A celebration of life laced with innocence: Neha Sharma on Vaibhavi
One woman, one heartfelt desire and only one person that can fulfill it; Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This interesting premise forms the crux of Neha Sharma’s short film Vaibhavi. The film that received a Letter of Appreciation from the Tribal Ministry of the Maharashtra Government is inspired by a true incident. Neha, who left the corporate chaos to chase her writing and filmmaking dreams, tells us more about the making of Vaibhavi and what makes this film so special.
Vaibhavi is said to be inspired by a true incident. What was it about this incident that encouraged you to make a film around it?
It was somewhere around last year when one fine morning, I read about this incident on a portal. To begin with, it felt feel-good, news that brought a smile to my face, something nice to begin one’s day with. But the news lingered in my mind for days altogether. Curiosity led me to places and I decided to speak to the couple in question. Once I had a conversation with Vibha, I felt there was more to her than what met the eye! Her innocence and naivety were interestingly the driving factors that I thought must be captured in the form of a film. During our conversations, I realized she has struck a fine balance between staying content with what life has to offer and strive for more – reviving her professional aspirations when the time is more appropriate. There was no sign of aggression (in her) that we associate modern day feminists with but a quiet, calm resolve with which she is inching further in her life.
Here was someone who decided to fulfill her heartfelt desire and truly went by her instinct in oblivion to the ‘realities’ of the world, which would have filled her mind with doubts and uncertainties about approaching the PM of the country.
The film urges us to not underestimate those whom we consider unequal or abandon our own desires for lack of belief in oneself
How did you go about getting in touch with the couple involved? What was it that you learned/ understood through your interactions?
A colleague who hailed from U.P. helped me locate the couple’s whereabouts and I had telephonic chats with them thereafter.
After learning about Vibha’s simplistic approach towards life while she carried a handful of desires, I realized that very often, we dismiss a person, especially, the one belonging to the comparatively lower income group of the society and term him innocuous. Little do we realize that a person who seems insignificant or ‘one of the lot’ can sometimes achieve in his/her innocence what others cannot in their supposed knowledge or the expertise they exhibit. Vibha’s progressive outlook mirrors that of many aspiring women of the country who are enthusiastic about their future, wish to create differences in their lives but remain hesitant out of imaginary fears. I felt no woman should be underestimated depending on her social/financial background or the constraints she may be facing in her life.
As a person, she is an innocent satisfied soul who never misses a chance to tease her husband about nicknaming their baby ‘Sarphiri’ (crazy girl) even before the child was born!
The film captures Vibha’s thoughtful moves towards achieving her dream while reflecting upon her introspective musings in moments of solitude.
I was very particular about casting theatre actors as they make more serious performers who would immerse themselves in their characters
Tell us about the casting process. What brief did you give your actors to recreate those same emotions as the couple?
Casting process – sounds fancy! For a first time filmmaker, I wish I was spoilt for choices! Alas! Well, one has to be instinctive with a script like this. I mostly went by the recommendations of my writer and director friends. I was very particular about casting theatre actors as they make more serious performers who would immerse themselves in their characters.
We held script readings in quieter corners of different cafés in the city and that’s how I zeroed down upon the two actors I was looking for. Apart from giving basic information about the characters’ demographics, their social-financial backgrounds and their aspirations, I left it upon the actors to perform however they liked. I wished to see what they had absorbed from the screenplay and how they wished to portray the real life couple. In our script readings and rehearsals, I would watch them purely from the audience point of view and I wondered if it filled me with the same empathy and awe that I would like my audience to be filled with. In the end, I feel they have done a fine job!
What would you say is the objective of this film?
Vaibhavi is a celebration of life laced with innocence! While the film celebrates the fulfillment of Vibha’s dream, it also urges us to not underestimate those whom we consider unequal to us or abandon our own desires for lack of belief in oneself.
I was skeptical about people reacting to the film as merely good PR for the ruling party. I am glad this hasn’t happened. In the film, the couple and the PM stand at the extreme ends of the spectrum, crossing their paths owing to Vibha’s desire fulfilled by careful contribution by the country’s Prime Minister.
I realized Vibha has struck a fine balance between staying content with what life has to offer and strive for more
Could you throw light on the release plan of the film, will it travel to festivals, have an online release?
The film is currently traveling to various festivals. Let’s see how it is received. After it does the rounds, I shall be planning for an online release with an appropriate digital film channel.
Lastly, tell us about your foray into filmmaking, have you always wanted to be a filmmaker?
I am a techie-turned-writer. I had an extensive career in the corporate world before filmmaking happened. From writing diaries as a school girl to freelancing for The Indian Express during college, I knew my career had to revolve around writing. I spent years in corporates of various national and international repute, handling Technical Documentation, Pre-Sales and Product Management. I was working for a European bank and used to reside in Denmark. I must admit I was in a very happy space professionally! However, that’s when I realized if I had to make a transition, it had to be now!
As a writer, you can have opinions and interesting ideas (concepts, screenplays) that help you voice those opinions. However, filmmaking (its technicalities, industry dynamics) was an unexplored territory that is slowly unfolding for me with Vaibhavi’.
As for my experience coming from a well-organized corporate life into the B-town jungle, let’s keep it as another story (smiles).