Silent Hills Studio Pvt. Ltd. is a growing film and television production house based at Hamirpur, Himachal Pradesh. Their goal is to enrich & develop a new cinematic culture in hill states (largely north India).
We interviewed Mr. Ajay Saklani (Director, Silent Hills Studio Pvt. Ltd.) and asked about his journey. When Ajay went back to his study about cinema, he realized that Cinema is a solution for many things in Himachal Pradesh. For last 30-40 years, people from Mumbai came and shot their films in Himachal Pradesh. They utilized the locations sometimes referring them as Kashmir and sometimes north-east. But Himachal couldn’t gain enough from it. The actors, crew members, other production staff and even crowd required for films were all either came from Mumbai, Delhi or from Punjab.
His focus was on two issues. First one was to start the Pahari Cinema. Because, cinema is the only medium which helps in developing the language & culture.
Research shows that any state which has a developed language and culture can progress faster than any other state which lacks in this front. Cinema can convert the small dialects into one language same as it did for Marathi, Bengali and even for Punjabi.
The second issue was to create an industry where we can create more jobs in the state and help in reducing the migration. The jobs can be created by providing opportunities to local artists, crew members and other production staff. Inviting more and more filmmakers to the state will increase the jobs as well as the tourism in the state. Directly or indirectly this will increase the work opportunities and hence will result in less migration.
Name of Startup: Silent Hills Studio Pvt. Ltd.
Founder: Mr. Ajay Saklani
Location: Hamirpur, Himachal Pradesh
Launch Date: December, 2014
- Best services and equipment support in cost effective manner.
- Experts in shooting low budget films & TV programmes.
- To provide entire range of in-house services related to film and TV production.
- To create & develop a pool of talented artists, technical & creative crew locally.
- To provide customized services to Indie filmmakers for offbeat productions.
- Production of quality content in local music and videos to raise their standard at national/international level.
Tell us about the founders (e.g., Whats the Story?)
I started working in Film & TV industry in 2005. I used to do theater during my college days in Lyallpur Khalsa college, Jalandhar. I loved acting in theater but I was more interested in Cinema & TV industry. It was a dream since I saw the television for the first time in my life when I was 11 years old. It was back in 1994, when my chacha ji brought the first TV set in our remote village in district Mandi in Himachal. The impact of the visuals I saw on tv was such strong that I wanted to be there among the creators of those visuals. But that wasn’t possible at that time and it always remained in my dreams for future.
During my graduation days in Khalsa College, my interest developed more in filmmaking but I had no one to answer my queries. But till then Internet was like the best thing happened to me and I started visiting Cyber Cafe, searching for information about filmmaking. The internet was costly so I couldn’t spend more time there. The best option was to download the articles & books from internet and copy them to my floppy drives and read in my PC at home.
Still after reading all those articles and books, I couldn’t find any way to enter into film-making. So to begin with I planned to shift to Delhi to learn more but my family was not in favor of that decision. Being a son of an army officer, I was expected to join army after my graduation. But somehow I managed to mould my parents and shifted to Delhi. There I learned editing while working in a production house and experimenting with editing softwares. My continuous study helped me fetching a job as an editor with another production company within 1 year. So my career began as an editor and I worked with few production houses and then with some national TV channels. My zeal to learn more helped me in learning cinematography while working as a freelancer besides my salaried job during my free hours.
What is the problem you are trying to solve?
When I dreamt of making films, the stories which came to my mind were related to my own culture & society. They were real stories based on the experiences of my Grandfather (Nana ji) and my uncle (Tau ji). Then many stories came from the life of my father, his struggle for education, his recruitment in army as a Sepoy and his continuous struggle to reach to an officer level by clearing the Service Selection Board.
Besides this, my childhood experiences, my lifestyle, my surroundings in my village had taught me a lot of things. Al those stories forced me to think about my society, my culture, my people back there in village. This was one of the reason that I decided to make my first documentary about the fading culture in my village. Although that documentary wasn’t technically strong but it left an impact on people migrated from the villages. For many people who had migrated from the village, that documentary brought back their childhood memories.
