Bollywood director Ketan Mehta's latest film, Rang Rasiya, is based on the true story of an Indian artist in the 19th century, Raja Ravi Varma, who was taken to court for his controversial paintings. The film is slated to be released on January 23. Since the movie is not run of the mill Bollywood fare, the producers have decided to create a buzz about it through a Freedom of Expression art competition that will span three months.
Starting December 21, artists and people interested in art can register on the website of the movie, www.rangrasiya.com, and upload their entries till January 15. Subsequently, the participants will have to go through four phases of selection. The winner will receive a cash prize of Rs 10 lakh at a gala event to be held in March. The total prize money that will be given out is more than Rs 25 lakh.
The idea was conceptualised by co-producers Aanand Mahendroo and Deepa Sahi. Speaking to afaqs!, Mahendroo says, “Today, every film is promoted widely. People spend crores of rupees in putting up hoardings everywhere, but this project is different. Raja Ravi Varma was a man with a vision. He lived in his own imaginary world, interpreted the gods in his own way and touched the lives of many people. Similarly, we wanted to do something which would touch people and which would not be perceived as a (publicity) stunt.”
Rahul Bhattacharya, historian and artist, has also played a key role in the conceptualisation of the competition.
After the entries are received online, they will be sifted and the genuine entries picked out. After the online registration, the contestants will be asked to send the actual paintings.
In the second phase, 1,000 contestants will be chosen to send in larger paintings based on any of the five given themes. They will have to submit these at any of the five regional centres – Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Thiruvananthapuram and Bhopal. The judges will select four finalists from each region, who will move on to the next phase.
The 20 finalists will be taken to Badami, an archaeological site, where they will be asked to paint the film's lead actress, Nandana Sen, in terms of their own interpretation. There will also be an entertainment event at the location.
In the third phase, the finalists will be taken to a film studio with modular furniture and given the task of designing their living space out of the material provided to them. “The idea of this activity is to see their skills as artists. We are not just looking at ‘paintbrush’ artists,” says Mahendroo.
The fourth and final phase will be about community art: The finalists will be taken to the Marol Village Community in Mumbai and divided into five teams. Their task here will be to create art with the assistance and inputs of the villagers.
The winners will be announced in March at an entertainment event. The 17 judges for the competition include artists, historians, art buyers and designers, including George Martin, Maharaja Ranjit Singh Gaekwad, Pritish Nandy and Sabyasachi Mukerjee.
“We haven't taken just artists (as judges), but also people who stand for values,” explains Mahendroo.
The competition will be promoted through a mass campaign starting December 21, through hoardings, radio, newspapers, TV and the Internet. Mahendroo says that Rs 2.5 crore will be spent on the promotions.
Besides the official website on the Internet, the producers have created a website, www.freedomofexpression.in, where entries are to be submitted, and also a blog, Coloursofpassion.net.
Interestingly, while Rang Rasiya is slated for release on January 23, the competition will continue much beyond that, reiterating Mahendroo's point that this is not just about the promotion of the film.
Rang Rasiya has been released internationally in English as Colours of Passion and has been screened at the 52nd London Film Festival. The lead actors of the film are Randeep Hooda, who plays the artist, and Nandana Sen, his muse. The film, promoted by Infinity Film Entertainment, also stars Jim Boeven, Paresh Rawal, Rajat Kapoor and Tom Alter.