“Hola Venky” is a low budget film, a budget so low that many Bolywood films use that amount of money to shoot just one song. Hola Venky was shot with a small budget of Rs. 10 lakhs, and was shot by a small 3 member crew. It is an irreverent, romantic, quirky comedy with a great deal of Mariachi music thrown in. How cool is that? Written by Sandeep Mohan, the film portrays a software techie in India; in Matunga, Mumbai, of all places! Loved to see the familiar scenes of where I grew up, the dreams that my friends and I nurtured of coming to the US, walking the streets of Maunga! But India is different now. India is on a cusp of major transformation. And change is never painless.
Roger Narayan is excellent in the role of Venky, doing the things that society expected of him. And what does Indian society expect of a young man, with a reasonable education? To get a job doing software coding (hopefully in a multi-national corporation, get a chance to go to the US and do the same thing), get married, and have children, all in that order. But priorities are shifting in India and there is change in the order of things as well as change in the value system of young people. Narayan got a job and married his college sweetheart and then got divorced. His wife began to believe that sex was not good for a man’s long term health. As Venky tells his story a video plays in the background with a woman explaining “Ejaculation is often called coming but it should be called going – because everything — erection, vital energy, millions of life’ sperms and even a little of man’s personality goes away with ejaculation.” Venky on the other hand (in a classic Hindu tradition where everything and everyone is a manifestation of God) performs Groin pooja, with flowers on his penis.
Venky is engaged to be married again, to Damini, a divorcee. Damini is jaded from the whole drama that goes with love; she feels her clock ticking, and she has transformed into Ms. Pragmatism. Albeit there are many contradictions in what she seeks in her life and from her marriage. When asked by Venky if she was marrying him for his sperm, she clarifies, “after marriage it is nothing like your sperm and my sperm, it is our family sperm”.
Venky is caught in a rut doing his job, and he lacks passion in life, job, or for his upcoming marriage. His boss recommends him to go to the US for leadership training. Journey to the US is not just a physical journey for Venky, to a land where everyone is not a software engineer. It is Venky’s “upward” journey from the groin to the heart, from tequila to mariachi music, from cultural and professional imprisonment to cultural expansion, from following a life based on predetermined rules, to finding a life of joy. Following a series of comedic turn of events, Venky meets Inez, a senorita who never has a bad hair day and has a fine nose for solving mysteries and getting people out of trouble. A budding Mexican American actress, Sonia Balcazar, is stunning in her role as Inez.
Director Sandeep Mohan has done a fabulous job with this micro-budget movie after his work with Love, and Wrinkle-free, for which he got Adult Certificates from the Bolywood Censor Board, that resulted in their Satellite rights getting stuck. So he contacted producer Giju John and got him on board for a lot budget film; finding their audience through innovative channels and social media marketing, they are redefining the distribution model, in the internet era. The crew did not include an assistant director or makeup or costume people and it was shot without a track or trolley. Editor, Shreyas Beltangdy, Sound Designer Ravidev Singh, Grading/VFX artist Vijesh Rajan, and Music Supervisor Vivek Philip have done a fabulous job of working within the resource constraints and bring this film to completion. Bay area artists starring in the movie include the local celebrity, Papiha Nandy and real estate professional, Tony Kazi among other professionals. Hola Venky has couple more shows in the bay area and for a short time, the producer is available to bring the film for private screenings, for small groups, at their preferred location.