Manoj Bajpayee: ‘I look for stories that can be clutter breakers’

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Manoj Bajpayee: ‘I look for stories that can be clutter breakers’

Manoj Bajpayee, Tisca Chopra, and Sayani Gupta talk about the charm of short films, on the sidelines of a series of panel discussions

Short films have often been stepping stones to feature films. There are enough success stories in film industries across languages to prove that. However, there’s also been a niche category of established filmmakers and actors dipping their feet into shorts occasionally to tell strong stories. This has been more prevalent in the Hindi film industry.

Anurag Kashyap directing a short or actors of repute such as Naseeruddin Shah, Nawazuddin Siddiqui or Manoj Bajpayee acting in one doesn’t come as a surprise. These shorts are quickly lapped up by netizens.

“Whether I choose a feature, web series, or a short, I look for stories that can be clutter breakers,” says Bajpayee, speaking on the sidelines of a panel discussion held in Mumbai to launch LSF Evenings, an initiative by Royal Stag Large Short Films platform.

In normal circumstances, the panel discussions would have been hosted in different cities. Given the pandemic, this year a series of discussions were filmed in Mumbai and will be available to view soon on Zee network and Royal Stag Large Short Films YouTube channel.

Moderated by Mandira Bedi, the discussions had Saif Ali Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Manoj Bajpayee, Samantha Akkineni, Divya Dutta, Sayani Gupta, Shweta Basu Prasad, Tisca Chopra, Niranjan Iyengar, and Shivani Raghuvanshi focusing on the emerging trends in Indian cinema, the collapsing of the commercial and indie barriers, and the changes brought about by the pandemic on storytelling: “The audience has shown a great appetite for content and the onus is on us to deliver. When theatres were shut for months, there was no other source of entertainment and everyone turned to digital platforms,” says Bajpayee.

Some of the short films Bajpayee has featured in are Kriti directed by Sirish Kunder co-starring Radhika Apte, Zahir with Dia Mirza, and Ouch with Pooja Chopra. “I try to select a story that shakes me up. Within a short duration, the story has to be narrated effectively to impact the viewers,” he says.

Actor Tisca Chopra had turned producer with the short film Chutney (2016) and now, she is turning director with the short Rubaru. The film stars her and Arjun Mathur and is scheduled to drop on the Large Short Films channel in late November. “I had the time of my life,” she says about directing the film, “Rubaru talks about what it entails to be an artist and the struggle for relevance.”

The Rubaru crew finished shooting in February and took a break, intending to regroup a few weeks later for postproduction. However, it turned out to be a six-month break thanks to lockdown. Looking back, Tisca says a short film entails enormous preparation where everyone in the crew has to hit the bull’s eye for each shot/take. “You can’t afford to say kal dekh lenge because you have to usually finish the film in three or four days.”

From the audience’s point of view, Tisca equates the experience of watching a short as an “affair” as opposed to “a longer, committed marriage” for feature films and series. “It’s a great way to get introduced to new creators, content, and actors. Chutney clocked 131 million views and was a rewarding experience,” she avers. Tisca plans to direct a feature film in 2021.

The short film Shameless starring Sayani Gupta and directed by Keith Gomes was among the finalists at the third edition of the Best of India Short Film Festival 2020 recently. The actor who has acted in several shorts has the last word when she points out that short films made by renowned directors such as Satyajit Ray and Wes Anderson have proved that poignant stories can be narrated in the format: “There’s room to narrate a wide variety of stories in a duration of a minute or even 40 minutes. Shorts have a different charm about them and can be effective messaging tools.”


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