What’s a short film to you? Is it an educational video, or something with a public service announcement, or is it a story with a moral in the end? “Not at all. This is a misconception that needs to go. Short films can be just as entertaining as a full-length feature film," says Cyrus Dastur, founder of Shamiana Arts, the club that’s provided a shot in the arm for short films across the county.
In Chennai to host ‘Pocket Movies Night’ at Taj Coromandel over the weekend, he talks about the evolution of both the audience and short films and why it is an important trend.
What has changed about Shamiana’s work, from the time you started?
Shamiana is basically a platform for showcasing short films. The whole idea of starting it was to connect short film makers with short film lovers.
It has grown to such an extent that it’s created a space where people have now started looking forward to watching short films.
How did youachieve that?
I wish I could say I woke up one morning and thought of making a space for short films, but I just think I was ordained to do this. It happened by accident. I was into theatre and one of the people I knew came up to me and said, ‘we’ve done a documentary film, can we show it?’ This was way back in college. Although I had no idea how to go about it, I reluctantly agreed. I didn’t know much about short films at that point. Documentaries or little educational videos: that was pretty much my impression about short films. Now, people know what it’s about. Even till about five or seven years ago, most people didn’t know either, unless they went to a film school or were part of a movie club. Now there’s far more awareness. What you’re seeing today is an evolution brought about by Shamiana.
What is the Pocket-Movies Night all about?
Pocket Movies is an initiative by the Taj InnerCircle (a guest recognition programme of the Taj Group of hotels). I’m delighted to be collaborating with them as I have a personal connect with the brand: the name Shamiana itself comes from the famous coffee shop at The Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai!
We have been doing this in multiple cities — Bangalore, Mumbai and Chennai.
How does the format work?
The idea is that we showcase interesting short films from all over the world. Besides that, we will also be talking about the trivia of the films being screened.
As far as Bollywood and Hollywood are concerned, there is a fair amount of awareness and information easily available online.
But when it comes to short films, there are very few people who have access to information, especially about the actor, and the journey of the film itself.
Here we try to talk about these things, and highlight certain important milestones in the life of the film and film-maker.
I think today’s viewers are always looking for something more than just watching a film or listening to a song. Even on radio, it’s not just about the song any more; you have the RJ talking about the back-story of the song. Today’s audiences want more; they are looking at an experiential package. They aren’t just looking for a film. So we are looking at enriching the viewer.
How do you pick the films?
To a large extent, it depends on the city, but as far as this series is concerned, we have made sure that we have picked the best of international films, including Oscar-nominees, Golden Globe winners and National Award winners.
So, we are making sure that they get nothing but the best.
You said earlier that you have a very personal connection with Chennai...
Madras was the first city I visited as a child. It was my first trip out of Bombay and I had travelled with my mother and elder brother. This place does have a special place in my heart.
And somehow, coincidentally or accidentally, I get to come here at least once in a decade. I have literally seen the city transform. I wish I could have captured everything in pictures.
What is the scene like now for short films in India?
Sitting in Chennai, I would honestly say that the scene is very bright. Because you have the LV Prasad Film & TV Academy, which is one of the best film schools in the country.
Even Hyderabad and Kerala; the South is like a hotbed as far as short films are concerned. There are so many film makers who started their careers making short films, and have gone on to make feature films. Karthik Subbaraj is a dear friend. His first short film was shown to me and we have been in touch since then. Balaji Mohan ( Kaadhalil Sodhappuvadhu Yeppadi ) is again a friend. So is Manohar Bana Reddy, who made a film called Postman , a National Award-winning short film.
If you’re an aspiring film maker, it’s inevitable that you have to make a short film. So, we’re heading in the right direction.