Shilpa Krishnan Shukla is the first female director to write and produce a feature film in Singapore.
For Shilpa Krishnan Shukla this is just an extension of her unusual, wonderful childhood. As a child she was fortunate to see all her hobbies pay rich dividends. This former student of Bhavan's Vidya Mandir, Thrissur, won wide recognition for her unique talent in reverse writing, cartooning, painting, handicrafts, music and of course her studies. Winning the prestigious Singapore Airline scholarship Shilpa completed her schooling, university education in Singapore, got married, and works as brand manager for Proctor & Gamble in Singapore.
And now, with the release of the film ‘Mausams,' which Shilpa has scripted, directed and co-produced with her husband Shivanu Shukla, she possibly becomes the first woman director in Singapore. Her fling with everything unusual continues.
‘Mausams', premièred on April 1, has received rave reviews and accolades. This low-budget feature film made by a team of professionals who have full-time jobs, except for the young cinematographer, was put together over whatever spare time they could squeeze choke out of their already crazily busy lives.
In an e-mail interview this sprightly, talented young girl, who moves into her 30s, speaks about ‘Mausams' and how it came about.
How did you get into filmmaking for this was perhaps one of those rare things you never tried your hand at when you were here? Some info about your other films.
I used to be active in theatre, especially in school and university days in Singapore. I have written-directed-produced-acted in a few plays. This led me into films. I started working on one-minute and six-minute short films. My initial productions, ‘Destinations' and ‘Post-Its' won entry in the ‘Passion for Cinema' online movie festival. They were shortlisted in the competitive categories. One of my recent films, ‘It's Magic' was screened at the 2009 Singapore Short Film Awards.
This gave me the confidence to dream of a full length feature film. The idea was to make something simple with available resources than something with a major investment. And most importantly I'm doing all this only during my spare time. My job as brand manager with Procter & Gamble calls for a lot of responsibility. ‘Mausams' is my pet project.
Shilpa, Does this film make you the first Indian to write-produce-direct a feature film in Singapore?
No, I am not. I will only be the first one to achieve it on a part time basis and possibly first female director to do it.
What is this film about?
The story is highly inspired by all the colourful characters and situations I have come across in my life. Life, I have felt, falls easily into a routine. This is difficult to notice but once you do it it becomes easy to get out of it. Sometimes all it takes to break the monotony is a crazy idea. And this is what happens in the life of Shalini in the film. Doing something she hates with a husband who is always busy, she looks for some fun. She comes across an old, forgotten script. And in a flash of inspiration, she decides to stage a play! This brings together a bunch of old friends and ‘Mausams' tells the story of this group as they cross each other's paths over the days that build up to the play. Like Mausams or the seasons, things always change and with some initiative, optimism and a bit of luck, you can still manage to smile no matter what season you are in.
How did you pick your cast and crew especially since almost all of them are professionals and have no filmi background?
Since I fall into this ‘category' it only made sense that I get a like-minded cast and crew. Everyone worked on this project purely out of passion and without any remuneration. We conducted an audition to select the cast and we shot over the weekends or late at nights, since that's when everyone was free.
So how was it making the film? Share some of your experiences on this 18-month adventure.
Right from the auditions, to rehearsals, to wardrobe sessions, multiple takes, it was one long journey. It was usual to have members of cast and crew disappear during shoots, we found unexpected help from overseas for post-production work, our weekends were lost for months together shooting for nearly 16 hours at a stretch, very often it turned into back-breaking schedules with our own jobs and other commitments to boot. Things did go wrong sometimes despite all our planning, but looking back it was simply exciting.
This is supposed to be a low budget film. How much did you spend on this film?
We spent something around $5000, which is about Rs. two lakhs approximately. We saved a lot on so many aspects. The dubbing studio was my study and I think the dubs have come out well. We used the inbuilt software on Apple for that work. It was difficult to figure it out in the beginning, because it was my first time working on it but later on it was easier to get a good quality. We had to redo a reasonable amount of dub patch up work for those parts which did not come out good in the first attempt. Editing was done in collaboration with my friend in UAE. The first cut was done in UAE but the final cut was done when he flew down to Singapore.
The music of ‘Mausams' has come out good. Some info on B. Prasanna, the composer.
Prasanna was my junior in National University of Singapore. We had previously worked together a few times. He had composed the music for my musical ‘Bollywood Beats' as well the play ‘Kathaah - Stories from India'. He is a pianist and a mridangam player. ‘Mausams' is his debut feature film. He is going to be working on his private album and is looking to be an independent music director-songwriter.
How was the initial response to ‘Mausams'?
The initial response to ‘Mausams' has been fabulously positive. We have tried to make a simple entertainer, a relatable slice of life that hopefully brings a smile. We have had a great time making it and we hope everyone has a great time watching it. The most popular feedback is that it is ‘fresh', ‘relatable', ‘feel-good', ‘leaves you with a smile' and ‘didn't realise two hours have passed.' The crowd has found the film very entertaining. We are getting repeat viewers for the film and we have been asked to take the film to television stations etc. but we are still contemplating on that.