The main idea was to take the film to the audience
Without A Notch of Blue started as a mere story but had the potential to be explored and thus was too form as a short film. Filmmaker Sumantra Roy talks about the genesis of the film’s idea, the journey of making this film and the significance of having a medium like Fliqvine that is an online platform for indie films and filmmakers.
How did the inception of Without a Notch of Blue happen?
It was around 2004 – 2005 that I wrote this short story that was published in some magazine. At that time I didn’t have the desire to make a film on it. Around five years later, when I read the story again, I thought it had the potential to be made into a short film. That was probably in 2010. The film took another three years to happen. So the short story that I’d first written and the film that I finally made in 2013 are not the same. Naturally I have changed a lot in this time so the story and the film are quite different. In the story, the character of the girl is more prominent. Whereas in the film, though the girl is still the diving force, the film is more to do with the couple and not her alone.
Was it a natural choice to make a film in Bengali?
The story has a lot to do with the city that I’ve experienced in my life. It has a lot to do with Kolkata where I was born and brought up. So it was a natural choice.
Would this be your first film? Do you have a background in filmmaking?
This isn’t really my first film but it is the first that I sent to festivals. Previously I’ve made a few films but just showed them to friends or sent them to some local screenings and festivals. This is the first film that I have sent to international films.
I do have formal training in the field. I did my MA in Film Studies post which I did a 3-year Diploma in Film and Video Editing. I still work as an Editor.
The film was shot over a span of three nights. Was it a paucity of budget that led to such a tight schedule?
The story was about one night. And we shot it over three nights. The film was made in almost no budget so we had certain constraints. We had a very tight schedule and could shoot only in the night.
Why did you set the story in the night? Also how did you shoot the film and manage the finances?
It’s a self-funded film. The camera work was done by a friend of mine and it was his own camera, a Canon 7D. I really enjoy the night-time. I’ve been through many places of the city at night and am very familiar with them. When I was writing the story, I wasn’t particular about the places because in a story you can afford to not be particular. But the moment you think of making a film then it has to be more concrete. What places you want, what looks you want and so on. When I started thinking about the film, there were certain spaces that came to my mind. These places have a lot to do with the city of my childhood and again, these are places that I’m familiar with.
Wasn’t it challenging to shoot at night?
It was challenging because we didn’t have any lights. We had to shoot everything in natural light. For that we had to do a recce of the places and see where the street lights would naturally fall, where the characters would stand etc. While making such a film you can either make a set, decide exactly where the tables will be, where the chairs will be placed and then shoot. Or you can leave the place as it is and use the camera to choose the best angles that you want. Most of the times we did the second thing. For example, we didn’t hamper the naturality of the factory where we shot and kept it as is.
You’ve also acted in your film. Was there any rehearsal or did you’ll go with spontaneity? What did you enjoy more – being in front of the camera or behind it?
We did rehearse for a day or two before the shoot. I hated being in front of the camera. And I don’t think I would want to stand in front ever again (laughs). I salute the people who do it. But for me that was another compromise of an independent film. I never really thought of acting in it but we had a lot of problem in finding the kind of guy we were looking for, so I decided to do it myself.
But the biggest problem I faced was that we didn’t have much time nor did we have a monitor to see how the frames are looking. I didn’t know what I should be more bothered about – I was acting, keeping track of my movements, my dialogues and at the same time I was thinking of whether the tracking would be right, the panning was fine etc. I felt like I should be behind the camera rather than in front of it. If I wasn’t the director, maybe I would have been more relaxed.
As an indie filmmaker, are there any specific factors that one needs to keep in mind while making a film?
The most important thing is to be flexible. We didn’t have control over the situation in many instances so you have to be open to alternatives. Since you can’t stage and control everything that is happening around you, you have to be able to change according to the situation.
How does it feel to have a medium like Fliqvine showcase your film?
I think it’s very important especially in India because there are no dedicated platform here for short films, long indie films and even documentaries. Abroad you could have 24-hour documentary channel and there is a wider scope but I don’t see such a thing happening in India. These are films that are not made for money but the entire aim is that people get to see these films. I did not send my film to Venice or Cannes or Berlin but sent them to some underground film festival and the likes. The main idea was to take my film to the audience. And I think for that a platform like Fliqvine is very important.
What other projects are you working on?
I am currently working on another short film. The film is about a middle aged, 50-year-old video game addict and how the virtual and real world start getting mixed up in his mind.