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Wanted to go all out to tell a story, bigger & bolder: Siddharth Chauhan

Written and directed by a young filmmaker, ‘Amar Colony’ won a special jury award at the 26th Tallinn Black Night Film Festival, an A-listed BAFTA & OSCAR qualifying festival which is one of the biggest events in Northern Europe.

Mitali Gautam | New Delhi |

Written and directed by a young filmmaker, ‘Amar Colony’ won a special jury award at the 26th Tallinn Black Night Film Festival, an A-listed BAFTA & OSCAR qualifying festival which is one of the biggest events in Northern Europe.

Starting Nimisha Nair, Sangeeta Agarwal, Usha Chauhan, Ayush Shrivastava, Deepak Sharma and Sreejith Vijay in the lead, the film was the lone Indian feature film to make it to the festival held in Estonia’s Capital Tallinn. It revolves around three women going through their mundane lives representing the human condition, in a chawl.

Creating such world-class content, Siddharth Chauhan, the internationally acclaimed filmmaker, has now become an inspiration for many small-town people who dream big.

(Image Source: Special Arrangement)
(Image Source: Special Arrangement)

 

Born and brought up in Shimla, Siddharth Chauhan, despite all the odds against him, lack of opportunities and formal education in film making, could be able to embarked on a journey into filmmaking and produced some well-meaning short films like ‘Pashi’ which was again the only Indian film to premiere at the Oscar Qualifying Flicker’s Rhode Island International Film Festival in 2018.

‘Pashi’ won six international awards including Best Director, Best Film, Audience Choice, Best Actor and Best Cinematography. Indie Film Magazine hailed it as ‘India’s finest short film’. Another film ‘The Flying Trunk’ also received extraordinary reviews. UK Film Review called the film ‘a remarkable film… a masterpiece’.

Siddharth was just 18 when he made his first short film called ‘Boys Don’t Wear Nailpolish’ based on a sensitive gender issue. It was awarded “The Golden Halo Award” at a festival in Kerala for being one of the best films in its category. The Jury praised the film for its powerful direction and performances.

(Image Source: Special Arrangement)
(Image Source: Special Arrangement)

 

Apart from this, the film was screened at several other film festivals in India and abroad. From then his journey continued as an independent filmmaker. He was always fascinated by films and experimenting with new ideas.

During his college days he started working with local talent in his hometown. He founded Secret Corridor Pictures in 2012. Now, he is setting new benchmarks with every film he directs.

In an exclusive interview with Mitali Gautam for The StatesmanSiddharth Chauhan shared his experience at Tallinn Black Night Film Festival and his new film ‘Amar Colony’ which won a special jury award.

(Image Source: Special Arrangement)
(Image Source: Special Arrangement)

 

Mitali Gautam: Amar colony having a world premiere at the 26th Tallinn Black Night Film Festival and winning the specific Jury Award. How does it feel to represent your country at the world stage?

Siddharth Chauhan: There were more than 100 films in consideration competing for that one spot. I feel special and it feels like my vision has been validated. I always knew the worth of my film and that I had a very unique product in my hand.

Though it is not a great idea to seek validation, validation is also very helpful as when an international film festival awards your film, it is able to influence a lot of Indian audience, as opposed to something similar happening here in India. Also it is funny, but people start taking you seriously! It is sad that we lack the sensibility to value and realise the worth of our own creations and have to run abroad to seek validation.

MG: What was your idea behind making Amar Colony and what difficulties did you face while making this film?

SC: I still remember when I reached home (in Shimla) after winning the top prize at IDSFFK 2016 in Kerala for my short film ‘Papa’ and yet felt unsatisfied. I had played it safe. Hence, I wanted to go all out and tell a story which was bigger and bolder. That’s when I started writing Amar Colony. The idea was to expand on my short film and dive deeper into the themes of isolation, love and sexual repression.

MG: What are your future plans and when will the people of Shimla have an opportunity to watch your next film?

SC: I want to shoot my next film soon. I have already approached departments of tourism and language, art and culture to extend their support to me, but I still have to follow it up with them. I am not too sure if our government is interested or has any policy or fund to support a local filmmaker like me who has a voice which can reach and produce ripples globally. I would love to screen my film in my hometown soon, but wonder if it is of any interest to the locals.

(Image Source: Special Arrangement)
(Image Source: Special Arrangement)

 

MG: How difficult was this journey for you from being a common person to a world-renowned filmmaker?

SC: I am the same inside – just another common man trying to become a better person. It’s exciting and flattering to know that others have started taking me seriously now and that I am considered a world-renowned filmmaker. I have just believed in my own vision and have done everything to translate it into a film, it is very special when others appreciate and value you for what you do. I think I am fortunate.

MG: In Shimla, resources are very few. How did you manage to start your journey as a filmmaker?

SC: It’s impossible to manage everything on your own. Since filmmaking is a collaborative venture, I had to take help from so many of my friends and family members. I am eternally grateful to them for being there for me. I am happy that I did not disappoint them and they all do not regret going out of their way to help me.

MG: Did Shimla as a home contribute to your cinematic sensibilities by any means?

SC: I do not think my sensibility was influenced by anything local, as I watched a lot of world cinema and studied other filmmakers’ work. I also found deep interest in the philosophy of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, which is based on the Lotus Sutra, and want to credit the Soka Gakkai for my education. Studying Buddhism has deeply influenced my sensibility towards everything in life and that includes films as well. Practicing Buddhism transformed me from a person who complained about his environment to one who could realise what a beautiful town I was blessed with, a place which had abundant to offer me in terms of resources.

(Image Source: Special Arrangement)
(Image Source: Special Arrangement)

 

MG: How would you define yourself as a filmmaker in this era of commercial cinema?

SC: Just another drop in the ocean! What one person does/how one contributes is too miniscule but nonetheless important. I have a unique voice, a unique vision and a unique mission. I want to tell my stories because if I don’t, then who will? I would like to believe that there is an audience for my films in India as well. The audience at Tallinn (Europe) was blown away to see a bold and unconventional Indian film like this and I am sure our film will win many hearts and attention in our country as well.

MG: What would you like to advise the young people of Shimla who have dreams to become like you?

SC: My generation and the younger ones are suffocated with free advice pouring in from all directions. I can’t do this to them! Also, I do not feel I am capable of advising anyone. So, I really have none! My only advice would be to not listen to any advice. I want them to believe in themselves, to dream big, figure out their shit and work hard towards realising their dreams. A new set of people endowed with an ability to think differently is essential for creating a new age, a new world. I believe they are already doing so. I have full faith in my younger friends who I feel are much more evolved and intelligent than me and I often look up to them for ideas and suggestions and really feel like their junior not senior in any way!