• Saturday, July 13, 2024


Elliott Gonzo: We want ‘Tight’ to be embraced by Indian audiences

 The uplifting documentary film following a young bodybuilder from South India, as he prepares for a national championship, shines a fascinating light on an increasingly popular sport.

A still from the movie ‘Tight: The World of Indian Bodybuilding’

By: Asjad Nazir

A MAJOR highlight from this year’s London Indian Film Festival is the world premiere of Tight: The World of Indian Bodybuilding. 

 The uplifting documentary film following a young bodybuilder from South India, as he prepares for a national championship, shines a fascinating light on an increasingly popular sport. It also looks at the rapidly changing Indian society and rise of female bodybuilders. The inspiring film has been directed by London based filmmaker Elliott Gonzo and adds to his diverse body of work. Eastern Eye caught up with him to discuss his powerful film.

What inspired you to make a film on Indian bodybuilding?  

The team and I have a lot of love for India, and we wanted to find a story to tell out there. Before starting this project, we had no knowledge of bodybuilding, but were fascinated by the exploding culture and wanted to find out more. We love documentaries for this very reason, as they allow us to explore subcultures, meet amazing people, tell their stories, and find out why they do what they do.  

Tell us about the film. 

  I made this film to learn and explore. I wanted to bring the audience with us on our journey to meet these amazing giants and follow them through the competitions. Along the way we meet their friends and families and learn their stories, while also showing how fantastic and beautiful India is. The whole thing is tied together with an amazing original score by Sarathy Korwar, who has given the film a real stylish identity.  

How did you find the young bodybuilder central to this documentary? 

 We met Aji while staying in Tamil Nadu and decided to shoot some video and photos. After becoming friends and realising how charismatic Aji and Chandru (his trainer) are, we decided to document his journey. We returned to film a competition, and then came back a year later for more when we learned that Aji had qualified for Mr India.  

Did you learn anything new while making this film?  

This is a film made by four friends who discovered the story as they went along. We learned everything as we went. We had never made a feature documentary before, and quickly realised that the best way to learn is to dive in and make all the mistakes. And we certainly made a lot of mistakes along the way. Shooting with minimal kit and a skeleton crew of just three people allowed us to make a feature with a microscopic budget. As we were entirely self-funded, we realised that if the crew couldn’t fit in an autorickshaw it was too big, and we’ve maintained that mindset ever since.  

Who do you hope this film appeals to?  

I hope people understand this isn’t just a film for bodybuilding nerds. It’s about family, friendship, and ambition. I hope it appeals to a more worldly crowd.  

feature ElliottGonzo Headshot copy
Elliott Gonzo

What is your own favourite moment in the movie?  

I loved following Aji on his first trip away from home – which was also his first time on a plane and first visit to North India. I find his enthusiasm infectious, and love to relive it when I watch the film.  

How do you feel being part of the London Indian Film Festival?  

Premiering at the London Indian Film Festival is the perfect place to introduce Tight to the world, and we’re honoured to be included in the selection. We made this film for everyone, but above all, we wanted Tight to be embraced by Indian audiences and hopefully offer them something new and special. We’re also massive fans of Indian cinema and have taken a huge amount of inspiration from Indian films over the years – so presenting Tight at a celebration of Indian cinema to a crowd of lovers of film is an exciting opportunity.  

What can we expect next from you?  

I’m developing new documentaries with my team. The industry is in trouble right now, but I hope to be shooting again soon. When we made Tight, we were fascinated by the stories of the female bodybuilders we met, and always hoped we would be able to do a sequel focusing solely on the female characters and their journeys. Hopefully one day, we’ll make that happen. 

 What inspires you as a filmmaker?  

I’m inspired by uncovering lesser known subcultures and communities. Documentary filmmaking is my passport to these unique worlds, allowing me to bring them to the surface and celebrate their distinctiveness. By shining a light on the unknown, I’m able to share these stories and perspectives with a wider audience. 

Tight: The World of Indian Bodybuilding premieres at BFI Southbank on Saturday (29) and Rich Mix on Sunday (30) in London. The London Indian Film Festival runs across various cities until next Sunday (7).  www.london indianfilmfestival.co.uk 

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