The sight of ‘Phantom logo’ is a tequila shot for me. It is intriguingly designed with a background score of a school class where teacher says ‘Fuh Se’ to which children answers ‘Phantom’ enthusiastically, forming a Devanagari letter of ‘fuh’.
This studio not only redefines films, but also celebrates fantasy, fascination and freedom to create a world we believe they have their heart set in. Below is the youtube video of Phantom Films.
4 years back, 4 filmmakers with extraordinary visions collaborated to start a production studio to give life to stories that need to be told.
These geniuses (Filmmakers Anurag Kashyap, Vikas Bahl, Vikramaditya Motwane & Madhu Mantena) decision to name their director’s company ‘Phantom Films’ is a Masterstroke because the word phantom itself defines ‘figment of imagination’. 4 visionary people’s individualistic imaginations are nurtured, carved and brought to screen with affection never seen before.
The kind of films they are passionate about are unconventional, realistic and not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s exactly the reason no one seems to believe and be convinced by their kind of cinema, resulting in Phantoms to independently top produce films they believe in.
1.) Lootera (5th July, 2013)
Director: Vikramaditya Motwane, Co-producer: Balaji Films
Lootera was Vikramaditya Motwane’s sophomore after his ground-breaking ‘Udaan’ way back in 2010. Based on the novel ‘The Last Leaf’ by O.Henry, Motwane transported us to the vintage world with his tapestry yet made us root for his characters that had heart in the right place.
Paakhi (Sonakshi Sinha) and Varun (Ranveer Singh) meet, fall in love but his past turns the course of the romance, pitting them against each other only to once again find comfort in love all over again
Sonakshi was riveting as tuberculosis affected Paakhi while Ranveer was wonderfully understated as the mysterious archeologist Varun who is more than what meets the eye. Moreover, credit goes to Motwane’s inspiring writing that derived a classic out of it.
2.) Hasee To Phasee (7th Feb, 2014)
Director: Vinil Mathew, Co-producer: Dharma Productions
This quirky love story was engaging from the word ‘go’. Meeta, mad scientist who never blinks (Parineeti Chopra) meets a struggling businessman Nikhil (Siddharth Malhotra) and expectedly have designs for each other but there is a hitch.
Nikhil is already engaged to Meeta’s sister Karishma (Adah Sharma) whom she hadn’t met for 7 long years post her runaway from home. Meeta is not the usual girl as well, she constantly chokes herself with anti-depressant pills and expresses her sensation in the most hilarious way enough to turn off any potential boyfriend yet Nikhil slowly finds the soulmate in her in the end.
Director Vinil Mathew coats the conventional plot with a refreshing paint that’s so colorful with essence and sharply written characters so real and raw. Parineeti was indeed the biggest strength delivering a knockout performance, subtly aided by Siddharth’s charming Nikhil.
3.) Queen (7th March, 2014)
Director : Vikas Bahl, Co-producer: Viacom 18 Motion Pictures
Who had thought single honeymoon would turn out to be a sensation and in everyone’s bucket list? Vikas Bahl’s coming-up-of-age Queen was a little gem that not only was the best but also brought Kangana Ranaut to the top league who was fabulous as demure Rajouri girl Rani Mehra, who after getting ditched in the alter by her fiancee, decides to pack her bag and go to honeymoon alone only to re-discover her real side never seen before.
Her journey from initial hesitation to leave Vijay (Rajkumar Rao) to thankfully deserting him by returning his ring was an absolute magick sending across the message that there is no need to depend on someone for your happiness, choose the path that derives happiness.
4.) Ugly (26th December, 2014)
Director: Anurag Kashyap, Co-producer: DAR Motion Pictures
Already created waves in Cannes Film Festival in 2013, Ugly got released after a year and a half in Indian Screen because Censor board ordered the makers to post ‘no-smoking’ post in the film much to the displeasure of Kashyap who eventually had to give a clean chit.
Revolving around a child’s sudden disappearance, Anurag exposes the ugly side of urban people and their insatiable fetish for money blinding them from human emotions.
Rahul Bhat, who made a comeback after 8 years, was splendid as the father of a disappearing child while Tejaswini Kolhapure added empathy to the role of her alcoholic mother.
