I had always intended for Bawdi to be a feature film
Directed by Vivek Soni as his diploma film at Whistling Woods International, Bawdi is a beautiful story set against the background of drought-ridden unrest in rural Rajasthan. Screened at more than 10 international film festivals, Bawdi also won an award for the best student film at the Delhi International Film Festival 2012. It has now found its footing on the big screen as part of Chaar Cutting, a compilation of four short movies, released on 29th May.
How did you conceptualize Bawdi?
It all started with an article I came across about a place called Kaladera about 240 kms from Jaipur. Kaladera was declared over exploited in ’98 by the Central Ground Water Board. And in ’99 itself, Coca Cola built a bottling plant in Kaladera and it baffles me how the government allowed it at all. This story really fascinated me and I made my way there to talk to the locals and realised that even now, the plant is functioning! Being from Rajasthan, I wanted to be the one to tell this story. I weaved a love story with this issue in the backdrop and that is how the concept fell into place.
How was the movie financed?
Whistling Woods was the financier since it was my diploma film. The process is exactly like it is in the industry. You have to pitch your script and propose a budget and on the basis of your presentation and requirements of the shoot, you get your funding.
What were the challenges you faced during your four-day shoot?
Being a diploma film, the shoot for Bawdi came with a lot of parameters and rules. Going up to Rajasthan to shoot wasn’t an option since we had only 4 days to wrap up. We did our recce on different locations in Nashik and identified places we could pass off as Rajasthan.
Interestingly, the most challenging aspect was that there was no water at the location! We hadn’t faced this issue during the recce. Because of this, our whole schedule went for a toss. The shoot which had to start at 7am would start around 2-3 pm. Everybody was hassled and we experienced the movie’s theme of water scarcity a little too realistically. Fortunately, before the shoot I visited the location with my DOP and sound guy and the storyboard was completely ready with each shot planned.
Making a short film comes with its own restraints, the most binding one being the length of the film. How do you satisfactorily tell your story in less than the usual 150 minutes?
Every story has its own way of being told. There are only few kinds of stories that can be portrayed in the short film format and there are quite a few things to be kept in mind. There cannot be much time spent on setting the story or adding sub-plots and the conflict has to arrive much sooner. There is absolutely no time to waste and each aspect has to be minimised. Often during the making or after, the filmmaker realises that the conflict is not making the desired impact and the film should probably have been a feature. So, the screenplay has to be written accordingly.
How did you become a part of Chaar Cutting and what was your initial reaction when you got to know you’re going to be a part of it?
Mr. Ranjan Singh, Head of Marketing at Phantom Films, had seen my film and really liked it. Later, when he was working with Jamuura on the short films, he asked me to be a part of it. It is a moment of elation to know that your short film is going to get a theatrical release. I had never imagined it for Bawdi. I’ve been to a few film festivals and was happy with the audience’s reactions. The release just feels like a complete bonus.
How do the dynamics change when four films of different genres come together in one film?
When short stories of different genres come together for a movie, the movie becomes a complete package and the audience experiences a roller coaster of emotions. There is full entertainment and everyone’s interests are catered to. At the same time, the concept can also backfire because when four different movies are screened back to back, each one is not able to make the desired impact. The mood set by one film may get contradicted by the next one and the audience’s experience may get hampered.
How has the support of PVR Director’s Rare changed things for your film?
PVR Director’s Rare is a great initiative. They are being very bold to promote shorts and indie features that would not have received a theatrical release otherwise. The audience is being introduced to a new format of filmmaking and this awareness is much needed for short films. For me, it has presented a great opportunity. Chaar Cutting has been released in six cities when I never even thought Bawdi would go beyond my friends and family. Watching your movie on the big screen is the best thing imaginable.
How has your tryst with fame been at the film festivals?
Unfortunately I could not attend all the festivals due to my work schedule at the time but all of them offered great exposure to Bawdi. Apart from the diverse and interesting feedback we received from the audience, festivals also turned out to be crucial for networking. Once your film is showcased at a festival, it takes off on a journey of its own. There are other festival programmers present who may invite you to screen your movie at their festivals and there are filmmakers of all nationalities present. It is a very informative experience and also a great PR opportunity that should not be missed. And if you can win an award, then nothing like it.
Are there any projects in the pipeline?
I had always intended for Bawdi to be a feature film and had written the script accordingly. There are still a lot of sub-plots and angles that I wish to develop on. Which is why I made this short film, so that I will be able to give everybody an idea of what I have in mind when I pitch it for a feature. So I’m looking out for funding for that. I am also simultaneously working on two other scripts. The first one is Gheesu Laal about a folk brass band musician suffering from a gradual loss of hearing yet harbouring a dream to make it big. The other one is Turtuk ka Taufa which charts the journey of an illiterate villager from the hinterland of Rajasthan to Kashmir that fascinates him but belies his expectations and renders a life changing experience. I’m currently figuring out how to take them forward.