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When Onir signed Anurag Basu for just Rs 500

New Delhi: He is one of the most prominent names in the current crop of `newage` directors in Bollywood with films like `Gangster` and `Metro` to his name but Anurag Basu took only Rs 500 to turn actor for friend Onir`s upcoming film `I Am`.

Instead of calling the shots, the `Kites` director is braving the camera perhaps for the first time.

The movie, with its four stories that deal with social issues like child abuse, homosexuality and Maoist crisis, also stars director Anurag Kashyap and Nandita Das in pivotal roles. The four stories include `I Am Omar`, `I Am Abhimanyu`, `I Am Megha` and `I Am Afia`.

"Anurag Basu and I were together on the Filmfare jury. As we were waiting, he suddenly comes and says, `give me 500 bucks I need to pay for my coffee, I forgot my wallet`. I looked at him and he looked like one of the character I was desperately looking for. I said, `Look, consider this money your signing amount, you better do my film`," Onir told reporters.

Basu was initially apprehensive but had to give in at the insistence of Onir, who was adamant to cast him as a Bengali doctor in `I Am Afia`.

"He was a little apprehensive and had to figure out his timing and all but he was happy to help me. I am lucky to have such friends. They paid their own airfare to come and shoot for my film," Onir said.

Similarly, while searching for a character for `I Am Abhimanyu` segment, Onir got a helping hand from `Dev D` director Anurag Kashyap.

"Anurag (Kashyap) was really touched that I was making a film on child sexual abuse since he has gone through something similar in his childhood. He told me, `Onir if you need any help I am there`. When he came to know that I was finding it difficult to get an actor for one of the roles he came forward," said Onir.

"Anurag Kashyap`s role is quite pivotal to the script but Basu has done a small role," Onir added.

The film, which starts actors like Juhi Chawla, Rahul Bose, Manisha Koirala and Arjun Mathur, is India`s first crowd financed film with money coming from the users of social networking sites. The film has some 60 co-producers and more than 100 co-owners. Onir is planning to release it by June or July this year.

Onir hopes that once the film becomes a success many more people will come forward to help independent filmmakers like him.

"It was a very rewarding experience. With the co-owners it is more of a contribution and they will get credit but the co-producers get a share of profit. This was sort of an experiment but I am sure that if we make profit they will all come back. We believe in independent filmmaking and what can be more independent than that? You are involving the audience in the very beginning," he said.

The filmmaker, who started his journey in Bollywood doing odd jobs, has made critically acclaimed films like `My Brother Nikhil`, `Bas Ek Pal` and `Sorry Bhai!` in the last five years.

Onir gets nostalgic while talking about his struggle days in the Mumbai film industry.

"When I came in Mumbai I knew that it is going to take a long time because I had no one. I decided to train myself in every possible art related to movies and I think it has paid me back.

PTI

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