Films have been an integral part of my life since childhood, all thanks to my father. He was a Chiranjeevi fan and took me to Indra 4 times at the time of its release. Growing up, we discussed a lot about cinema made in Telugu and Tamil and the book adaptations of Yandamoori that were blockbuster films.
From one of his friends, I learned that my father used to direct stage plays during his undergraduate days, and here I was, watching movies on the laptop without doing anything creatively. I was interested in understanding films and thought to make something to interpret them in a better way.
And my college had creative arts courses that liberated us from regular coursework stress and mundane life. Luckily, I happened to be part of three short films during my undergraduate days and thought I’d compile the experiences for my future self whenever he feels he’s not doing anything creatively.
Disclaimer: I am an amateur in the world of films. If you are here to understand filmmaking tips, I’m sorry. This blog is a memoir of my stint with stories and movies during my undergraduate days.
In the second semester, when I was watching 2–3 movies in a week, I learned about an elective course called “Filmmaking for beginners.” One of the main reasons I took this course, apart from being interested in films, was the course taught by composer Ramana Gogula in the earlier semester, and I thought I could meet him in person and interact with him.
But this time, we had Mr. Parikshith Suri, who worked on A Film By Aravind and taught at a film school in Hyderabad.
Honestly, I didn’t remember much of what he taught during the lectures, as the course had a final assignment of making a short film under 5 minutes and shouldn’t have any dialogues (our college wasn’t equipped with a dubbing studio back then).
We were a team of 6, and I told I’ll come up with a story, and I ripped off scenes from Swamy Raa Raa and Pelli Choopulu to write our story. It is about two thieves who work together until they get money, and greed enters their minds only to lose all they earned (read robbed).
We shot the scenes in real locations (no budget for studio :D) in an adjoining village, Kandi, and few young people suggested we shoot near a lake as it had a beautiful view for romantic films. We shot in the village in the morning, and other scenes in our college, and filming finished in a single-day schedule.
This is the first-hand experience of working on a script, scouting locations, staging scenes, communicating with actors, managing shoot, and post-production (much exaggerated here, lol) for me, which made me re-examine the choices that I am going to make in the near future.
The excellent team involved in this: Sai Ram, Sai Bharadwaj, Samhith, Abhilash, and Srikanth.
Friends (Japanese short-film):
It was our 3rd semester, and to fulfill the credits requirement, I took an elective called “Spoken Japanese Basics,” which had speaking and reading assignments. For final evaluation, the instructor came up with the idea of having a group video — that should be shot entirely in Japanese, not necessarily a short film.
So, with my previous experience of working on a short film, my friends thought I’d be better at handling it and asked me for a concept — which should have conversations of all group members.
I wrote a small scene of a friend coming from Japan and explaining his experiences of Japan to his friends.
I wrote the English dialogues and took the help of Mina, who used to work at Shiru Cafe at our campus. She helped me with the dialogues & pronunciations. I shared the dialogue paper with my friends and thought to shoot it in a single shot.
Learning (read memorizing) other languages dialogues is tough, and the awkwardness increases when you perform in front of a camera. We were rehearsing the dialogues and asked a friend to shoot it for behind the scenes, which eventually made it to the final cut. The differentiating point of our video is it had a title, which wasn’t present in other groups.
We shot this in a single schedule lasting 2–3 hours, and it has been a learning experience for shooting indoors, and in non-native languages, with sync sound.
The team involved here: Pranith, Murali, Nivas, Vinay, and Sandeep.
The climax of Falaknuma Das (remake of Angamaly Diaries), which was made in a single shot, struck my mind, and I was writing down few ideas which can be made in a single shot.
And we got to know there’s a contest in our college for which we can make a short film and submit it. The duration should be a minimum of 5 minutes.
My only reservation here was to make the entire short film in a single shot. I thought of a short film highlighting consent but couldn’t write it in the mentioned time frame. Next, I came up with a concept of a psychological thriller with drugs and the dichotomy of human nature.
I narrated it to a group. They liked it and had few suggestions. Janmejay wrote dialogues, we scheduled to shoot, and fixed on locations. Everything was going well, I thought, and the academics came in uninvited, and most of the team became busy with exams and assignments.
I had to drop that idea as it required people, and a day before submission, after dinner, JRK and I thought, why can’t we make one, in single-shot then and there. It started around 10 pm, and I randomly pitched Falaknuma Das climax, and we found actors. Subash was kind enough to accept the instantly made role, and we shot a scene thinking it would be 5 min, but I think it came out to 2 minutes.
Then we extrapolated the story by adding a scene preceding and succeeding the single-take that we shot initially and stitched all three of them to cross that 5 min limitation. Thus, we all became “Reverse Engineers” from that day! :D
All hail to JRK for using the mobile camera steadily and making the entire shoot smooth. The team involved here: Subash, Sree Vamsi, Sai Dhiraj, and JRK.
Cheers to all the friends who were directly part of the process and encouraged me to participate in such activities. All three wouldn’t have been made even if a single person had orthogonal thoughts on them.
Honorary mention: In the final year of my undergraduate degree, I took a course called “Understanding Cinema: Five Days at the movies” — that analyses films and questions the status quo with full class participation actively monitored by Shubhra Gupta, a Film critic at the Indian Express. This course introduced me to international cinema and one filmmaker I am super happy to know: Bong Joon-Ho.
Why am I writing this? To show-off?
No, not really. As covid hit us hard, we weren’t there to finish our exams, and our original degree certificates were sent home. We were there for four years — exploring life, discovering relationships, and about to become professionals in different fields, becoming aware of our strengths. Then I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to our friends who significantly influence every decision I make, including starting and continuing this blog.
Looking back, I wondered whether I lived my college life as per my wish or was living it to satisfy someone, and these three short films restored my confidence that I was happy with what I was doing back then, even though there were few setbacks in those four years.