After Pizza, Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom and Kaadhalil Sodhappuvadhu Eppadi, the film industry is turning the spotlight on short film makers who show promise. Udhav Naig gets behind the scenes and reports

The short filmmaking community in Chennai has been steadily on the rise if the response to the 48 Hour Film Project, an initiative to get budding filmmakers to make a short film in two days, is anything to go by. This is the first time Chennai is hosting the two-day event, which came to India in 2008. “The short filmmaking community in India has grown rapidly — more so in Chennai where they are getting recognised in a big way. This seemed to be a good time to hold such an event in Chennai,” says Preethi Gopalkrishnan, India producer of the 48 Hour Film Project. The event saw even busy IT professionals such as 41-year-old Rajesh and HR executive Nikita participate enthusiastically. “I have always wanted to try my hand at making a film, but I always kept it for another day. This event pushed me to make a film in two days,” says Rajesh.

It is a good time to be making shorts in Tamil Nadu, particularly considering quite a few have successfully become full-fledged feature film directors. Agrees cinematographer Raja, who has already completed a Telugu feature film and has started working on an untitled low-budget Tamil film. “I have done close to 30 short films so far. I got an opportunity to work in the Telugu film purely based on my shorts,” says Raja.

For people such as Raja, the tide began to turn decisively when producer C.V. Kumar decided to produce Karthik Subbaraj’s Pizza, featuring Vijay Sethupathi. Karthik got noticed through a short filmmaking contest on a television channel. Actor Vijay Sethupathi also featured in Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom, directed by Balaji Tharaneetharan, who has made popular short films. The actor’s just-released Soodhu Kavvum is also directed by a popular short filmmaker Nalan Kumarasamy. Incidentally, Vijay Sethupathi’s upcoming film Pannayarum Padminiyum too is directed by Arun Kumar, who made a popular short with the same name. This new route through which young filmmakers are able to find producers may slowly dismantle the traditional ways of the film industry. If this trend continues, all that one would have to do to direct a film is demonstrate the skills by making good short films and write a good script for a feature film.

Producer J. Satish Kumar, whose JSK Film Corporation, has, apart from being associated with films such as Bala’s Paradesi, released films such as Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom. “I think one can figure out how good a director is with the way he or she narrates a script. That’s enough for me. I am open to working with those who haven’t worked with big names,” he says.

Experiments with camera

This trend did not come about all of a sudden, says Thriyambakesh Ravichandran, a student at Sastra University in Thanjavur, whose short film Uranga Oondrugol won the first place at IIT Sarang. “When digital cameras were beginning to be replaced by DSLR cameras, many wanted to try their hands at filmmaking,” he says. “That’s when making short films became very common amongst the college crowd.” In collaboration with his friend Aarudh Nataraj, he has so far made six short films, with a couple more getting ready.

These days, colleges too are more welcoming than before, when it comes to including a short film contest as part of their fests. Balakumar, one of the organising committee members of KurukSastra, the cultural festival of Sastra University, explains, “When it was introduced way back in 2009, the short film contest used to get only a few entries. But in the last two years, we have been getting 80 to 90 entries.” Echoing Balakumar is Thriyambakesh, “Even if the screenings take place at eight in the morning, you will find students filling up the auditorium.” he says.

For short filmmakers, G. Dhananjayan, chief of UTV’s southern division, has a few words of wisdom. “They need to understand that the film grammar for a full-length feature film and a short film is vastly different. Usually, the problem arises when they approach a feature film like a short film.”

Though he says he would sign short filmmakers if they fit the bill, he admits that he usually prefers those who have worked for at least two or three films. “Short films can come in handy to evaluate whether a filmmaker can communicate an idea or not,” he says.

So, where will this trend leave us? “There will come a time when producers won’t be willing to fund projects without a visual prototype,” says Balaji Mohan who recently turned his popular short Kaadhalil Sodhappuvadhu Eppadi into a successful film with Siddharth and Amala Paul in the lead.

So, it looks as if in a few years, all that budding filmmakers will need to do is make good short films and they might just find themselves a willing producer!

What is 48 Hour Film Project?

It is an event in which you need to make a short film within 48 hours. The format of this competition is such that you will be given a character, a prop and a dialogue which needs to be incorporated within the genre that you will be asked to pick. The two day event concluded on Sunday last week.

SUCCESSFUL TRANSITIONS

Karthik Subbaraj

Nalan Kumarasamy

Deepan Chakravarty

Bobby Simha (Actor)

Ramesh Thilak (Actor)

Karuna (Actor)

Nalan Kumarasamy

You need to make sure you work with professionals when you make a short film. If not, the transition to a mainstream feature film will be much more difficult

G. Dhananjayan

I have been pushing for directors to come up with some sort of visual prototype for the last four years

Vijay Sethupathi

If I can see potential in these filmmakers, why should I wait till they become big?