When wrinkles tell a story

After many quiet years, director Tanuja Chandra is in action mode. The latest is Silvat, a short film on love and longing

September 18, 2018 02:17 pm | Updated 02:17 pm IST

 Old language, new format: Tanuja Chandra says short films allow innovation both in terms of narrative styles and themes

Old language, new format: Tanuja Chandra says short films allow innovation both in terms of narrative styles and themes

Cinema is finding a new language with the growing influence of short films. Gone are the days when short films were made by first time filmmakers to hone their filmmaking skills. Today more and more established filmmakers are trying their hands at this format. Seasoned filmmaker Tanuja Chandra, who has made films like Dushman, Sangharsh, and Qarib Qarib Singlle , is the latest to join the bandwagon with Silvat – a short film about unspoken love set in Bhindi Bazaar in the late ‘90s starring Kartik Aaryan, Meher Mistry and Amal Farooque. Written by Faraz Mariam Arif Ansari, Silvat recently premièred on ZEE5.

Here, Tanuja talks about Silvat , her love for the Urdu language and the new possibilities of making short films that are opening up with the advent of digital platforms.

What made you make Silvat?

It was a beautiful project that came my way! A group of directors in equal number from India and Pakistan were making short films on any subject that they loved. I mean, it’s practically a dream for a director. Shailja Kejriwal of Zee offered this to me and I had met a young writer, Faraz Ansari, whose story I loved. So here we were with a team of passionate people, telling the story of a young, married woman in the lanes of Bhindi Bazaar in the late ‘90s who falls in love with her neighbourhood tailor. I was trying to convey the helplessness that these two felt in an impossible situation of love.

How challenging is it to make short films commercially viable in the current scenario?

It’s actually an exciting time for people who love making and watching short films. It’s such an innovative and thoroughly modern format. While it has its own graph, it need not have a clear beginning, middle and end. It need not adhere to anything that one is wedded to in feature films – not in terms of story, narrative style, characters, location, or theme. With digital platforms becoming more and more popular, short films have greater viability today. In fact, I’ve just finished shooting for another short for Eros.

The use of Urdu in Bollywood scripts has been witnessing a steady decline and yet Silvat seems to have a very strong Urdu influence. Tell us about your affinity towards the language.

There’s just no arguing with the fact that Urdu is an utterly beautiful language. For me, when this story presented itself, I was only too happy to be able to make a film in Urdu. We’ve incorporated a colloquial tone of street-language as well, which is how it would be in South Mumbai.

And yet, we also had the gorgeous sound and cadence of pure, spoken Urdu. A short film and the freedom it allows lets us do all this awesome stuff.

The film comes across as a very intense love story. Tell us about the creative choice behind casting Kartik Aaryan in the lead role?

I am a lover of unexpected casting. Kartik has done urban, bad-boy roles, but I had the distinct feeling that there was a stillness in him, which for me, in any case is the thing that most conveys an actor’s capabilities. And happily, I was right. In the film he has shown gentleness, tenderness, sweetness, but also a rage within. He is just wonderful in the film.

We have had so many stories about unspoken love. What, according to you, makes Silvat different?

What I loved most about this story when I first heard it was the milieu in which it happens. The winding lanes of South Mumbai are an absolute favourite location of mine. I’ve shot there for Dushman as well as Sangharsh . And what works in the story besides its intensity is that where it takes place. The culture and the ethos of the environment make the plot believable and make us long for this relationship to last. This is what makes Silvat unique.

As someone who has been closely associated with the film industry for the last two decades, how do you see this sudden rise of VOD platforms?

I think it’s fantastic! It gives filmmakers and writers limitless options of stories to mine from that huge treasure trove of stories in our country. It removes shackles in producers as well as viewers. And to my mind, storytelling is a way to genuinely bring about change in the world, to speak about equality, justice, and love.

How different is making a short film from a feature length film? Last year you had come out with Qarib Qarib Singlle after a long break. What can we expect from you in the near future now that you are back?

A short film is entirely different in format, tone, budget, content from features. I love both forms and I think producers as well as directors must work in both.

Like I said, I’m in the midst of a short and have also been developing other projects - feature scripts, series scripts and also a documentary. A director, you forget, has to spend many quiet months, possibly years, writing and developing. Then comes the pitching, and then comes production. It’s a long road, much of it unseen. But yes, soon I should be on my way with these projects.

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