Recently I was blown over an ad 'film' that crossed all records in the ad viewing history of sorts. I am talking about the ad that was made for a brand called Anouk, and even though it had three parts to it, the story that got most talked about was titled The Visit, that featured a young couple who were about to meet the parents, only, in this case, the couple happened to be of the same sex - lesbians. And we all know what 'that' does to our society. I loved the ad, especially as I have always supported the freedom of sexual choices in adults, and have believed that love should not be chained down to age, gender and other such unnecessary words or social barriers. In case you haven't seen the ad yet or are not sure about what I'm saying here, check it out HERE
The ad was actually an online release that was made in the form of a short story, and yes, it was made beautifully, nothing crass or unpalatable about it, and thankfully not made in a way in which many of our Bollywood pieces have 'generalized' and depicted females in same sex relationships. Both the girls in this ad were feminine, and there was no deliberate attempt to give one the 'male' identity as part of a couple.
I did write a lot about the ad, and that is how the director of the ad series, Shamik Sen Gupta, got in touch with me. If you would like to read the review of a few short series I loved, including the Anouk one, you can do it HERE
Shamik was kind enough to share some of his works for my viewing, and I was blown by the beauty in his story telling. I loved it, and again, as I have said earlier, I felt really sad that we, as audiences who would love to see more of such stories, are never given a chance to experience them on the big screen. That is what started our chat and discussion, and here is a look at what I talked to Shamik about his story telling and with Pallavi, his co-director for the short film Playground.
Debo: How come the interest in 'shorts'? Did you always want to get into the crisper version of story telling or is it a stepping stone to lengthier versions of the same?
PALLAVI: Short is a challenging form of storytelling. It is as difficult or easy as features. But short films are economically easier to make. I am interested in both formats as a storyteller.
SHAMIK: Shorts are a form of films in their own right. Apart from a structure and grammar which is different from a full length feature, it also offers immense freedom especially in the new digital cinema age. That said, its also an extremely challenging form - especially when the ambition of most shorts is to find its way into festivals, in front of a discerning audience of cinephiles and jury. Apart from that, shorts are a great way to prepare oneself towards longer formats of storytelling.
Debo: When did you first come up with a short film and what was it about?
PALLAVI: This is the first short fiction film that I've (co) written and directed. I've worked as an assistant for a couple of feature films and as an actor in a couple of films. Before this I've made a student short called 'Skin' along with my classmate Sophia Bosch. 'Skin' held a microscopic mirror to the beauty treatments that the skin is regularly subjected to. After a filmmaking course in Sweden and Bengaluru, my friend Shamik Sen Gupta and I founded a media outfit- Sweet Spot Pvt Limited. Our first project was a documentary- 'Bookshelves at 17000 ft.' that follows an NGO that's setting up libraries in government schools in Ladakh.
SHAMIK: I started making films in 2011, with Zinfandel, my first short film – which is about the life of a home delivery kid and his voyeuristic tendencies as he goes around a housing complex delivering stuff. Beyond that I have directed several short films, documentaries and ad films. My list of other short films include – In a Flash (2013), Bookshelves at 17000 Feet (2013), Playgrounds (2015) and the Anouk Series (2015).
Debo: As a movie maker, do you see the Indian audience open to short films yet? Or is there more interest in the international audience for the kind of work you do?
PALLAVI: I definitely see a growth in the number of short films that are being made, and a rise in the attendance to short film festivals. But I guess in our country, it will always be a niche audience that will like, view and encourage short films. Our audiences still have to warm up to non-commercial formats of storytelling. World over, the short film format has seen a steady rise in audience. The biggest challenge for short films is exhibition. I guess now with more and more people opting to get their entertainment from the net (net series, internet releases etc) short films too have a chance of being showcased and presented as sale-able content.
SHAMIK: The Internet savvy audiences in India have access to short films, more than ever. Though, the same audiences are fed and brought up on a diet of formula feature fare. So their expectations from a short are not always aligned to the visions of independent short film-makers. Similarly, emerging short filmmakers delving into this new form have a long way to go compared to world standards. We often see filmmakers going gaga in social media about their making it to the Cannes Short Film Corner. Though this is no small feat, Cannes Short Film corner is just a showcase of shorts from around the world – but selection in that section is not the same as being accepted in the Cannes Court Metrage, the actual short film festival. The standards of the Cannes festival and all international festivals of similar repute are very high, and we Indian filmmakers have a long way to go before we become festival staples.