Sujoy Ghosh On Why He Made Ahalya & The Power Of Short Films!

By Srikanth Kanchinadham. Posted on July 30, 2015

While the trend of leading feature film directors making short films is not a new one internationally, it is not usual in India yet. A Martin Scorsese is still making short films with his latest short 'Audition', scheduled to premiere at Venice this year. The short film format is challenging and if done well could make the experience much more rewarding than an entire film.

And for this reason we are very enthusiastic about Indian filmmakers making short films. Sujoy Ghosh's Ahalya is one of the best short films we've seen in recent times. The film deftly subverts the ancient myth of Gautam Rishi & Ahalya.

The film has already been watched over 3 mn times on the internet. We caught up with Sujoy for his take on short films, the challenge and the thrill of making one and why internet might be the future of film distribution.

Here's what h had to say.

Why a short film?

The demand of a short film in terms of writing, in terms of content, is far larger than a feature film. The reason is that within 10 minutes or 14 minutes span, you are making a whole film, and that was very important for me. I wanted to make a film. I didn’t want to make a short film. I wanted to make a film which will raise questions , which will be intriguing, something that will be discussed beyond its existence.

The story has a little bit of magic, little bit of surrealism and various kinds of emotions in one story – greed, love, morality, intrigue, all these fell into place. I am sure some other story could have done equally well, but by turning my story a little, audience might just enjoy it.

It has clearly connected with a lot of people. The very interesting thing is that, the film is in Bengali (obviously with subtitles) and still has been seen like it was just another movie.

I think it has to do with the theme of the film. This gives a lot of hope for all of us where we are saying a film is a film that is not restricted by language; I mean the only restriction is content; you have to get the content right.

You think language is becoming redundant?

Absolutely, because the new generation is seeing much more than what we saw when we were growing up. We just saw Hindi films, the new generation has seen Mexican films, Spanish films, French films, Korean films, you’re seeing Baahubali, and you’re seeing everything. So for you it’s a film, language is not an issue anymore and Ahalya has just proven it. Like initially, even I was hesitant about how many Bengalis will watch this film. But i guess the fear was unfounded.

The film has gained a lot of appreciation. It has probably been seen by more people than Kahaani?

Its huge, it has gone through the roof. I wasn’t expecting this. First time in the history, a short film has been reviewed by every major newspaper. Even a Business Standard has reviewed the film.

You are obviously not making money online, and especially for short films the intention is different. It’s about getting the film seen rather than making more money, but do you think eventually at some point in time, maybe in the near future, internet might become a viable distribution model?

Internet will be THE distribution model. 5-6 years down the road, lot of film will have an internet release. For example when I make a Kahaani, I don’t want the burden of Rs 8 crores P&A. I don’t want the 8 crores marketing expense on my head. Why would I want it? I rather make a film for 8 crores than 16 crores. So, why should I take on the burden? Because either way i am getting equal number of hits and everything and I am giving it to you in the luxury of your house.

The only problem with internet is, we need to rework our thinking around the end user, the lowest common denominator, who is going to watch the film on his/ her smart phone. So you have to take into account that your film will be seen on a phone, and you have to shoot it accordingly, you have to design it accordingly, you have to play with the sound design accordingly, you have to play with your lensing accordingly. So there is a whole process of education, but i had rather take that educational process than those Rs 8 crores on my head.

Not many filmmakers will be open to that, but it’s very interesting.

Maybe not, but I think it’s a more logical that way, because it is easier for me to get Rs.100 than Rs.200 from a viewer.

Another trend that we've seen recently is the use of short films as sort of prequels to movies. This was done for latest Planet of the Apes movie as well as for Ugly. Is that something that could happen, like people release the first chapter of the book now online for free, is that the possibility?

Honestly speaking, I never thought on that angle, but I am sure that it could be done. The possibilities are endless and as long as we don’t abuse the media. You have to give the audience something of value, so that they sit and appreciate the content. The most precious thing is time, and if you are asking someone to give some of their time, it has to be worth their time, otherwise why would you spend 14 minutes.

What advice would you give to young filmmakers?

The trick is in the content. Why are you doing this? What kind of film are you making? Make whatever you make such that it will live on. In a short film, you really have to think about the audience carefully, really carefully, because your audience is so broad compared to a feature film. It’s a huge audience poll, so you have to be very careful about what you put out there. Because your short film will live only on word of mouth. I know it’s easier said than done, but the content is the key.

Also check this out:

Join The Jamuura Brigade & Make Your Film

Online Workshop On 'Secrets Of Screenwriting' With Kamlesh Pandey, At 6 PM, On 8th August


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