If a film is good, it will stand the test of time
For a long time, short filmmakers in India were relegated to the spaces of the internet for any recognition of their work, apart from travelling to various film festivals, of course. This year’s Chaar Cutting, presented by Jamuura, is set to make a headway on their exposure. Featuring well-appreciated short films by four craftsmen, Chaar Cutting, released on the 29th of May at select multiplexes.
Of the four short films is the movie Blouse by Vijayeta Kumar. Having won the Best Short Film Prize at the New York Indian Film Festival in 2014, Blouse, set against the rural backdrop traces a simple story of a husband’s gift for his wife.
What is your background in filmmaking? How did it come about?
I grew up in a small town. So films were a major part of my life, and provided the quintessential escape. My parents love films too. They used to watch the classics, Indian and Hollywood, which, as an 8 year old I found extremely boring. But slowly, I discovered the films I loved and it interested me immensely. I used to watch a lot of films, back in college. I used to direct plays too, back then, and loved the idea of writing a script and watching my characters come alive. Then in the late 90s when Bollywood became all cool and slick, I watched KKHH and I decided I wanted to make films. So I applied at Jamia’s MCRC for the post-grad course. Got accepted. Learnt some technical bits and bobs over there and then moved to Mumbai, to assist and learn the ropes.
What is Blouse all about?
Blouse is a rom-com set in a village. It’s a very simple premise. A husband has promised his wife a new blouse stitched by a famous tailor. He loses the measurements. What will he do now? It’s a story that resonates with everyone. All men and women. I know so many men who have been in similar situations, buying gifts for their wives or girlfriends. So what can you expect from it? It will make you laugh. Which, I feel the world needs more of!
It’s a movie set in rural India, with Sumeet Vyas being the only known face among the cast. What were the challenges to making a film set against the rural backdrop, and in general?
Apart from Sumeet, there’s Imran Rasheed, who is a very famous actor in the theatre circuit. Ronjini Chakraborty was a part of a popular show on Channel V called Paanch. And both she and Preeti are now part of the Anurag Basu series on Rabindra Nath Tagore’s stories.
The story is set in a village, so it made sense to shoot there. The film was shot in a small village called Meja, in Rajasthan. About 3 hours away from Udaipur. It’s a tiny village, but incredibly beautiful. It has a lake, a dam, a lovely old fort (where we stayed during the shoot.) The entire village was very excited about the shoot. They helped us in a lot of ways. In fact, all the extras you see in Blouse are the village locals.
So apart from the terrible heat (we shot in April) there were no other challenges as such. My actors and crew were amazingly sporting and supportive. So it all went off very smoothly.
What are the realities behind producing a short film? What are the logistics that go into it?
These details, you’ll have to ask my producer or the EP. I just had a good story that I took to them, and they made all the magic happen!
It’s a movie co-produced by Taxi Films, and Ranjan Singh of Phantom. What was his input to the movie like?
It’s produced by Ranjan, who got Taxi films on-board to line produce the film. He’s independently produced few shorts and worked to release/market a lot of indie films. So I knew he would help me with Blouse. There were a lot of creative inputs which were very helpful, as this was my first short. But on location, I had complete freedom to do the film the way I wanted to, with no interference at all. I just knew I had to wrap up the shoot in four days, and that was the only thing him and Mohit (of Taxi Films) were very strict about.
How receptive do you think the Indian audience is to short films as compared to the receptiveness they enjoy in the festival circuit?
Short films have become really big in this last one year. There are lots of platforms available now that facilitate screenings at various venues and help you take it to a bigger audience. I’ve been to a few of these screenings, and they have been jam packed! The fact that we even consider showing short films in theatres now is a really big leap forward. And very encouraging too. I’m thankful to Jamuura for giving us this opportunity. Really thrilled to be a part of Chaar Cutting and can’t wait to see how the audience responds to it.
Your movie is one of the four movies to be releasing as part of Chaar Cutting. Do you feel, strictly as a filmmaker, that the lack of a coherent idea between the four short films works in its favour or not? Considering feature films run with a singular plot line, in that time?
I like the fact that they are four completely different films. Why do we need a connecting theme? You sample something different with each one. Different stories, different actors, different music. We shouldn’t compare them with full length features because they are two different formats, both having their merits.
How do short film anthologies such as Chaar Cutting benefit the individual short filmmaker such as yourself?
More exposure. An opportunity to reach out to a wider audience. Meeting other very talented filmmakers.
Do you feel there is commercial satisfaction to be gained from making a short film?
I’d like to be optimistic about that one!
Would you say that short films stand the test of time as nicely as feature films manage to do?
If a film is good, short or long, they all stand the test of time. Short films are accessible online and you can watch them during a coffee break, something you can’t do with a feature. So strictly in that sense, they might be watched by a larger number of people over time.
What is the important lesson amateur short filmmakers must keep in mind before venturing to make a short film?
Work very throughly on the script and the shot divisions. You don’t have the luxury of a slow build-up. It’s a short. Take your time during pre-production if you’re not sure of something. Involve the entire team in the discussions. You’ve got a smart, professional crew and each well-formed suggestion makes a difference, especially if you’re a first timer. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Do you see yourself venturing into feature film direction soon? What are your upcoming directorial projects like?
A documentary project right now, on the redevelopment of Bhendi Bazaar. After that, maybe another short film. Some TVCs and music videos. I’m working on a feature script simultaneously. Need to speed it up somehow!