Mass Romantic

: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Development


When a mathematician races to save 20,000 Indian films from extinction, he reveals how culture is lost—and found—in the digital age.


India’s ongoing transition into the digital age has caused its analog film economy to collapse, resulting in the greatest cinematic extinction event in history. “Mass Romantic” follows an eccentric math scholar-turned-archivist, who rallies local scientists, educators, and the last stewards of celluloid to find, preserve, and restore every last artifact of local cinema left in the country. In the process, this unlikely group of preservationists finds that their motivations are held together by a radical idea: that every life deserves a place in human history.


In 2005, one of my best friends invited me to a Bollywood 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 two-bedroom house in South Berkeley.

Sitting next to a cage holding two rabbits on one side of the living room, we were greeted by a mathematics 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 Shah Rukh Khan, I realized how narrow my own cultural path was.

Over the years, I would see this man every now and then, typically over a plate of Chinese or Indian food and a rapid-fire discussion of whatever film he’d just seen. In 2015 I learned that he had moved to India, ostensibly to work in mathematics but surely to affix himself to whatever local film projectors remained. Having always pictured him as a fan, I was stunned when he told me that he was fighting carpal tunnel syndrome—the result of writing too many e-mails to fellow academics and die-hards invested in his progress. The more questions I asked about his work, the more I realized that I was speaking with someone who had finally found his calling.

I’ve long been invested in how the systems we live in dictate the circumstances—and the historicity—of our 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 modern India, I intend to make a social and financial impact through the distribution of this story. I will use the documentary to support future fundraising and publicity efforts at restoring the films saved, then making them available for research and enjoyment. Recalling the roles that archives and fandom played in my life on the day that a South Asian film broadened my cultural path, I will ensure that “Mass Romantic” helps sustain a similar resource for less privileged moviegoers across the world.


James Boo - Producer and Director

A Just Films Fellow at the Made in NY Media Center by IFP, James delivers documentaries that make a social impact through strategic partnership. His recent fellowship work transformed a local documentary web series (“1 Minute Meal”) into a well publicized trans-media experience, with 6 partner organizations, a dedicated museum exhibit, and over a quarter million online video views. He draws from 5 years of experience producing short documentaries and reporting long-form non-fiction, as well as 10 years of experience managing complex, international teams delivering products at the intersection of story, education, and technology.

James is also a champion for inclusion in front of and behind the camera. He writes and speaks transparently in the press and in social media discourse about the culture and the processes that enable diversity.

Mihika Mirchandani - Advisor

Based in Mumbai, Mihika has worked for seven years in digital publishing and non-profit communications management. She specializes in producing multimedia narratives, and is currently producing a feature-length, social impact documentary about the harmful impact of congenital tongue tie among newborn children. She is also managing an online crowdfunding campaign for the same project to fundraise for basic research and awareness of this issue, which can present tremendous obstacles to families in India and abroad.

Mihika has direct experience behind the camera and managing multi-location budgets with sensitive heritage materials, demonstrating the kind of leadership and experience that “Mass Romantic” requires to succeed.

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 a second-year graduate student of journalism at New York University, where she’s deepening 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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