The explosion of aspiring talent in the short film category is evident in the new opportunities offered by the Kolkata International Film Festival.
The last few years have seen a phenomenal rise in the number of entries in this section that offers attractive prizes. The number of entries from Kolkata and other parts of India is far more than the number of entries received from abroad. This itself is confirmation of the interest that has been generated and, what is more significant, the expectation that quite a number of those who have been writing scripts for short fiction films with a running time ranging from 15 to 50 minutes will eventually move into the world of feature films.
Some senior filmmakers have shown the way. Sujoy Ghosh, who claimed a handsome share of success with Kahaani though he was not as successful with the sequel, explored new territory with Ahalya that was put out on the social media.
It grabbed so much attention that he has gone on to make his second short fiction film based on a story by Satyajit Ray. His professional colleague, Aniruddha Roy, was equally successful with Anuranan and Antaheen, which had won National Awards. But then he stepped into the world of short films on the strength of his experience as an ad filmmaker. Now it seems that he has discovered a new form of expression with Debi, which he made two years ago for a corporate group while he was engaged in a commercial for the same organisation.
What matters are the cinematic aspects that are more than evident in the short fiction films made by Sujoy Ghosh — telling a story with a remarkable degree of intelligence and discipline. While they have paved the way for new ideas to be expressed within a limited time frame, there has been a virtual explosion in the number of short and documentary makers who are making the best use of the digital medium.
Quite a number of these aspiring filmmakers don’t possess either the resources or the skills to take their creative ambitions to a logical conclusion. But at least some have the potential to strike the right notes. It is this group that can now look forward to a new platform.
The Eye Within, which for several years has been concerned with the promotion of the fine arts, has extended its interests to other creative areas ranging from the art of play reading and recitations to short films.
The short film initiative, Olpoy Golpo, was kicked off with a package that included Debi and a selection offered by the Kalpanirjhar Foundation. Roy Chowdhury’s film sustained the warmth and tenderness of a reunion that included the return of a mother and daughter to their ancestral home and the subtle reactions of other members of the family during the Durga Puja.
The concentration on the sumptuous meals has a commercial dimension. But, like his award winning films, Debi stands out for its human appeal. Like many others, he had reason to be pleased that his work could draw more tangible reactions on such occasions than in outlets that are dominated by commercials. It also raises expectations about his second short film that was made in a village and based on the need for water conservation.
What will also be followed with interest is the progress of an organisation that is now committed to keeping an eye on talented short filmmakers. The cosy setting in south Kolkata should give young people with interesting ideas expressed on the screen an opportunity to share their experiences with small groups of discerning audiences that have seen The Eye Within grow from literary evenings, art camps and exhibitions to regular interactions on short films.
The first few events have confirmed how the excitement of the creative efforts can prevail over age barriers and social differences. Kalpanirjhar, which mounts a festival of its own, offered a lively cocktail of comedy and thrills in films like The Coltrane Code and Beautiful from Italy and Mental Party from Spain. Kolkata had been known for animated exchanges in coffee houses and comfortable interiors. The debating climate seemed to have been lost in later years with the passing of giants. The 1960s was perhaps the most fertile period in the fields of not only cinema but music, theatre, literature and the fine arts.
It was also the time when film societies had generated a new climate of cinematic awareness that was woven into the animated debates on the various art forms. The excitement appeared to fizzle out with the arrival of television and other forms of colourful entertainment that served the demands of the market. Barring stray examples of excellence, there seemed to be no reason to sustain the candid exchanges.
The discussions and debates became rituals of the past. Fortunately, a prolonged vacuum has now been filled — at least partially — with the emergence of a new generation of digital exponents. Some of them deserve serious attention. The world has become smaller.
But the opportunities offered by well-meaning organisations committed to interesting discoveries should add much-needed sparks to the creative climate at home — with the possible revival of meaningful debates.