Siddharth Chauhan has made some interesting short films, which have won several awards and good recognition. We got in touch with the talented director for a conversation
Pashi is a story of a young boy who is fascinated with the idea of trapping birds. Using the concept of a trap as a metaphor, Pashi exposes the audience to the volatile mind of a young boy and leaves it to each to decide whether what they see is deviousness or pure honesty..
I was introduced to a ‘pashi’ – literally meaning a trap, by my cousins in my childhood during a winter vacation. This was in my village (Dhanoti in Rohru, 100 kms away from Shimla). It made a strong impact on my mind and stayed with me for a long time. I wanted to make a film on it but didn’t have the ‘right story’, which would justify this concept. When I conceived a story which I felt did justice to the idea of a ‘pashi’, I decided to make the film.
I see many more people making films now and more festivals with a ‘short-film’ category. Besides that not much has changed, there is still little financial support available for short filmmakers, unless you advertise a brand/recognised actor.
As an intern with a production house in Mumbai, back in 2014, we were given a task to write a short film script. That’s when I wrote the first draft overnight. I left my job soon after, came back to Shimla with some bitter experiences and before I could realize, was diagnosed with depression. I didn’t have any work and couldn’t see any future in this field!
I was shattered but my mentor; Dr. Daisaku Ikeda’s hope filled words inspired me to not give up. My Buddhist practice & chanting ‘Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo’ helped me in bouncing back and transforming my suffering into joy! I could summon the courage to make my most ambitious project which at that time was ‘PAPA’.
On it’s premiere, it won the Best Film Award at International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala IDSFFK 2016 for “It’s innovation in narrative gesture… ” and later the Satyajit Ray Award at the London Indian Film Festival 2017 for “It’s mature storytelling…”.
I never thought I could compete with Film Students and other Professional Filmmakers! The Buddhist practice really made me in discovering a new side to myself!
Amazing. The best so far! Though my closest friends volunteered to help me on the film I never felt disappointed for even a moment! They were even better than professionals and we all shared a great working rapport together! Mridul, Yashwant and Aastha were the three wheels of my cart!!! We begged, borrowed, did everything we could to make the film in Shimla! Many people came forward later to help me when they saw a burning spirit in all of us to make this film. It was a beautiful experience and worth every struggle.
6. Papa is one of the few short films that talk about a parent-child relationship, what made you decide on this concept?
I really don’t know which part of my brain it popped up from! It was instinctive and I just felt more comfortable telling a story like this. It came from my heart and I was in love with it!
A lot of people who saw the film also wanted to know about my relationship with my mother. It is assumed that our work draws it’s inspiration from our real life but that is not true nor should it be a benchmark to judge the credibility of one’s work! Mohit Parmar who is playing Rajiv (son) in the film also slaps his disabled mother in the film but I have never had any close encounter with any disabled person in my life nor have I slapped my mother… ever… believe me! Hahaaa
7. You talk about disabled people in the short film. Do you think we are doing enough for them?
I don’t know if I really made a statement but I definitely tried to show something about a disabled person’s life in my film. I live in a hill station and people on wheelchairs at least here, face a lot of problems. Mostly because there is hardly any building/office equipped with a facility to let them enter on their wheelchair. It’s very sad and disheartening.
8. Do you think international audiences are ready for small-town stories in the short film market?
Absolutely! A story is a story and if it’s unique and told in an interesting manner, audience (national or international) loves it!
9. More mainstream actors are now going the short film and streaming way. Do you think that’s good for the short film platforms?
It’s great to know that some mainstream actors are showing interest in short films and have become open to the idea of a doing a short film. Though they are not easily accessible to independent filmmakers, their presence can definitely make your film more popular and get you more likes, if that is what one is looking for! I am not. It’s great for the short film platforms because they can make more money but having mainstream actors in short films should not be looked at as a boon in any way! As a filmmaker dedicated to my craft, it means nothing to me.
10.Who would you like to direct from the mainstream actors?
I don’t know…I can only wish / decide once I have a script in hand, where I see some mainstream actor fitting the character which I have written, adding a lot of substance to the role. At the moment, I have nobody in mind.
11. What do you think is the future for the streaming platforms now?
I am just like any other person who is watching the current change and speculating about the future…I really have no idea!
12. With Netflix and Amazon ramping up their India show, do you think it’s time for Indian directors to get ready for the big leagues?
Yeah absolutely! We should anyway raise the bar!
13. What’s your favourite streaming series, foreign or international.
You will be surprised to know but I haven’t seen any till date! I am not drawn to them for some reason. I enjoy watching films on my laptop once in a while and that’s all that my ‘watching’ appetite allows me.
14. What’s next for you?
I am developing three feature film scripts, titled – ‘The Flying Trunk’, ‘Karma’ and ‘Amar Colony’! I am extremely excited about them also because I know one of these will become my first feature film. Other than these, I am also working on my next short film titled ‘Obra’.
Well, we wish the best of luck to the talented film maker. It’s good to see such talented creators gearing up for big things.