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Thursday, July 09, 2020

Banana Bread: A short film about lockdown longings

Actor couple Rasika Dugal and Mukul Chadda co-write and act in a short film shot on phones at their Mumbai home.

Written by Alaka Sahani | Mumbai | Published: June 22, 2020 8:50:07 pm
rasika dugal, short film, lockdown films, indianexpress, Actors Mukul Chadda and Rasika Dugal used the time at hand to make a short film at their home.

AFTER life came to a standstill due to the lockdown, actor-couple Rasika Dugal and Mukul Chadda, who share household chores, felt the need to break away from their daily routine. Brainstorming for a short film, Banana Bread, that they wrote and later acted in, became a welcome engagement.

“Mukul has been planning to write and develop a discipline for it. He performed at the Spoken Fest earlier. I didn’t have any such aspiration but since we had the time, I thought it might be a good opportunity to do something together,” says Dugal. YouTube channel Terribly Tiny Tales, which released Banana Bread on their channel, had approached Dugal to read a poem immediately after the lockdown was imposed. While she wasn’t excited about any particular poem, she was already toying with the idea of a short film.

The 12-minute film explores the loneliness that lockdown has caused, especially among the urban population. The longing for company and conversation, absurdity of paranoia that has gripped many of us and the distrust that the virus has given rise to, also seeped into the script. Though initially unsure about how to shoot the film, within 10 days of writing it, the couple found themselves acting in front of their phone’s camera under Srinivas Sunderrajan’s direction. “We are glad that Srinivas came on board even though he had to direct it remotely. We had a few readings together to figure if we were on the same page. After that, he did a storyboard for three scenes and a few shots. He also gave us a checklist of what we had to do during the shoot, such as checking the camera, showing the frame to him, roll camera and switch on the sound,” says Dugal. The two actors rehearsed their scenes for a day, before shooting the film over two days at their Bandra home.

What came handy during the shoot was two spare phones that were lying at home. “We used four phones for the shoot. One of them was used to record audio separately, and another for video conference. Mukul even had a schedule for charging the phones,” recalls Dugal, who has acted in movies like Qissa (2015) and Manto (2018).

The short film’s title comes from Dugal’s experiments with baking banana bread during the lockdown. The six times she has baked it, she has tried to improvise — substituting maida for atta, butter for olive oil and sugar for jaggery. “I’m on a baking expedition,” says Dugal. She adds that the lockdown has transformed Chadda, who could hardly cook, into a good cook; though he still needs Dugal to check salt in the food. Chadda, who features in the web series The Office, iterates a dialogue from his wife’s popular web show Mirzapur: “Majboori mein shuru kiye the, par ab mazaa aane lagaa hai (I started it under duress but now I am enjoying it).”

Work has slowed down for both the actors, even though they have been doing short videos and reading scripts. “There could be new variations when the shoot resumes,” says Chadda. Dugal’s shoots, for her next feature Lord Curzon Ki Haveli in London and the second season of Out of Love, are postponed. She, however, has been dubbing for Mira Nair-directed series A Suitable Boy from home. “At times, I log in when another actor is finishing his or her dubbing. It is like bumping into a fellow actor in a studio but within the confines of a computer screen,” says Dugal.

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