5.) NH10 (13th March, 2015)
Director: Navdeep Singh, Co-producer: Anushka Sharma & Karnesh Sharma (Clean Slate Films), Eros Now
A trip gone wrong, horribly wrong. Meera (Anushka Sharma) and Arjun (Neil Bhoopalam) find themselves in a terrible trap of the goons running for their blood in the National Highway 10 (NH10).
Based on Eden Laden (2008) and partially inspired by the infamous Manoj-Babli’s honor killing case, Navdeep Singh turns the film into a horror tale and kept scary moments in store for us. I remained silent even after coming out of theatre, such an effect it had on me. Shivering !
Anushka had not only co-produced this film, but also pulled off a tough character with remarkable spontaneity. We, as an audience, couldn’t feel safe either, waiting with our bated breath to find watch her find ways to get the hell out of the mess created by an ego-clash that could’ve been averted.
6.) Hunterrr (20th March, 2015)
Director: Harshwardhan Kulkarni, Co-producer: Shemaroo
Sex Comedies in Bollywood (till date) have always range from either being offensive to evoke disgust until Hunterrr arrived. Director Harshvardhan Kulkarni (who also had written the charming Hasee To Phasee) chronicles the life of a sex addict Mandar Ponkshe (Gulshan Devaiah) and his outing with women for his pleasure. It’s a well-crafted take on voyeurism and never cringes to embarrassment.
The characters in Hunterrr are real and mirror real people. What surprised me about the film was the women’s unapologetic approach towards expressing sexual flavours which I believe is rare to be seen on screen. Sai Tamhankar’s fearless portrayal of married cougar Jyotsna was enchanting while Radhika Apte’s Tripti is a modern woman who isn’t shy of revealing her previous flings of relationships and guess what, we just love her even more.
The film belonged to Gulshan Devaiah, whose portrayal of sleazy Mandar is nothing short of brave and compelling. Performance of a lifetime !
7.) Bombay Velvet (15th May, 2015)
Director: Anurag Kashyap, Co-producer: Fox Star Studios
This magnum opus is remembered vividly for it’s disastrous box office collections and brutal criticism it has faced, sealing their fate in first week itself.
It was panned and attacked from all quarters; I, however, didn’t allow myself to fall prey and being a die-hard fan of Kashyap, went to watch the film and found myself surprised and enjoying the ride.
Bombay Velvet may not be a perfect film but it wasn’t boring either or tragic enough to elicit hatred reaction. Still I believe that everyone are entitled to their opinion, and I was mesmerized by the frame, performances, dazzling jazz songs and the majestically raw theme of love and betrayal. I haven’t read Mumbai Fable and this was my reaction, I am excited to even imagine what would be my state when I read it?
8.) Masaan (24th July, 2015)
Director : Neeraj Ghaywan, Co-producer: Sikhya Entertainment, Drishyam Films, Arte France Cinema, Macassar Productions and Pathe’ Production
Masaan (means ‘cremation’) depicts the tale of youngsters who aren’t willing to give in to the pressure set by traditional society.
Devi’s (Richa Chaddha) sexual encounter with her lover in hotel gets busted by moral policing cops and are constantly threatened particular (her father) to pay bribe to bury the scandals whereas Deepak (Vicky Kaushal), belonging to a corpse burning low caste family, strikes an unlikely friendship with Shaalu ( Shweta Tripathi) and blossoms into relationship that goes against the tides of social norms.
Director Neeraj Ghaywan, aided by Varun Grover’s immersing script raises important questions on sexual taboos, caste inequality with an uncompromising tone. Winning FIPRESCI award in this year’s Cannes cemented the position of Phantoms in the international platform to whole new level.
The only disappointment from the studios was Vikas Bahl’s ‘Shaandaar’ the patchy and inconsistent disneyfied wedding destination film, that didn’t make sense to me and made most of us doze to sleep, clearly not a healthy sign for a filmmaker. However, considering Vikas’s filmmaking skills, I am still looking forward for his next outing.
8 out of 9 terrific films is still a successful report card for me and I can say with confidence that the director’s company wouldn’t disappoint. It takes courage to invest money on films that breaks the barrier of classes and masses, uniting the entire audience.
Wishing the entire Phantom Films Team a heartiest 4 years of magick that will continue to linger my memory for very long time
~ Nived Nambiar ~