Agneya Singh’s debut film uses the urban legend of M Cream to raise that pertinent question — what does it mean to be a young Indian today?
It was the dichotomy of today’s youth that I wanted to capture and reflect. There is a mix of apathy and activism, conformity and the need to stand out — I wanted to talk about each of those stereotypes,” says filmmaker Agneya Singh, whose debut feature M Cream will hit screens later this month. Singh, who is political journalist Seema Mustafa’s son, is a Delhi boy who studied filmmaking at New York University’s Tisch School of Arts. But, it was his early years spent hobnobbing with his Delhi University friends that shaped the idea of the movie.
Burning the film festival circuit since 2014, the movie, produced by Agniputra Films, has gathered a lot of awards for the young filmmaker — it won the Grand Prize for Best Feature Film at the Rhode Island International Film Festival and the Best Foreign Feature at the Indie Spirit Film Festival, among many others. “Those awards were the step we needed to bring the movie to India and release it. You know how it is with small-budget movies. But it has done well at festivals abroad, and managed to get a release, but in limited theatres and only in the metros,” he says.
Agneya Singh, 26, conceptualised M-Cream in 2012
The 26-year-old’s road trip film is named after the urban legend of Malana Cream, a premium marijuana herb that’s supposed to give you the ultimate high, and, is supposedly found in the village of the same name in Himachal Pradesh. Four different friends — each unique — set out to find M Cream, and discover themselves and raise some pertinent questions along the way. “Protagonist Figs, played by Imaad Shah, believes in drugs and parties. Jay, played by Ira Dubey, is a do-gooder and wants to change the world — an arm chair revolutionary. Maggie, played by Auritra Ghosh is a rebel without a cause and Niz, played by Raaghav Chanana, is all about ‘live and let live’. Some are privileged while some are middle class. As they spend time together the real issues are raised.”
The 114-minute film starring Imaad Shah and Ira Dubey was shot in Himachal
M Cream, he says, is just a plot device that talks about the main question — what does is mean to be a young person in India today? “It’s all about taking a stand today. Young people need to do that. It’s about having the courage to have an opinion.” It also raises the question of the youth of the country using drugs, but is being talked about in a way different from the recently released Udta Punjab. “I belong to the school of thought that says that marijuana, the herb, should be decriminalised and made legit. I really hope that the movie starts that debate,” says Singh.
He also says he made the movie to make sure the world saw a different side of India. “Mainstream movies are too commercial, and indie movies focus more on the gritty, rural side of India — the India they think the West wants to see,” he says. And, going by the response he got at each screening, it seems he succeeded. “People were shocked to see that India had young people the way they were in the movie. You could take them out of the movie and they could fit anywhere in the world, right? It was to show them that we, here, exist, like this, not like they think we do.”