On the eve of the release of his film “Framed”, Chetan Shah seems to be nervous, at least till he gets talking. Once he starts, the filmmaker is supremely confident about his experimental venture. Excerpts from the interview with
Sudhish Kamath:

We don’t have a culture of Indian English films making it to the mainstream circuit. What gave you the confidence to make this film in English?

English is the language I write and think in. I thought we were ready for niche films. Today, you can make films at a cheaper cost because of digital technology; you can show them to smaller sections of an audience because of the multiplex culture… I didn’t want to make a Hindi film because it involves certain preconceptions like stars and such elements. Neither did I want to make an arty film. I wanted to make a film that I would’ve liked to see.

You’ve titled it “Framed” as a comment on how truth is perceived differently.

In the film, some of the events are seen through two frames – one from the camera of a person making a documentary film… So some of the action is seen through her camera’s viewfinder and the other is the mind’s eye… Some of the events are recollected or imagined or narrated to someone else. These are the stylised sequences in the film. The underlying theme is neither of these ways of framing reality is necessarily authentic and accurate. They are both equally capable of being distorted and interpreted in different ways.

Your films also have song and dance. What made you include that format in an English genre film?

The songs are either in the background or in a realistic context. The dance is choreographed to appear natural and spontaneous. The idea is to make it believable. Music is a crucial element in our films. And songs because you can create awareness of the film using the other media as well. You can play it on radio, music channels… Songs are one thing about Hindi films that do not offend me. What offends me about Hindi films is the melodrama and unearned emotions that the stereotypical characters go through, promiscuous use of background music to pump up the adrenaline…

You did something experimental with the background score too. Any reason you wanted it to be unusual?

Yes, the background score is by Prasanna who has done it using only the guitar. We are using music in three ways. To add dimension to the scene not implied by the visuals. Two, to create motifs and themes to aid storytelling. Three, he has used the atonal kind of music to achieve the surreal effect of the stylised sequences in the film. The songs in “Framed” have been composed by ad-film jingle music directors Aravind-Shankar, Paul Jacob, R.Anandh and Sunil Milner.

How would you describe your film? How do you want the audiences to react to it?

It’s a fun thriller. It’s a murder mystery with a suspense element. But the characters are young; the banter among them is light. It’s certainly not a film for all tastes. It is not merry entertainment, it needs your participation, it’s not a film you can watch leaving your brains behind at the bottom of a beer mug…

You’ve set it in a fictional place…

Yes, it’s set in a place called Prayog Niketan Institute of Higher Learning. Prayog means experiment. So the characters are all there not to study a conventional curriculum but to do projects of their choice. The projects are as diverse and as esoteric as you can be. The idea was to have a different kind of education system. That was the vision of the man who founded the college. One of the girls has come there to do a project to fuse raga and rock. Another wants to communicate with the planet. Her project is called Earth Semaphores. She studies signals from Nature. One of them does a project on software to simulate Human Thinking.