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Please release me, let me go

Updated on: 25 February,2024 04:44 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Rahul da Cunha |

I’m hoping both…. Though the film’s resting place will be ensconced in a streaming platform.

Please release me, let me go

Illustration/Uday Mohite

Rahul Da CunhaOur film, Pune Highway, is ready—ready to be enjoyed, ready to be examined, ready to be released “into the ether”, ready to entertain.

In the cinema, there is no such thing as an “opening night”— once a film is locked, that’s it. The film waits in a can, on a hard drive, for the right moment to première.

Screen is a far more complex business than the stage, it has many more moving parts— as Paul Anderson, director of  There Will Be Blood, once famously said, only 40 per cent of movie-making is the actual making of the film. (The rest is selling, distribution, marketing).

Pune Highway comes very loosely out of a play I wrote twenty years ago. Plays focus on the verbal; Cinema, the visual. “We have to open the story out considerably, tell the story as action, words are secondary”, Bugs Bhargava Krishna, my co-writer and co-director told me, as we FaceTimed our way, constructing the screenplay, bit by bit, beat by beat—the play’s action was confined to a motel room, actors related to us events that happened outside this claustrophobic space—the movie traverses the worlds of South Mumbai and Satara, and the Mumbai-Pune highway that connects the two.

Last evening, Bugs and I settled down to watch our film, a year and half after we first put pen to paper—the last time, we would do so, just by ourselves. 

We’ve watched our movie, often… but each time the mind space is a little different. 

We’ve had many “edit watches”, the edit is where your story finally takes shape—you delete shots, shots that don’t serve the story, don’t further the plot, that don’t strengthen character.

Tiny decisions are taken, hold that scene, slip in a close up to intensify an emotion. Do you need a wide shot to explain geography… have we told our story well, the visual is finally locked. 

There’s the “Digital Imaging/Colour Correction watch”.

Getting the colours, and tones correct—how do you combine grunge with glam, grime with grit… You want your film to have a certain look.

Then there’s the critical “background score watch”—does your music heighten a moment… do you have recurring themes… leitmotifs?  When do you resort to silence, is your music an additional unseen character? Is it melodic dialogue?

And this morning, as Bugs Bhargava and I sit down, I ask myself, where do I want my want my movie to be seen? In a darkened movie theatre with Dolby sound? In a drawing room? In a French festival? On a handset through headphones? 

Dibakar Banerjee once asked me, “How do you get a wide angle shot on an iPhone?” That’s the key to modern film making.

How do I want to release my first film, in the best possible way? Audiences want good content… sure, they want their stars… but today, they want their story…. They want a “12th Fail”—a story of struggle and the overcoming of a hurdle. No one quite has the winning formula, except the audience who know what they want… and they want to be gripped.

Do I want my film to reach the remotest part of India? Not necessarily, but I do want it to be remote control proof.

“OTT or cinema release?” I’ve been asked. 

I’m hoping both…. Though the film’s resting place will be ensconced in a streaming platform.

As we watch Pune Highway, my debut film, and Bugs’s fourth offering, do I have butterflies in the stomach...

Theatre vs cinema openings…. in the theatre, there’s an opening night, it’s the first night it all comes together, you have one shot at it, no guarantees, a mic may drop, your lead actor may have a sore throat, that opening night audience will sample your wares truly for the first time in one auditorium.

In the movies, there’s no opening night in one solitary place—an audience will watch you once, twice , thrice, maybe see you over three sittings.  

Is my film screen-worthy, OTT or festival… I’d like to believe all three.

As I sit down to watch my film, there’s just one truly controllable question one universal truth—do I love what I see?

Rahul daCunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at

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