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In short film ‘Shades of (Baby) Pink’, no distance is too far to bridge

Shades of (Baby) Pink   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A five-year-old boy misses his parents who have flown back to the United States, leaving him in the care of his grandparents in India. His grandmother shows him the world map and explains that it isn’t easy for his mother to fly back at short notice. But soon, the boy comes up with his own understanding of distance and asserts that it isn’t tough to bridge it. The 32-minute Telugu short film titled Shades of (Baby) Pink, directed by first-timer Neelima Gudavalli, narrates the story of a child battling emotional distress.

The film is making its presence felt in the international film festival circuit — selected for the Chicago International Indie Film Festival and Golden Leaf International Film Festival, bagged awards at the Port Blair International Film Festival, Milan Gold Awards, and Golden Leaf International Film Festival, to name a few. Neelima, who hopes to make the film available for viewing on a digital platform, is open to developing Shades of (Baby) Pink as an anthology with like-minded filmmakers.

The team

The short film stars child actor Yashvasin along with Jayalalitha, Krishna Manjusha, Srinivas Bhogireddy and Suchith. Filmed at Hyderabad in August 2021, the short is the handiwork of a talented crew that includes cinematographer Nimish Ravi (known for his work in the 2019 Malayalam film Luca), editor KSR, production designer Anees Nadodi and sound designer Teja Asgk.

Neelima is a data scientist at a multinational company and divides her time between Hyderabad and Seattle. The idea for this film came up in early 2020 when she was on a flight from Seattle to India: “It is common to see grandparents bringing children back to India, since child care is expensive, and time is a luxury if both parents are working in Seattle. Usually, children fall asleep after boarding the flight and wake up during the stopover in Dubai. One boy was inconsolable when he woke up and didn’t find his parents. Neither toys nor the kind words of his grandmother helped. He cried till he fell asleep again. I was moved to tears,” she recalls.

For days after that, Neelima kept thinking of the boy and began writing a fictional story of a child growing up with caring grandparents and yet facing emotional stress in his parents’ absence.

Neelima Gudavalli

Neelima Gudavalli   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Neelima says she had wanted to be a filmmaker as a teen. But her family thought a career in cinema, with all its uncertainties, would be risky. She ventured into a corporate career after an MBA: “I was inclined towards writing,” she says, recalling penning a few short stories for Visalandhra in her school days, encouraged by her grandfather. “Later in the US and while travelling to other countries, I frequented museums and art galleries. Whatever I had observed subconsciously helped while planning this film.”

Self-taught filmmaker

The professionalism that is evident in Shades of (Baby) Pink would make one think she trained in filmmaking formally. “I didn’t,” she says, but shares that she has the knack of acquiring new skill sets. “I did MBA, but later learnt coding and worked in a technical team. While writing this film, I was clear of how to narrate. So not having learnt the ropes of screenplay writing was not a dampener.”

She wrote the script, detailing the camera angles and shot divisions. She then read up on filmmaking online, found the technical terms and incorporated them into her script. However, a few members of the cast and crew were not sure if she could pull off the project.

Neelima, meanwhile, had begun training the child actor. She did a test shoot as part of pre-production, to familiarise the actors with their positions in each shot, the camera angles and movements. The actors grew confident about her abilities.

Against the grain

“The crew gradually grew in confidence. Initially, they would tell me that my approach is unconventional,” she says, explaining how a top angle shot of the child sleeping between his parents was not considered the norm for a family drama. “I was told that such an angle is used for horror films. My intention was to show the intimacy a child feels in the company of his parents.”

The online editor, Kalyan, was among those who were sceptical and later lent strong support to her work: “He and a few others came up with suggestions that I incorporated,” says Neelima. Costume designer Anusha Punjala also lent support, scouting her friends’ boutiques and stores to source garments at a nominal cost, understanding the constraints of an independent film.

Shades of (Baby) Pink was self-funded and filmed in six days. Well-wishers cautioned Neelima about spending a few lakhs for a short film, but Neelima was adamant. “I felt that the story needs to be told. Often, families bring back young children to India with an intention of giving them better facilities. However, children can undergo emotional stress in the absence of parents, despite best efforts. We undermine the intelligence with which children can counter an adult’s statements.”

The lyrics by Anantha Sriram to Varkey’s music reflect this emotional distress. The film also explores the vacuum faced by senior citizens when their children are away in another country.

Shades of (Baby) Pink is a beginning. Neelima is eager to continue her filmmaking journey.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 11:07:22 PM |

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