Indie filmmakers in India have today found a new platform that is not restricted to a niche audience. There are ample opportunities to showcase short films and reach out to a wider audience base. Earlier the shelf life of short films was limited to Doordarshan tele-films and film festivals.
However, the interest of youth towards social media has boosted the indie film market. According to actor Rasika Dugal of Qissa, Permanent Rommates, Chutney, Humourously Yours and Life Support fame, “I think social media is an excellent medium to showcase your work. Last year I did a short film called ‘Chutney’ that was well received on YouTube. With the web space getting more crowded and the digital platform booming since past few years, it’s a great opportunity for actors like us. I believe that there is going to be more quality content with regard to short films and web series in the near future. Since smartphones and apps have revolutionised our lives, new entrants like TVF are able to reach out to the youth.” Adds Rajshri Deshpande of Angry Indian Godessses fame, “I am very happy with the fact that the shorts have been well received on social media. If you have a good story with good content, people will love and appreciate your work – be it Youtube, films or television.”
Years ago it was next to impossible for newcomers to attempt filmmaking. From Mrinal Sen to Anurag Kashyap, short films meant merely art house cinema. With the advent of YouTube, various genres from thriller to sci-fi were explored. Initially, during early 90s when television was in its evolutionary phase, a short film was telecasted once in a blue moon on DD-1, merely confined to critical accolades. In today’s times, YouTube channel partners with independent movie-makers to target a larger audience. In fact, releasing shorts with subtitles gives access to international viewers and film critics as well.
According to filmmaker Ritesh Varma of Curious Men Films, “Whenever you post some content on Youtube or any other video site, the audience that watches your content is global. Your content can be streaming in some country you’ve never even thought of. For example, our short film Two Point Three is streaming in countries like US, London, Sweden, Germany etc. So thanks to YouTube, indie film makers like us have a great opportunity to showcase our content to a worldwide audience.”
Cinema as an industry has faced many obstacles and challenges like production-constraints and censorship. But social media has made it simpler for the newbie film-writers and directors to convey whatever they want in whichever style they prefer. Today, even noted actors like Naseeruddin Shah, Anupam Kher, Manoj Bajpai, Kalki Koechlin, Swara Bhaskar and Radhika Apte are working in short-film projects.
In the present scenario NFDC (National Film Development Corporation) has a very narrow scope when it comes to funding indie films. Indie filmmakers not only crowd fund their projects through digital media but also make an effort to interact with viewers in order to gain feedback and improvise their scripts. It also helps them in developing PR.
On Big banners like Yash Raj Films starting their YouTube channel Y-Films, the indie film artists seem pragmatic. “Big-banners definitely have more resources. But here there’s enough space for everyone. And at the end of the day it’s all about the content. So, there’s nothing wrong in marketing your product,” claims actor Rasika.
Many believe there have been more substantial roles for female actors in indie-shorts. According to actor Rajshri, “I do believe that indie films have a lot of scope in today’s times. It’s unfortunate how certain roles have been stereotyped. This is slowly changing but it still exists. I also feel that there’s a gender pay gap when it comes to female actors as compared to their male counterparts. With more scripts like Angry Indian Goddesses, Queen, Dirty Picture or Kahaani this would gradually diminish.”
Abroad, there are film festivals to solely encourage indie films, unlike in India where popular cinema holds sway. The origin of social media has been a boon for indie filmmakers in the truest sense. In the 21st century with a dearth of originality, the digital media has paved the way for budding film directors and scriptwriters to experiment with varied themes at par with Hollywood. “The new wave of versatility has already started as the audience today wants to see fresh subjects. So, the new trend in cinema is certainly adapting to change,” says Rasika.