In fact there was a time when I was teaching in a university in Wardha (Maharashtra) and again my love for village life took me to the Melghat forests. There I shot my second documentary titled ‘Upaasmar – The taste of Hunger’. My feeling & my attachment with village life grew stronger after that documentary and I decided to leave my teaching job in the university and come back to Himachal to do another project called ‘Re-Discover Himachal’. During that project my team visited many remote villages while continuously trekking for more than a month.
I found the issue of migration, disconnection from roots, decline in language & culture, decline in honesty which Pahari people used to have and many other things.
What were your assumptions when you entered the market, learnings that you have?
Well when I started my production here in mid 2014, I was looking forward to involve more artists, singers, actors and technical people. As per my assumptions we could collaborate with other artists and form some kind of association to support their interests, rights and provide them more work opportunities here in the state. I also announced some free courses to strengthen the technical part by teaching know-how of this industry. But all that couldn’t work as connecting those artists are not an easy task. While creating a new technical team was also not so easy as people are not ready to learn here in Himachal even for free. They are ready to spend money and do courses in institutes in Delhi or Mumbai.
Then we moved forward and planned to first create a cinematic culture in the state. Many Pahari films were made till now but it was sad to see that none of them were technically or quality waise good enough to even watch once. So we started our fist Pahari project titled ‘Saanjh‘. The focus was to create quality cinema which can inspire many other filmmakers to come forward and start making good films. But again people don’t trust any Himachali making a good film. For them a Punjabi, a Marathi or a Bengali can make better films than a Himachali. Finding financier was the most difficult task for this film and which still is. We couldn’t find any financier till today. We even tried to raise funds through crowdfunding but even that didn’t work.
Well from Saanjh or from any other future projects, we are looking forward to for international market. If we can create the content for international viewers that will easily attract attention here in local market too. If we can make a film which can be appreciated by international audience then the local audience will also watch that film. So ‘Saanjh’ is a project being produced for all kind of audience locally, nationwide or even worldwide.
What is the big picture of your startup?
Yes, we are focused on creating a cinema industry in Himachal. Once films made in local language will get the recognition that will attract more filmmakers to the state. This will help in creating jobs, development of tourism, development of language & culture, economic development and less migration. This will help us to reach the world, will create a market for our music & films internationally and lots more.
What is the insight that you have about this market, which no one else has? Uniqueness about your Startup.
Till today there isn’t even a single production house in Himachal providing complete production services to filmmakers from outside besides us. We have started providing all services here only. Now filmmakers doesn’t need to carry the equipment from Mumbai, they can get it here. They don’t need to bring the entire cast & crew members from Mumbai, we provide them technical team here and actors are also available. They don’t need to hire the expensive transport, catering and line producers from Delhi or Punjab. We are providing them all these services here.
During the shoot of Saanjh film, more that 200 people were involved in the production. 95% team was from Himachal only and 80% of them were freshers. We taught them how to work and how to manage the shoots. We didn’t hired any equipment from Punjab, Delhi or Mumbai. Everything was arranged here in Himachal Only.
We have only 2 members in core team i.e. me (Ajay) and Sonali Gurung. I’m a director, cinematographer & editor. Sonali looks after creative writing, public relations and management.
Besides us there are 15 members from Himachal who gets involved aat the time of project. Everytime we do a new project, we involve 10-15 new members, train them and let them explore their possibilities.
What would be your goal to accomplish in the next six months?
At present we are working on our film Saanjh and we want to release it in all cinema halls in and around Himachal. We are not dubbing it in Hindi or Punjabi rather we have planned to release the film in Pahari only. We want to inspire people to make more Pahari films by releasing this one as a first Pahari film in Cinema halls. We have planned the release in Himachal, Jammu, Punjab, Chandigarh, Delhi & Uttarakhand.
Any other information you would like to share?
Saanjh film is still in post-production and we are looking forward to complete this film. Many future things depend on the successful release of this film.
Re-Discover Himachal Promo:
Films which are made in Pahari were just video projects shot on video cameras and released on dvd’s or online. They were not capable enough to be released in Cinema halls.
This was the story of a startup based in Himachal Pradesh. We wish them best of luck.