The Many Dimensions To Short Films - Watching & Talking Shorts With Neeraj Ghaywan!

By Srikanth Kanchinadham. Posted on November 07, 2015

Like every year, the 'Dimensions' section at Jio MAMI saw a compilation of several shorts that explored varied themes centered on the city of Mumbai. Interestingly, the section this year included several short documentaries that explored unique facets of the city or its lifestyle in the narrative.

What stood out were the various styles and approaches of filmmaking adopted by these shorts. From snazzy editing to use of monochrome, the filmmakers tried everything. The quality of these films varied from good to bad. Some of these suffered on account of tacky and amateurish execution, while others failed to go beyond the cliched & obvious ways of narration. However, execution notwithstanding, some of them did manage to stand out, by engaging with interesting interesting themes and stories.

From the humble origins of 'Vada Pao', Mumbai’s favourite street food to highlighting the thankless nature of a police constable’s job, weren't short on unique ideas.

Some of the most interesting shorts that caught our attention were Yashashvi Juyal’s A Wise Crab which narrates the struggles and aspirations of a spotboy. Harsh Shethia’s Kaali And Peeli takes a look at the rise and decline of the iconic Premier Padmini taxis which are an instrumental part of Mumbai’s heritage. Similarly Suyash Kamat’s Tales From Merwan spoke about the iconic eating joint of Merwan’s and why we need to ensure that such places do not disappear with time. Disha Rindanis’ Meet The Voice goes behind the voices of the railway announcers who's voices we hear everyday on the local trains of Mumbai.

Bhanu Babbal’s G.H.A.R put the spotlight on Sachin Jain – founder of the Gay Housing Assistance Resource, which helps the LGBT community find safe housing in Mumbai.

Some of the most interesting filmmakers of our times have used the short film format to make a successful transition to feature films. However short films are also about exploring the medium without the fear of failure. It gives filmmakers an opportunity to express, what would've otherwise been difficult.

We spoke with filmmaker Neeraj Ghaywan, one of the jury members for the Dimensions category, on his take on the short films competing as well as what filmmakers should keep in mind while making one.

1. Could you tell us a bit about what you’ve seen?

There is an interesting range of films that we’ve seen. Interestingly, there are many documentaries, which makes me very happy, because it is an interesting change. There were shorts that were shot in black & white, a refreshing change in technique that we saw along with the themes that people are choosing. We can vaguely sense the dissent coming into the films as well. Its startling to see people under 25 make these kind of films.

2. You also happen to watch a lot of short films online. Do you feel there is a steady evolution of story-telling in this format?

You know where I differ from a lot of people, is that in India no one takes short films seriously. It’s more of a passion project for whoever is starting. But then they forget the importance of technique, camera movement or sound. There is an advantage of digital filmmaking, but there is also a disadvantage that people can make a film because they have a camera. So there is no proper thought given to it, which is why most of them come out to be tacky.

But, if you look at short films abroad, they give that kind of respect that a short film requires. There is no demarcation between a short and a feature, it's just the length, and they give the same importance, same production value that it requires. I agree, that most short filmmakers don’t have money, but there needs to be some amount of planning, some amount of thought given to the script. Most people jump on an idea and make a film, but they don’t know what to do with the climax or how to go about as they shoot along, so they tend to make anything out of it. So that casualty bothers me a lot.

I remember writing 18 drafts for Shorts. It's not just about great production value, but the seriousness and planning that you do, because direction is not just about shooting, there is a process to it. You shouldn't end up taking 20 days to shoot a 2 minute short, which I actually did before I got into filmmaking.

3. Why do you think that exists? Or is it a reflection of how we do our mainstream films?

There is a lot of money riding on mainstream films, but in short films, it is pure passion. But misguided passion, is equally dangerous. It requires certain amount of respect, certain amount of planning to make and we should really give that. I remember taking Shorts to Abu Dhabi, and there I saw some shorts and was blown away. Some of them are shot in 8mm because they wanted to show World War 1; more than half was shot on film and the animation films, well I just can't tell you how great they were. So I think, that respect for the format is required in India. A lot of pretentiousness is also creeping in.

4. Could you talk about the role, your short films have played in your career?

I remember very distinctly about working on post production on Gangs of Wasseypur and was working on Shorts, and there was this company called Tumbhi.com, that sponsored the whole thing. I really found my voice with Shorts, because so many people told me that you have the knack to connect with people’s emotions and getting emotions out on the screen is very difficult. That’s when I thought that maybe I can't do comedy or action at all, but I can atleast say that I can do a drama, so I really found my voice for the film, and the fear went away.

5. Do you see yourself as a feature film director or would you consider making short films as well?

I am any day interested in making a short film. Because the time stipulation brings the best out of us.


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