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How I made it: The Lift Boy (2019)

The Lift Boy is a coming of age story of a 24-year-old vagabond who is forced to work at a posh building in Mumbai as a Lift Boy when his bread-winning father falls ill.

107mins | English & Hindi | Comedy-Drama, Feel-Good, Coming of Age | 2019 | India | U/A & PG-13

Through this slice of life story, we see the protagonist Raju go through 4 phases- denial, acceptance, evolution & mastery. The film teaches us that life is like a Lift, sometimes it takes us up & sometimes it takes us down, depending on the buttons we press aka choices we make. Throughout the story we see Raju discover life & himself based on the various choices he makes.

In its persistent mission and zeal to promote good cinema, Diorama brings you the experience of Director and Producer of the film - Jonathan Augustin.

Why this subject matter for your film?

The film metaphorically expresses the fact that there is a lift boy in each one of us and that life is like a lift, sometimes it takes us up & sometimes it takes us down depending on the buttons we press aka choices we make.

The film celebrates dignity of labour, a strong universal father-son relationship and strives to show the world an aspirational and inspirational India (Poverty with Panache).

This subject felt apt for the turbulent and emotionally drained out times we live in. It's a Happy Film that will Lift your Spirits! We need films that raise Happiness Quotient.

Fact Check: The female lead Nyla Masood is a non-actor and was discovered in a Mumbai shopping mall.

Where did you find this story for this film?

THE LIFT BOY is inspired by life in Mumbai and an encounter of mine with a real-life Lift Boy on 4th March 2015.

What were the challenges you faced in making the film?

THE LIFT BOY was financed by my home production CAROLINE PICTURES. The capital was my personal funds and money borrowed at 18% interest. So it was important for us to be able to service the debt on time. Making the film was fun & creatively liberating. Recovering costs and servicing the debt on time was an uphill battle.

Did you face any problems in releasing the film?

Promotions, Publicity & Marketing are a big obstacle primarily due to lack of budgets. This also affects the showcasing of the film in theatres.

What was your background before making your first film?

I come from a background of advertising, startup entrepreneurship & have worked as an assistant director.

How do you think filmmakers like you can overcome common challenges like finance and distribution?

It's paramount that filmmakers understand the commerce side of the art. One option - is you put your own money into your movies and the only person you are answerable to is yourself. To raise funds from investors or companies you need to have a business plan clearing articulating the following - USP, Commercial Viability, Timelines, Budget, ROI, Break-Even Point, Go to Market Strategy. For distribution, it's vital for filmmakers to forecast their ticket sales and draft an exhibition strategy based on that. If you are only going to sell 15,000 tickets at the India Box Office you need only 5-10 theatres to do that. Plan and execute your theatrical accordingly. Filmmakers need to start thinking like entrepreneurs.

Find the film on Netflix:

The film had its limited-edition Indian theatrical release on 18th Jan 2019 with houseful shows. In addition, the film released theatrically in UAE on 18th April and in theatres across Taiwan on 2nd August 2019, successfully completing 3 Weeks in Taiwan. THE LIFT BOY was later acquired by Channel 4 UK. On 3rd April 2020, Netflix acquired the worldwide streaming rights.

How to reach Jonathan Augustin

Insta: @theliftboy @jonathanaugustin


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