By Arun Fulara. Posted on August 05, 2016
Every artist charts his own trajectory. She may not be in control of the universe - who is? – but can surely choose how to react to whatever is thrown her way. Rejection is a constant companion for those who choose the road less taken.
Devashish Makhija has had his fair share over the years. The talented writer-director who started his career assisting Anurag Kashyap in Black Friday & then worked on Shaad Ali’s comic caper Bunty aur Babli, made his feature debut with Oonga, a film few have seen. Many of his subsequent projects failed to either take off or got shelved.
But Makhija refused to let go & like a true artist, has found ways to keep his creativity burning. This excerpt from his bio on IMDB shows his versatility – He has written numerous screenplays, notably Avik Mukherjee's 'Bhoomi' and Anurag Kashyap's 'Doga'; has had a solo art show 'Occupying Silence'; written Tulika's bestselling children's books 'When Ali became Bajrangbali' and 'Why Paploo was perplexed' and a Harper-Collins collection of short stories 'Forgetting'. He has also written 'By Two', a story featured in the omnibus 'Mumbai Noir'.
But what has caught everyone’s attention is his work in the short film space. 4 high quality short films in a year are a testimony to his drive to share stories that affect him. And the response to these films show that the films have affected thousands of people across the world.
This is the great joy of democratization of the process of filmmaking. It has helped storytellers like Makhija make films like ABS NT – a single take film where a man condemned to death speaks of his love & fear for his daughter, Taandav – which explores the psychological violence that the ‘city’ inflicts on its inhabitants, El'Ayichi – which has a dead husband who refuses to leave his wife & Agli Baar - a film that shows a mirror to a society increasingly divided along communal lines.
Each of his films is unique in its own way. While short films have come of age in India in the last few years, there are very few, who are using the freedom the medium gives to express their vision. Makhija is one of the few who’s been doing just that.
The tremendous success that his short films have had in the festival circuit - there have already been retrospectives of his short films - has led many to ask him to share his scripts & his approach to the medium. We are glad he chose us to release these scripts to the world. Along with the above four, he’s also shared the script of his pithy short, Rahim Murge Pe Mat Ro - the autobiography of a dead rooster and his death by halaal, recounted by him, from beyond the grave.
Having learnt on the job, he says, “it always helped me to join the invisible dots between films and their pre-shoot scripts. That was my only self-imposed film education.”
It’s almost a standard practice for studios in Hollywood to share their scripts online once the film is out & you can find the script of any of your favourite films online. Sadly that doesn’t happen in India although a few filmmakers are adopting this practice.
What’s different about these scripts is that these are actually the scripts he used to shoot from, not the transcripts of the finished film. This, he says, is more useful to a film student, since, “it helps understand the transition from the finished draft to the film. Scenes get left out. Lines get changed. New moments are created on set. An approach was flipped around entirely. All of that happened with all the five films above. Yet the finished film was very close in spirit to the final script.”
Having made these films, he doesn't believe there's any formula to making short films. "I try and control my storytelling but one half of me is always open to some bit of it getting turned around completely. What is most empowering about shorts is that there's no audience expectations. They want to be surprised. With every short I am trying to reinvent myself, what new thing can I do this time?"
The use of masks in Taandav is a good example of this approach. The masks were not written in the script but a few days before the shoot he came across these masks and decide to use them in the film, and the masks eventually became a motif in the film for the violence that surrounds us on a daily basis.
As final words of advice to fellow filmmakers, he says "If you are looking at cinema as a medium of expression, you have no option but to make short films."
Here are the scripts. You may have to login to Scribd to read them. Read, learn, share. :-)