A few years ago, making a short film was synonymous with making a student film. The bar has been raised, thanks to film schools, reality shows, production companies, film festivals and multiple platforms on the Internet that allow you to watch these films at the click of a mouse. Today, the short film format has taken on a completely professional character; moreover, it is helping youngsters find their footing in the film industry

Balaji Mohan, 24

Short film: “Kaadhalil Sothappuvathu Yeppadi”

Duration: 10 minutes

Year: 2010

Chennai-based Balaji Mohan's twin debut feature “Kaadhalil Sothappuvathu Yeppadi” (“KSY”/“Love Failure” in Telugu) that earned rave reviews was born out of a short film he made by the same name two years ago. When he was just 22. “KSY” was one of the five films Balaji made during the first season of Kalaignar TV's “Nalaiya Iyakkunar”. “I was the Best Director of that season. Before that, I was among the 12 chosen for Sony Pix's “Gateway to Hollywood”. I was only 20 then, the youngest contestant,” he recalls. His partner from the show, Bejoy Nambiar, then 28, went on to win Gateway and made his debut with “Shaitan”, last year. Balaji has already caught up with his old friend Bejoy and is currently scripting the Hindi version of “KSY”. “I started making short films in an attempt to learn filmmaking. Fests, competitions and reality shows helped me show my talent,” adds Balaji. “KSY” went viral on YouTube and got the attention of actor Siddharth who jumped at the offer when he heard a feature version was being planned.

Neeraj Ghaywan, 31

Short film: “Shor”, 16 minutes, 2011

Ghaywan's short “Shor” took him to last year's South Asian International Film Festival. Now, it's taken him to the International Film Festival of Los Angeles. He was a New Media Marketing manager who quit his job to join Anurag Kashyap as an assistant. “To be honest, I never expected ‘Shor' to be so successful. I wanted to put into practice the things I learnt as an assistant director. Since “Gangs of Wasseypur”'s post-production would make me wait for two or three years before I could make my feature, my clock was ticking and I really wanted to test if I had it in me to be a filmmaker. That's when Tumbhi.com came up with this short film contest and funded this short, mentored by Anurag. So I had to just do it. I am looked at more as an indie filmmaker than just an assistant director to Kashyap, while I am still assisting him. The graduation from assistant director to filmmaker takes a long time. In my case, it's going to take a lot lesser. By next year, I will be ready to make my feature. None of this would have happened without ‘Shor',” says Neeraj.

Abhay Kumar, 26

Film: …Just That Sort Of A Day, 14 minutes, 2011

Abhay started making shorts during his college days in Chandigarh. “People talked a lot but did not make films. They would wait for resources. But I would go ahead and make a film even before I had the idea on paper,” says Abhay, who has won a prize at the Mumbai Film Festival every single year between 2009 and 2012. “Every four months, when disillusionment would creep in and I would think of heading back to Chandigarh, I would win something or the other and that kept me going.” He would send his short films to industry insiders and one of his films reached the writer of “Love, Sex aur Dhokha”. Call it sheer co-incidence or inspiration, Dibakar Banerjee's “Love, Sex aur Dhokha” used exactly the same story as his award-winning “Udaan” in one of its segments. Abhay didn't get any credit or acknowledgement, while the film went on to be a hit. He didn't let the controversy affect him and continued making his shorts. His recent short “Just That Sort of a Day” not only won at MAMI and went to fests around the world, it also won a National award, this year, for best voiceover. “‘Just That Sort Of A Day' changed everything. I had made about 10-12 bad films and through these short films, I was finding genres I was good at. There's no money riding on you. No pressure, just a conceptual leap of logic and faith... I could play around without catering to any market or thinking about a target audience. I was using my weaknesses and converting them into strengths. For example, since I just had a handycam and no good audio set-up, I did ‘Udaan' as a found footage film. Shorts are just personal stepping stones to finding your stories.” And they have given Abhay the confidence to do his first feature length film, a documentary.

Mihir Desai, 24

Film: AakraMan, 5 minutes, 2011

Desai is hoping to turn his short film “AakraMan” into a feature pretty soon. “The thing is we love ‘Defendor' and Rahul (Desai) wrote a feature-length script; I just thought it would be good to try out the potential of the film by making a short first. The Mumbai Film Festival was selecting films. So we decided to shoot it quick over 2-3 days as a mockumentary,” says Mihir. “We went to a few film festivals, including the South Asian International Film Festival in New York, last year. We will release the film online by the end of this month and people will be able to download the script, the music and the commentary,” he adds.

Chinmay Dalvi, 21

Film: Bombay Snow, 5 minutes, 2011

“Bombay Snow,” a Marathi film made by an engineering student, Chinmay Dalvi, premiered at the Mumbai Film Festival last year, and has caught the attention of festival programmers with its refreshingly real treatment and sublime sense of drama.“It won the Special Jury Award at MAMI. I have made four short films before. Had sent a two-and-a-half-minute silent film ‘Hum Sab Ek Hai' last year, but didn't win anything. I prepared for a month but shot the whole film in a day,” says Chinmay. The simple film tells us a rather complex story about the innocence of misplaced hope in a dysfunctional world, while bringing the streets of Mumbai alive and going deep into its alienated characters — all within five minutes!

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