued pouring.
Ironically this is only the third documentary after Jaideep Varma's Leaving Home and Rat Race, to have a national theatrical release.
Someday true-blue, home grown, indie and inspiring creative films like Kshay, Rat Race, Local Kung Fu, Supermen of Malegaon and Anhey Ghorey Da Daan would run, one show a day, for months.
Again, this is the challenge: to get discerning audiences to watch good cinema in theatres, to inspire YOU enough to at least do a weekly CSR activity of buying at least one ticket of such a film.
Anurag Kashyap once rued in one of his Facebook posts after the release of That Girl in Yellow Boots that even if only half of all the people who had liked the film's Facebook page had actually paid to watch it in theatres, it would have recovered its money.
Despite these, we live in optimism's wake. Winds of change are sweeping through the meadows of cinema in this nation. Winds that might rustle up a movement. Winds that might inspire YOU to stand up and make yourself counted.
And when that happens, when you as an audience realise that each of you matters, that is the day when we as a nation will claim our grand position in the world of cinema.
For India cannot become a great film 'making' nation unless Indians make it a great film 'watching' nation.
The ball, is in your court, dear reader.
Text: Satyen K Bordoloi