‘Paw Prints’ is inspired from a real life incident: Utthara Unni
Utthara Unni is an actress and now writer and director of the short film ‘Paw Prints’. We caught up with the young director and asked her about her experience making a short film and a short film with canines.
What inspired you to make ‘Paw Prints?’
I am a dog lover. I wanted to do something about dogs. Recently, there’s been a lot of buzz around South about this issue of street dogs. People go around killing dogs and say that mass cullings are required. So, I wanted people to know how loving these creatures are. My main point was that just because a couple of dogs became menaces, it doesn’t mean that all dogs are harmful.
Do you think there’s actually a dog menace in the south?
People are making it an issue. It’s all about the news cycle. Whatever is happening at that time, that’s reported. I don’t think a dog has ever bitten a dog lover. I don’t know why people make a fuss out of it. Even I pet street dogs but I have never faced an issue with them. I don’t know why other face issues. Probably they get attacked because they are scared that they might get attacked.
What made you decide on the story?
This is a real story, inspired by my dad and my dog. A friend of mine gifted me a cockner spaniel when it was young. My dad was very irritated that the dog will be in the house as he is not comfortable with them. I travel a lot, so the responsibility to take care of the dog fell on him which he never wanted to take. But after a few months, I saw that he got really attached to the dog. So, we play the thing, saying that my friend is coming back to take the dog. This statement always hurts and upsets him as now he never wants to give away the dog. That is what inspired me to make this film.
Tell us about your role in the film.
I wanted someone else to play the role that I play. But then, at the last moment, I couldn’t get anyone so I decided to play it. That character is inspired from real life too. I know many people who say that they are dog lovers and behave like one by buying exotic breed which find difficult to survive in India because they cant handle the weather. It’s a torture for the dogs.
You have made horror films earlier. What made you decide on this genre?
This is my third film. My other two films which were in horror genre were in Malayalam too. As a kid, I used to watch a lot of horror films as I was really fond of them. I did my first film which was horror and the next somehow was of the same genre but then i realised that if I continue making in this genre people will typecast me so I decided to make something different. This was the first thing that came to my mind.
The climax is quite unique. Tell us more about it.
When I wrote the story, the one liner itself had the sad climax. I thought that a sad ending would always keep the audience thinking. I did feel bad when I wrote the film. My mom said that the audience should share your emotion, it’s no use if only the writer feels the emotion of the film. That’s the message that the film should convey.
Was the ending discussed?
My producer wanted a happy ending. They spoke to me about whether we could have an ending where the dog returns or if it was all a dream. But I felt that if the film had a happy ending, it would just be a film.
What do you think is a staple duration of a short film?
My personal opinion is that the duration of a short film should be 5 to 10 minutes. The audience sees what’s the duration of a short film as soon as they are given the link to a film. I prefer keeping it 5 to 10 minutes. But this one needed 15 minutes to show the bond between the man and the dog.
Tell us about the casting of Paw Prints.
The main lead, Siddique, is well known in the Malayalam film industry. According to me, he is the most brilliant actor. My mom’s an actor and she knew him and I asked her to speak to him.
He agreed to do the film. We weren’t really prepared for that. Once you get a really big actor, everything else has to look so professional. So, suddenly, it was like ‘the camera should be professional, the cinematographer should be good’, so on and so forth.
The dog was a trained one. We have an organisation in the South that help dogs to act in films. I contacted them and it became all possible. They were very sweet with the dog. Initially, I was worried that they will scold the dog to perform but nothing like that happened. They had got lot of toys and videos on their iPads – so it was a fun process. Even Siddique is a dog lover, so that was helpful too.
How was it shooting with the dog?
I was quite scared before the shoot. I was wondering how we would shoot this film with the canine. Even the cinematographer told me that its easy to get the emotions out from a human actor than a dog. But it was made easier because of the trainers. They were real help during the shoot.
Our final question, what do you think about the bold concepts in short films nowadays?
I think it’s okay to have bold scenes in a short film. If someone wants to watch porn, they’ll go to a porn website and watch it. So, if a person watches it in a porn film, why can’t there be such scenes in a short film? As long as the scenes are relevant to the script, these scenes are okay.