In the city to attend a panel discussion about the challenges and appeal of short films, director Jai Sharma gets candid about his journey and his baby Gadhedo — a film based on a folk story from Rajasthan.
You’ve come a long way. After being associated with several films, did you ever think you would be making a film some day? Was it a conscious decision?
Nothing was planned as such. One day, I decided to come to Mumbai from Jodhpur in search of work. In those days, survival was the biggest challenge. It was only when I got to work for a film called The Darjeeling Limited that I understood what filmmaking was all about.
Is Gadhedo your first short film? Have you received any feedback from friends or the film fraternity?
Yes. Overall it has been good though a few of my friends came and told me that they didn’t really understand the film. And I’m okay with that. There are times when a film does not get its due until it gets validation from certain quarters. Also, the psyche needs to change. Short doesn’t mean ‘small’. Yes, the length of the film is short, but that does not mean it takes less effort. Even a five-minute film can win you an Oscar or a Cannes. It’s all about how well you make it.
Despite solid content, short films are yet to receive the same kind of recognition in our country the way they do abroad. Has the Indian audience not evolved yet?
A lot of people have started watching shorts. So things are definitely changing for good. Watching short films is a trend outside India. They have better access and usually are well-informed. We are gradually getting there. There’s no denying that Netflix has bad content too. But viewers are pretty cued into what’s good and what’s popular. As short films enjoy greater reach, people here would want to watch them too. Watching short films will soon become a trend.
People are more inclined to watch short films now given the paucity of time and the need for good entertainment. Look at Chutney. It garnered 125 million views. Even in Jodhpur, people have started watching short films.
Now that you have made Gadhedo, will it change your approach towards other movies? Would you rather be happy making shorts?
I wouldn’t want to be typecast or limit myself to a particular genre. If I like a story I will just go ahead and make it and hope that people would see it the way I saw it. I feel every film has to be different. Gadhedo was a different kind of film where there was no concept of time. The next one however would be more realistic.
Speaking of the success of Chutney, why do we insist on having platforms to expand reach and make short films more profitable?
No doubt a lot of people watched Chutney, but there are countless people out there who haven’t watched it yet or are not even aware that such a film exists. We talk about it because we have watched it, our friends have watched it. Think from a layman’s perspective. A layman will watch the film only when he’s aware of it. But when it’s available on Amazon or Netflix or other streaming platforms, he knows what to watch. The viewership increases significantly.
Is viewership suffering due to lack of publicity or promotional budgets?
See the risks are smaller with short films. You are making a short film about a subject you are passionate about. It’s a story you want to tell the world. It’s short and made with a small budget. It’s rarely ever made with the intent of making money. You may not be able to rope in prominent actors. So a lot depends on its content and how well you tell your story. Luckily, there are platforms to help bridge this gap between shorts and their audience. I want us to just make good films and not worry about money.
Are there more exciting projects?
There are two more films, currently in post-production. One is a musical and is entirely shot on iPhone. The second is a hybrid film — half fiction, half documentary. It’s based on the side effects of Instagram.