Mass Romantic

: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Production


When filmmakers and scholars race against time to save 20,000 Indian films from extinction, they reveal how culture is lost—and found—in the digital age.


India’s ongoing transition to digital media has caused its analog film economy to collapse, resulting in the greatest cinematic extinction event in history. “Mass Romantic” follows the archivists racing to find and restore whatever films are left to save, revealing in the process how unrelenting economic pressures and the politics of self-image in cinema are erasing the heritage of India’s popular culture.


In 2005, one of my best friends invited me to a Hindi movie marathon. The two of us, college students who often spent our weekends watching rare prints of international films at the university archive, caught the bus to a two-bedroom house on the south side of campus.

Sitting next to a cage holding two rabbits on one side of the living room, we were greeted by a grad student who lived in this space, looked after the rabbits’ safety, and loved to host screenings of three-hour long movies from India. As we snacked on chaat and watched an action film on DVD starring superstar Shahrukh Khan, I realized how narrow my own cultural path was.

I’ve long been interest in how people undergo irreversible transitions that reshape the most basic circumstances of their lives. For nearly a decade, my work in documentary and in written journalism has examined how legacies are cultivated, performed, preserved, broken, and lost at the local level. Documenting this journey is a considerable expansion of my narrative lens, but it asks the questions I’ve always presented to audiences:

What makes life valuable? Who decides whether that value will be recognized? What do the answers imply for most of us, who find ourselves on a vast page of history, unable to grasp the pencil that will etch our own experiences into it or evade the erasers that could wipe them from the human record?

In addition to exploring these questions in the context of contemporary India, I'll implement a social impact campaign in partnership with the scholarship and journalism communities that know these issues best. Recalling the roles that archives and storytellers played in my life -- and the day that an Indian film broadened my cultural path -- I'll do my best to ensure that “Mass Romantic” creates a similar cultural resource for moviegoers across the globe.


James Boo - Producer and Director

A Fellow at the Made in NY Media Center by IFP, James delivers documentaries that elevate community voices and embed audiences in community lives. For the past five years he's produced and directed short films that examine how legacies are cultivated, performed, and lost at the local level. His recent fellowship work transformed his web series, “1 Minute Meal,” into a multi-platform experience with 6 partner organizations, a pop-up museum exhibit, and over a quarter million online video views.

Throughout his creative career, James has drawn on his experiences in organizational management and international team-building to create not just art, but robust processes and environments for independent artists. The most important measure of success to him is the growth of inclusive creative space.

Harshbir Singh Phull - Field Producer

Harshbir is a creative producer and professional cinematographer with over 5 years of experience. He has been the director of photography for a variety of narrative and documentary films, including feature-length pictures. The documentary short “Amdavad Ma Famous,” which he co-shot, won the National Film Award for Best Non-Feature Film at the 63rd National Film Awards. It’s currently streaming on Netflix.

As the co-founder of Bombay Arthouse (a production house based in Mumbai and New York City), Harshbir also works with artists and public agencies worldwide to create documentary shorts, informational campaigns, and music videos for international audiences.

Tejaswini Ganti - Advisor

Dr. Ganti is Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology and its Program in Culture and Media at New York University. The author of "Bollywood: A Guidebook to Popular Hindi Cinema" and "Producing Bollywood: Inside the Contemporary Hindi Film Industry," she examines and explains the relationships between media, policy, and culture during a times tremendous sociopolitical change.

Dr. Ganti's unparalleled insights into the complicated context of Indian cinema, along with her professional experience as an instructor and storyteller, make her an ideal advisor to the film. As production of "Mass Romantic" continues, she will help us ensure that our work creates instructional and primary source resources for academic communities across the world.

Anaka Kaundinya - Advisor

Anaka Kaundinya grew up with a wide-eyed amazement for wildlife, trained in the classical art of Bharatanatyam, and was a textbook theater kid. Her route through journalism has similarly traversed many roads: She studied law in Bombay and stoked parallel careers as an actor, voice-over artist and social worker before settling into documentary as her craft. Her first role as a documentary director was an award-winning documentary on education titled “Island Of Magic,” born from her nonprofit experience.

Anaka is an emerita of the graduate school of journalism at New York University, where she deepened her skills in investigative journalism, radio production, and long-form non-fiction. She splits her time between New York and Bombay.


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