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August 14, 1999


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'Even The Earthquakes Have Stopped'

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Kamla Bhatt in Palo Alto

Bungaboo 'Bugaboo! Bugaboo! Bugaboo!' shouted a man, running around the car park and flapping his arms up and down as if wanting to break free from his sheltered and cocooned life in a .com company in the Silicon Valley.

Perhaps, screaming at the top of his voice was his way of adding spice to his life. This was the reaction of a person, probably a software engineer, after watching the premier of Bugaboo at the Spangenberg Theatre in Palo Alto Thursday night.

Other viewers did not join him and caper around in high spirits. Instead we were our reserved, restrained, staid selves and just mumbled, "Good movie, what?" The film struck a chord in almost everybody who watched it and they generally agreed it is a "good film."

'Hilarious' and 'light and funny', were some of the other comments.

This is the first time a full-length movie has been made by Indians working in Silicon Valley. The color feature film in 16mm was made by young Indian engineers parodying their enviable life-style in the Silicon Valley.

Bungaboo Its central premise is that life for many male software engineers in the Silicon Valley is not filled with excitement and angst but instead it is a predictable, monotonous existence.

Life for them is neatly divided into segments: science in plus two, engineering school, first job, H1B, parents visit the US, vacation to India and come back with wife in tow, green card, start-up company, make your millions in that ubiquitous .com company that dot the valley and buy a home, preferably in Mission Hills in Fremont. Oh! Let us not forget that those precious Costco and AAA cards!

Raised eyebrows usually greet any deviation from this formula. This predictability, this monotony is a logical conclusion of a life that is ("was" after seeing the film?) governed by rules and norms and expectations of the family and society.

There is no rich complexity, no great nadirs and zeniths in this kind of existence and like the protagonist of the film Bapu remarks, "Even the earthquakes have stopped." The San Francisco Bay area is an earthquake prone zone and a mild tremor every now and then is a part of everyday life here.

Bungaboo The story revolves round three software engineers: Mohandas aka Bapu (Sujit Saraf); Arvind (Mahesh Umasankar) and Keshav (Amit Nanavati) who have made it in the Silicon Valley. But Bapu is dissatisfied with this existence and questions if this is what life amounts to in the Silicon Valley. He seeks the help of a "professional life randomizer" (Rajeev Neema) who adds "bugs" in the mind that causes worry or fear and jolts them out of their placid, uneventful life. But, predictably they ultimately solve their problems through simple solutions or "patches" if you will to use the technical parlance of the Valley.

Bugaboo was made for $ 21,000, a small amount even by independent movie standards. Initially, when the film-makers were looking for sponsors, a potential offered to sponsor them, "provided we make it like a regular Hindi film with a love story theme with the song and dance routine," Neema dryly pointed out.

"In order to maintain total artistic control over the film, we decided to self-fund the movie," added Ramavarjula, who was involved in the production side of the film.

"We wrote about what we know best: that is about our life style as engineers in the Valley," remarked Umasankar.

"That is why there are no women in the film," chorused Lalitha Rajagoplan and Bharathi. Now, that is a telling comment since many of the successful engineers perceive themselves as socially inept.

The movie is the creation of about 15 people. Kris Falk scored the background music. The film is co-written by Sujit Saraf and Sanjay Rajagopalan and directed by Sujit Saraf, and Srikar Srinath, Tony Sehgal and Lalitha Rajagopalan were in charge of sound. Not bad for a bunch of techie geeks with a deep interest in theatre, who shot the film over six weekends in various locations in the Bay Area. Their only hands-on experience was in staging about six odd Hindi plays in the Bay Area under the aegis of their theatre company, Natak.

The film-makers, whose average age is 28 years, were unfazed by their inexperience. "Since we are trained as engineers, it is easy for us to break a complex task into sections and go about doing it methodically," Umashankar said.

Bungaboo The only trained person in the entire film crew was Tony Sehgal, a Stanford trained cinematographer.

"The film captured everything that we all have been privately thinking about. Life here is like living in the center of the eye of the storm. Just like the eye of the storm is calm, life out here is calm. There is nothing exciting happening, there is no glitz or glamour here," said Priya Vijayan, a software engineer in the Valley.

"I lived by rules and can identify with Arvind," said Harsha, another software engineer. "The film very accurately portrayed the lives of Indian immigrants in the valley. Each one of us has some regret at not having done a daring deed in our youth -- be it chasing girls or joining the army or smoking pot or pursuing sport," he added.

Pramod Krishnan, a sales and marketing professional and a newbie to the Valley, agreed with Harsha. He said: "It was a true reflection of many of my friends who live here."

The movie has definitely piqued the interest of many people here. Articles about it have appeared in such mainstream publications as San Jose Mercury News.

Bungaboo The film-makers exhibited the Valley's start-up mentality by making this film and the question now in many people's mind is: Will there be a sequel to it? Will they show Bharat Bazaar and the Kmart near Halford Avenue?

But right now the film-makers are looking for distributors so that the film reaches a wider audience.

"We are going to limit the number of shows since we are looking for a distributor," said Umasankar, adding that there would be just a handful of shows for the public.

The film will be shown in Spangenberg Theatre, 780 Arastradero Road Palo Alto, CA 94306, on Saturday, August 14 1999, 7 pm, 9:30 pm and August 15 at 6 and 8 30 pm. $ 7 per ticket.

Contact: Srikar Srinath, (650) 917-1377; Mahesh Umasankar (510) 795-2726; Lalitha Rajagopalan, For more information check out the Website that almost crashed their ISP's server at


Now, they've shot themselves!

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