Monday, February 26, 2024

Heightening the Indian cinema on the global stage

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Filmmaker Shaily Sanghvi, gets candid with The Pioneer, sharing her insights on the filmmaking process, women filmmakers, and more.

A prominent filmmaker is with us today—Shaily Sanghvi is a writer, director, and producer located in Los Angeles, who has gained a lot of traction in the entertainment industry. She offered her views about films to us and all about her film-making process.

To illustrate, “Ahmedabad gave me the push to start. With my undergraduate in Mass Communication as I moved to Mumbai, I got exposed to being on a real set for the first time with Zee! And that is when I decided that this is it—this is what I want to do. Los Angeles has been a different ball game all together. While working in India, it exposed me to the creatives of the industry, LA taught me the technical part of it making it a perfect combination.”

Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Zoya Akhtar are two so different and yet unique in their way of story telling. Shaily is always attempting to take inspiration from them in her films. She loves the humane layers of grey Zoya Akhtar adds to her characters. She makes them so easy to relate to that is why audiences love her characters. May that be Hritik and his defense mechanism of overworking or Tara from Made in Heaven and how she was taught to always be the survivor and do what it takes for it. With maestro Sanjay Bhansali, his each frame is worth studying. So Shaily loves his use of colours to show the emotions and personality. Like in Bajirao Mastani his colour palate changes as and when Mastani starts getting a little more acceptance, each frame is designed in a way that no matter where you pause, it is a visual marvel.

The acclaimed filmmaker continued, “When I made my first film, I had no idea about so many things. Production design, sync sound or lighting. I borrowed a friend’s DSLR and shot at my house. My parents ended up doing the set dressing and my friends ended up acting for me. It was a complete guerrilla shoot. Only when I went on a real set, I realised there is so much more to consider before even getting on the floor to shoot.”

At Zee, she wasn’t even out of undergrad. It showed her what her rest of the life was going to be. Actually, it validated her decision of wanting to be a filmmaker. But apart from that it opened her eyes about the extensive process that the crew and cast go through which is often unnoticed by a layman. Besides, “Honestly, sometimes being a woman, you have to be a little more assertive to for your work to have the attention it deserves. But overtime, I realised that if your work is good, you get the respect you deserve. There is no reason to not be your confident self. For instance, Ektaa Kapoor is a genius. Since I was her creative associate, I got to see her in every aspect, and god does she excel in all of those. I have seen her give seasonal arcs for shows in like five minutes. She is brilliant in what she does, so deserving of all the accolades she has.”

There are quite a lot of differences actually. Like an air conditioners and focus pullers are different in India but it’s in one position in the US. The flow of things is a little different in both countries. It took her a while to explain to people there about her role as an ACD on the last two projects in India only because they have different terms. The passion still remains the same! “Pirouette was shot on film camera, which means it doesn’t give you the liberty to take as many takes as you want that digital camera give you. You have to be meticulous about the number of takes you get and so you rehearse way more than you would for digital. Because Pirouette was a dance film, the biggest challenge was to get every step right on the beat with difficult camera movements within two takes. Especially the last shot of the film. It is a 360-degree shot where we merge the past and present and see both characters two times in different costumes in the same shot. That was the most difficult to shoot. The whole crew was running around to make that happen. But when it did, it looked so good, it was all worth the effort.”

When she got her first award, she was sitting in the audience and they said her name. For a second she froze because honestly she didn’t expect to win. It took her a minute to get up and go to the stage to receive the award. It felt surreal to talk about the film and the process with fellow filmmakers and get appreciation on that. Shaily’s quantum leap! “I love writing my own films. When I am working on a project, I eat sleep breathe that project, those characters. So when I do that, I am very aware of the flaws that I want to include in my character and the reason behind that behaviour. I like keeping my character grey because that is how we are as humans. We act according to our own context and situation and so should the characters in movies. There is no perfect hero. The last two projects that I did were both Indian stories talking about different aspects of Indian culture. This would be my attempt to clear misconceptions about our culture and show the real essence of it in different stories.”

The global exclusive also said that film festivals are a great way of getting feedback on your films especially from fellow filmmakers. While they work as a good critics system it is also a great way of appreciation for your work. Getting nominated and awards from international film festivals validates your belief in the project and your craft, which one could use often in this extremely competitive industry. Currently, she is working on the post-production of two of her films which she is hoping to get out by November! Along with this, she is also working on the pre-production of a couple of other films including shorts and a series.

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