Director Aarti Bagdi’s short film Khamakha released on Hindi Divas has been getting rave reviews on social media. In an exclusive interaction with indianexpress.com, this Subhash Ghai and Sooraj Barjatya protege talks about her short film and why she feels shorts can help establish one as a filmmaker.
How did Khamakha happen?
Khamakha is a story that came to me because of my husband. On one of our daily walks, we discussed as to how we end up judging people during our travels on the basis of what they look like or how they speak. I then decided to do it as a take on pride and prejudice in languages between a boy and girl who randomly meet on a bus ride. It came to me that we need to change perspective – that it’s what we speak that is more important and not what language we say it in. That we cannot decide a person’s intelligence quotient just because he or she cannot speak English. I am glad my sister Meghna made the script much more fun and relevant with the dialogue she penned for it.
How easy or challenging is it to direct a short film?
The best part about directing a short is that it’s super liberating. You can tell any story without constraints. And the challenging part is that it does not have budgets so we have to manage with the least possible expenditure. But that is also such a high. To make the most in less.
How did you zero in on the lead actors- Harshvardhan Rane and Manjiri Phadnis?
Manjiri is a friend and I have worked with her in a previous short. So I knew she had it in her to be sharp and lively at the same time – the Marathi look, the striking face. And she is meticulous preparing to the T. So it was just fabulous to have her play the role of Raina. As far as Harsh is concerned, I saw his interviews and some of his previous work and felt that there was such an unassuming affectionate energy about him, packed with a great deal of intensity. So that was a clear winner. Totally loved what he brought to the table. Like fully jazzed it up and charmed the lights out as Udayan. The liveliness yet sharpness of Raina and the intensity and affectionate feel of Udayan could have happened only through these two.
The films ends with Harshvardhan walking off with Manjiri. Isn’t that a cliche? To fall in love just hours into the journey?
I believe you can feel love or liking within a few seconds. This began as them liking each other in the middle of the conversation but when Udayan realizes that he has to get off the bus that’s when both realize that they probably don’t want this conversation to end. The arranged marriages in India which are 80 percent still have been decided in matter of a conversation in the best of settings and putting your best self forward. Here we made it predictably unpredictable with the dialogue and the characters and the humble setting of a state transport bus.
Subhash Ghai was the chief guest at the launch of your film. Tell us about your association with him?
Subhash Ghai is my guru, my best friend and my guide. I worked with him as an assistant director during Kisna. I got to learn so much from him about film-making, life and all the magic and mehnat that goes behind making a film. There would be so many pearls of wisdom that I would receive randomly during the shoot. It got stored away in my subconscious — be it about sense of characters, music, story or drama. Before assisting Subhash Ghai, I began my career with Soorajji (Sooraj Barjatya) in 2001, who was once again a big influence. He was like a father figure. He would actually sit down with me and make me write shot breakdowns with him. So got to pick up a sense of timing through that. I have been blessed and fortunate enough to have learnt the best of commercial film-making from the most successful filmmakers of India. And now through this process of making shorts, I found my own voice.
So why didn’t you start off with a feature film?
This is my 4th short with HUMARA Medialabs. And I am most grateful as this has helped me identify my forte as a story-teller. One of the shorts I have made for Humara is the most widely watched serious short online with 80 lakh views and 10,000 likes.
This is a preparatory step to make feature films. During the years of working on nearly eight feature film scripts and screenplays from 2008 to now, I have seen content of all kinds including revisiting Charlie Chaplin. And that’s when I realized that he did a huge number of short films. I mean a genius talent like Charlie Chaplin also started off with shorts. So why can’t we normal filmmakers? It’s finally a medium of creative expression. Feature film will happen when they have to. Keep at it is my mantra. There is always so much to do and learn. I think shorts is a very good way to establish your talent as a filmmaker. It’s like you want to run a few kilometres every day, build your strength and stamina before you actually plunge into a marathon.
What are you future projects?
Currently, I am directing a documentary for the international market. Vidhi Kasliwal of Landmarc films is the producer. We will reveal more about it when the time is right. We have been at it since almost 10 months now. It’s bound to create a huge amount of curiosity and I am excited. Another project is Bombairiya I am involved in as a Co-writer and Associate producer. This is directed by Pia Sukanya and written and produced by Michael Ward. This is based on a hilarious incident that happened with me back in 2009. My phone got stolen and returned. So six main characters in that incident including me was the starting point of Bombairiya. Pia fell in love with the tone of the incident and has made it into a wonderful engaging feature. It’s due for release end of this year and features Radhika Apte in the lead role.