When two guards from two countries constantly point guns at each other from across the border, what follows is an intimate story of hostility, friendship and humanity. Outpost, a short film directed by Shiva Shankar Bajpai, captures the absurdity and reality of two warring neighbours — India and Pakistan. “Last year, there were close to 63 cross-border violations reported within two months. One man shoots a bullet and the other responds from across the border. This back and forth continues,” says 30-year-old Bajpai. Set along the NorthWestern India-Pakistan border, the film was screened at the Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) on February 6.
The film is loosely inspired by Samuel Beckett’s landmark play Waiting for Godot — the story of two characters who endlessly wait for a man named Godot. In Outpost, the wait could be either for war or peace, says its director.
The film starts with a scene where the Indian guard Sunil played by Deepak Dobriyal is woken up by a mosquito in his tent. “I’ve used the mosquito as a metaphor for cross-border terrorism. A desert usually has no mosquitoes, so the presence of one signifies that cross-border terrorism is created by us,” says Bajpai.
The idea germinated when Bajpai was in New York. Over there he got the chance to interact with many Indians and Pakistanis living outside their respective countries. In Bajpai’s opinion, the issues between the two countries are a reflection of some sort of sibling rivalry that is always close to resolution but never reaches a logical conclusion.
Shot over five days near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, the film had on board cinematographer Vishal Sinha of Raanjhanaa, Ab Tak Chappan and Bhoot fame. “I wanted to get every small detail accurate — right from the set to costumes,” says Bajpai, who is currently pursuing a film course at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Made with a grant from the Spike Lee Foundation last year, the film has already gathered awards such as the Audience Choice Award at the HBO South Asian International Film Festival in New York, Martin E Siegel Award, and was the official selection from NYU for the International Short Film Festival at Clermont-Ferrand.