‘Upstarts’: The story behind India’s first film on startups

New Delhi: The upcoming Netflix release “Upstarts” is the first Indian film to capture the startup mania sweeping the country. The film’s director Udai Singh Pawar says the audience will get to understand India’s startup revolution in a fun, emotional yet realistic way.

It all started with a question, says Pawar: “Why is there no Indian equivalent to international film ‘The Social Network’?” That led Pawar, who has graduated from IIT Kanpur, on a journey to explore the world behind the startups in India. He says it is a “fictional story but based on things that happened in reality”.

“I studied at IIT Kanpur, and worked at Microsoft Research for three years. I have a background in Bengaluru because I lived there. That was during my techie life. Then I left that life and did films over the past 10 years. I worked for Sudhir Mishra and then I worked on Akshay Kumar’s ‘Airlift’. The film’s director Raja Krishna Menon and I get along well. After we finished ‘Airlift’, he asked me ‘Why don’t you direct something and I will produce it?’ So he was the one who gave me a break,” Pawar told IANS while looking back at his journey.

“He told me to make a film that ‘only you can make, something personal’. That is how I started thinking about my life and these things. I thought about the people from startups like Ola and Paytm. There are western films like ‘The Social Network’, but there is no Indian equivalent to that,” he added

The director continued: “I know these people and I know what it takes. So, I thought why don’t I make a film on that and in the course of that talk a bit about startup world…The beauty is that you need not have a degree or something, as long as you have an idea. This is a very interesting time in our country where this world is opening up, so why not talk about the startup revolution in a fun way.”

“Upstarts” follows the journey of three young college graduates Kapil (Priyanshu Painyuli), Yash (Chandrachoor Rai) and Vinay (Shadab Kamal) from a small town in India, who are captivated by the startup mania sweeping the country. They then decide to start their own company that will change the world. It delves into “What has greater value, their dreams or their friendship?”

The film, which is backed by Raja Krishna Menon through his Bandra West Pictures banner, will release on October 18.

“It is a fictional story but based on things that happened in reality. For the film, I went back, met a lot of founders and people from startups like Ola, Paytm, and inMobi. In fact, I even met people from small companies, which shut down. Because I wanted to know the whole extreme of emotions. I was interested in the emotional journey…How does it feel when you are young and you get Rs 100 crore,” he said.

Pawar feels people want to watch movies for “emotional reasons not factual”.

“For me, it is not very interesting that they did this coding. It was interesting to see that young people want to make their lives better. Everyone wants to be successful and make an impact, and everyone wants to do it with their friends — that is what the film is about,” he said.

He did a lot of “research on the emotional as well as the technical side of it”.

“I don’t want to emphasis on the technical side but want to get it right. We narrated the script to people associated with the startup world, and they said it was a bit dramatic but true.”

Talking about adding drama to the story, Pawar said: “The beauty is, what I didn’t realise till I started with the research, is that drama is not about gangsters, or guns. Drama is our life will be very simple, like a fight with boss or argument with mother or father. It will be dramatic and we are consumed by it.

“There’s big money and drama involved in startup companies. I started digging into it, like we heard about the Snapdeal case, I thought of going behind the scenes and see the interpersonal drama. The film is realistic and authentic, and based on hundreds of true stories,” he said, adding that they got associated with Netflix organically.

“Netflix understood the idea. They were happy that I have got actors who are not big stars. They knew that (it is important to be) realistic,” added the director.