Bollywood films aren’t known for sex, drugs and alcohol. But Manan Katohora is hoping to change that — and he has his sights set on Washington.
First, though, he has to persuade at least 30 investors to fork over $10,000 a piece.
Last week, he hired a few local actors and hosted a script reading for prospective investors at an Indian restaurant in Tysons Corner.
Eight people attended. So far he’s secured $130,000 for the film, titled “Love 2.0.”
The movie, which he co-wrote and would direct, offers “a new definition of love, sex and marriage,” he said, for a Bollywood audience that is accustomed to fairy tale-like love stories.
“Love 2.0” would be Katohora’s fourth full-length film. His previous works include “When Kiran Met Karen,” about a Bollywood actress who spends a wild night with a lesbian journalist.
“Young people love it,” said Katohora, who is 35. “It’s the same thing they see in American films, but for the first time, they see Indian actors playing these roles.”
The characters in Katohora’s film engage in extramarital sex, smoke marijuana and drink copious amounts of red wine and Scotch whiskey — a stark contrast to traditional Bollywood films that frown upon the slightest displays of on-screen affection.
“Love 2.0” follows an Indian-American couple in Washington that is on the verge of divorce. A mysterious stranger who claims to be a “Grandmaster of the Order of Reason” — a role Katohora says he has already filled with “a legendary Bollywood actor” — shows up to help. A bizarre sequence of events take place, and in the end, the couple “rediscovers each other and rediscovers their passion,” said Sandeep Ghuman, who co-wrote the film with Katohora.
If Katohora secures the funding by the end of this month, he plans to begin filming in the Washington area in November.
Katohora, who lived in New York City for eight years before moving to Washington in 2009, said the area’s burgeoning film community and its network of South Asians drew him to D.C.
“If you go to New York, to California, every investor has hundreds of people knocking down their door — I know because I used to be one of them,” he said. “This is something new for D.C, and there is an amazing amount of support here.”
But securing funding from the large South Asian community in the area is proving to be a challenge, particularly given the film’s subject matter.
“I don’t know how well it’s going to be accepted by Indians,” said Sadhna Vohra, an investor who lives in Herndon and is originally from Delhi. “But,” she added, “I have faith in it.”
After last week’s reading, audience members offered their advice: One said the script was too intense, and that it needed more comedy. Another said the dialogue didn’t ring true. A third asked whether there would be singing and dancing.
“No songs,” Katohora said. “It’s not that type of Bollywood movie. There won’t be any lipsynching.”
Katohora grew up in the Middle East and studied engineering in India. But, he says, “I did that mainly for my dad.” He quickly changed course, got an MBA at the University of Scranton, and began working as a production assistant on film sets in New York City. Now he has three movies under his belt, including the forthcoming “9 Eleven,” which he says was “more of a Bollywood film.”
One investor agreed to fund the entire project. “But you can’t get lucky every time,” Katohora said.
Audrey Emmett, a potential investor who attended last week’s reading, said she wished the female characters were “a bit more three-dimensional.”
“I think putting money into a film is even more risky than gambling at a casino,” Emmett said. “You have so little control over the finished product – and even if you do, you don’t know what else is being released that month, or what might be happening in the news that might keep people from going to the cinema.”
Katohora says he is scheduling one-on-one meetings with potential investors, and plans to hold at least a couple more script readings locally. But he and Ghuman know it’s a tough sell.
“I think the love-hate distribution here is going to be 90 percent hate, 10 percent love,” Ghuman said. “We know people will have a strong reaction, and that’s what we’re going after.”
To which Katohora added: “I’m sure my mom will hate this film.”