‘Mantra’ preview: The battle between homegrown business and MNCs plays out at the dinner table

The unfairly stacked contest between small and big business gobbles up a family in director Nicholas Kharkongor’s debut movie.

The policy changes that swept through the Indian economy in the early 1990s had far-reaching consequences not only for the way people lived, but also for what they ate. Suddenly, Indians could consume the fast food they had previously only read about or purchased during foreign vacations. But some local manufacturers were squeezed out by more powerful competitors. Nicholas Kharkongor’s debut Mantra is the fictional story of one such snack food brand.

The 42-year-old director, who grew up in Shillong, follows Kapil Kapoor (Rajat Kapoor) whose battle to stave off competition causes tremors in his family. The cast includes Kalki Koechlin, Lushin Dubey, Shiv Pandit and Adil Hussain in key roles. The crowd-funded independent English film is being released on March 17. In an interview with, Kharkongor spoke about his own struggle in trying to make Mantra and compared his efforts to the travails of Don Quixote, the fictional character of Miguel de Cervantes’s imagination.

How did the story of ‘Mantra’ take shape?
After the economy opened up in 1991, there was great change that was brewing in the country. By the late ’90s, a lot had happened when multinationals infiltrated the Indian market. I remember before that if someone went abroad, we’d ask them to bring back a Coke can. Cable television opened up, magazines were sprouting, everyone was writing about the new change where the Licence Raj was no longer relevant and what was then mocked as the Hindu rate of growth had shot up.

We saw all these changes, and as a storyteller, I wanted to document this change. I knew my story had to be about the New India. I wanted to focus on an Indian company fighting a multinational that was taking over the market. The challenge was to tell the story through a brand that everyone could identify with, like a snack brand, as opposed to say, a cement brand.

Mantra (2017).

Is the plot based on a true story?
Mantra is the story of Kapil Kapoor, who is losing company profits to a multinational that has come in and taken over the market. A lot of Indian brands such as Thums Up, Goldspot and Uncle Chips were bought out by multinationals. Our film tells a fictional story that is based on the story of a real snack brand that was bought out.

The foreground is fiction. We have taken inspiration for the background, where we have looked at the lives of people who were the owners of Indian companies that were taken over by multinational brands.

The word mantra is used in English and Hindi, but the film appears to be in English.
This film is about an upper-class family in Delhi, so in all likelihood they would be speaking in English, and that’s how the language of the film emerged. It does have a smattering of Hindi.

Was it easy assembling the actors for your independent feature?
I happened to choose the right people. It was very easy to get the actors. Rajat Kapoor is a mentor and a friend, so that was a no-brainer to get him on board. I met Kalki Koechlin and she agreed to be a part of it. I had worked with Adil Hussain in theatre, and so it was easy to persuade him.

Kalki Koechlin in Mantra (2017).
Kalki Koechlin in Mantra (2017).

What about finding producers for your debut?
It was a two-pronged strategy. I pursued both the actors and the producers actively. The actors fell in place first, which made the job of funding a little easier. Since Mantra is a crowd-funded production, there is a bunch of producers from across the globe. Luckily, NRIs related to the film’s theme of a New India and they supported the film a lot more.

It’s different from having a single producer who can have his way. Having more producers sort of makes the process democratic. I didn’t have interference.

How did you get into films?
I have a background in theatre, directing plays. Films were a new medium. I worked on two films as an assistant director, Saeed Mirza’s Ek Tho Chance (2009) and Rajat Kapoor’s Fatso (2012). This helped me to understand the technicalities of making a feature film.

It is harrowing to make a film, but it’s a familiar story of everyone who is an outsider. It is a long battle you have to fight on your own. I am not an intelligent, organised and smart filmmaker. I go in with my blinders on and fence it out.

Nicholas Kharkongor.
Nicholas Kharkongor.
We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Not just for experts: How videography is poised for a disruption

Digital solutions are making sure it’s easier than ever to express your creativity in moving images.

Where was the last time you saw art? Chances are on a screen, either on your phone or your computer. Stunning photography and intricate doodles are a frequent occurrence in the social feeds of many. That’s the defining feature of art in the 21st century - it fits in your pocket, pretty much everyone’s pocket. It is no more dictated by just a few elite players - renowned artists, museum curators, art critics, art fair promoters and powerful gallery owners. The digital age is spawning creators who choose to be defined by their creativity more than their skills. The negligible incubation time of digital art has enabled experimentation at staggering levels. Just a few minutes of browsing on the online art community, DeviantArt, is enough to gauge the scope of what digital art can achieve.

Sure enough, in the 21st century, entire creative industries are getting democratised like never before. Take photography, for example. Digital photography enabled everyone to capture a memory, and then convert it into personalised artwork with a plethora of editing options. Apps like Instagram reduced the learning curve even further with its set of filters that could lend character to even unremarkable snaps. Prisma further helped to make photos look like paintings, shaving off several more steps in the editing process. Now, yet another industry is showing similar signs of disruption – videography.

Once burdened by unreliable film, bulky cameras and prohibitive production costs, videography is now accessible to anyone with a smartphone and a decent Internet bandwidth. A lay person casually using social media today has so many video types and platforms to choose from - looping Vine videos, staccato Musical.lys, GIFs, Instagram stories, YouTube channels and many more. Videos are indeed fast emerging as the next front of expression online, and so are the digital solutions to support video creation.

One such example is Vizmato, an app which enables anyone with a smartphone to create professional-looking videos minus the learning curve required to master heavy, desktop software. It makes it easy to shoot 720p or 1080p HD videos with a choice of more than 40 visual effects. This fuss- free app is essentially like three apps built into one - a camcorder with live effects, a feature-rich video editor and a video sharing platform.

With Vizmato, the creative process starts at the shooting stage itself as it enables live application of themes and effects. Choose from hip hop, noir, haunted, vintage and many more.

The variety of filters available on Vizmato
The variety of filters available on Vizmato

Or you can simply choose to unleash your creativity at the editing stage; the possibilities are endless. Vizmato simplifies the core editing process by making it easier to apply cuts and join and reverse clips so your video can flow exactly the way you envisioned. Once the video is edited, you can use a variety of interesting effects to give your video that extra edge.

The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.
The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.

You can even choose music and sound effects to go with your clip; there’s nothing like applause at the right moment, or a laugh track at the crack of the worst joke.

Or just annotated GIFs customised for each moment.

Vizmato is the latest offering from Global Delight, which builds cross-platform audio, video and photography applications. It is the Indian developer that created award-winning iPhone apps such as Camera Plus, Camera Plus Pro and the Boom series. Vizmato is an upgrade of its hugely popular app Game Your Video, one of the winners of the Macworld Best of Show 2012. The overhauled Vizmato, in essence, brings the Instagram functionality to videos. With instant themes, filters and effects at your disposal, you can feel like the director of a sci-fi film, horror movie or a romance drama, all within a single video clip. It even provides an in-built video-sharing platform, Popular, to which you can upload your creations and gain visibility and feedback.


So, whether you’re into making the most interesting Vines or shooting your take on Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’, experience for yourself how Vizmato has made video creation addictively simple. Android users can download the app here and iOS users will have their version in January.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Vizmato and not by the Scroll editorial team.