Sangam (2004) by Prashant Bhargava. I had the pleasure of meeting the filmmaker and his lead actor Hesh Sarmalkar (amazing!). It was at the Clermont Ferrand Film Festival, where the film was in official selection.
Midnight Lost and Found (2007) by Atul Sabharwal.
Little Terrorist (2004) by Ashvin Kumar (nominated for the Oscar). I had the pleasure of screening Saving Mom & Dad with this gem, like a textbook for young filmmakers on the economy of narrative in short film storytelling. I am reprinting the article from Showreel, Issue 4 (Summer 2004), by MarBelle:
From script to screen, the production of Little Terrorist was completed between November 2003 and March 2004. Little Terrorist was originally written for Fox Searchlight who, having seen Road to Ladakh on the film festival circuit, approached writer/director Ashvin Kumar to make a short for their lab.
However, Kumar eventually decided to make the film independently and began assembling the crew through his production company, Alipur Films in London. With the help of associate producer Sarah Tierney, an experienced crew was formed via Shooting People, who all worked for free, traveling to India at their own expense to be part of the project. On The Road Productions, a Los Angeles and Bombay-based company headed by co-producer Dileep Singh Rathore, brought line-producer Vans Pradeep Singh onboard to co-ordinate the Indian end of the production.
With a shoestring budget, the shoot began with the crew welcoming in the New Year at a tented camp in the middle of the Rajasthan desert. As the shoot progressed, the crew had to contend with freezing mornings and nights, a remote location, a multi-dialogue production team, and logistical nightmares.
In the middle of the shoot, a freak accident almost brought the production to an early close as the tent containing the film stock caught fire and was burnt to the ground. Fortunately, members of Vans Pradeep’s crew bravely ran into the burning tent and retrieved the stock. Other shoot mishaps included a herd of cows, panicked by DoP Markus Huersch hovering above them with his camera on a crane, head-butting each other and almost trampling three actors who were crouched under a bush waiting for them to pass.
With word spreading quickly of a film shoot in this remote desert location, tractor-loads of cinema crazed villagers poured onto the set, all dressed in their best waiting in vain for Megnaa (Rani in the film) to break into a traditional Bollywood dance sequence. One day saw around 200 villagers crowded dangerously on the lip of an amphitheatre-like quarry where a complicated scene was being shot. Getting live/sync sound during these periods was by no means an easy task for sound recordist Roland Heap.
Due to the limited budget and director Kumar’s insistence on authentic Rajasthani music for the film, several troupes of Laangar musicians auditioned for the cast and crew after wrap each night. The selected Laangar troupe were called out to the wrap party, where Heap set up a virtual studio and recorded everything they sang that night. The Laangar troupe not only provided the music in the film, but also feature in it as the wandering minstrels. The rustic sounds of the desert were added to composer Nainita Desai’s score, and what started as an improvised cost-saving impulse became a lyrical and unique fusion of Indian folk and traditional western composed film score.
A self-funded professional crew, a multi-dialect production team, the remote location, a very stretched budget, crew illness, burning tents, broken equipment and unwanted extras were just a few of the unusual and challenging elements of shooting Little Terrorist, but in the end the crew’s dedication enabled Kumar’s vision to come to life.
American Made (2003) by Sharat Raju. I heard about this film when I was at Clermont Ferrand in 2004. I was unable to see it then, and the movie slipped off my radar. In the summer of 2007, I caught the director’s impressive feature length documentary Divided We Fall (which you can read more about in other blogs). I finally saw the film recently, and I loved it. It gives a great portrayal of a Sikh family on a road trip to the Grand Canyon. When their jeep breaks down, they are unsuccessful in getting help from passing cars. Youngest son Ranjit says to his pukka Sikh father, “They’re not stopping because they think you’re a terrorist”. A wonderful exploration of identity where we feel the point of view of each character. Elder son Jagdish goes by Paul when with American friends. Mom’s obsession is for Ranjit to read the scriptures (I could relate to this, there are a few women like this in my family too!). The performances are truthful. I especially liked Bernard White as the father. Sharat Raju’s direction is impeccable. He knows how to move the camera well, and brings a lot of visual interest to a story shot in this single location.
Indian Short Films I would like to see:
A Very Very Silent Film (2001) by Manish Jha (Cannes Jury Prize)
Supriyo Sen’s trilogy – Way Back Home, Hope Dies Last in War, & Wagah (2009 Berlin Today Award)
Udedh Bun by Siddharth Sinha (Silver Bear – Berlin)