www.punemirror.com | November 26, 2018
OUTSIDE OF COLLEGE COURSES AND STRUCTURED LEARNING, STUDENTS ARE CREATING SPACES FOR AUTONOMOUS EXPRESSION THOUGH FILMMAKING, PUBLISHING AND MORE
Personal passion and strong opinions have always been two tenets of the arts, especially when it comes to media and communication. While systematic academic courses in filmmaking, creative writing etc. are fairly common, there are students who got into these fields organically and have created portfolios based on independent projects they have worked on. Mirror spoke to a few of them.
Mrinal Rajeev (20) first grew interested in filmmaking during a gap year that he had taken before joining college. Over one of his summer vacations, he started Soul and Silver Screens, an Instagram page where he posts abstract films on a variety of topics, all of them about a minute long. Since then, he has made multiple short films, edited projects for production houses, and started a film club in his college, Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts, which he now heads. A part of this club is the Filmmakers’ Guild, where students from his college who make films, can pool in resources and talents, and arrange filmmaking classes for themselves.
One of his films is called DUI or driving under influence. “I have known multiple people, friends and family, who got into accidents because of drinking and driving”, explained Rajeev. However, he tries to avoid putting out an obvious didactic message, and instead tries to show how he personally processed and internalised that experience. The film is made from the perspective of a person who was driving under influence and gives the viewer the feeling of seeing through his eyes through hazy, disoriented shots. “For me, it’s always about driving home a point of understanding and empathy,” Rajeev mused.
Although the Instagram page is a space for personal exploration, Rajeev also makes films with his friends from college. “Film is a completely collaborative form and when there are multiple brains, with different perspectives, different backgrounds, different educations and different tastes, it is a much more interesting process,” he said. He also prefers Instagram because the oneminute limit on duration provides a challenge that helps in experimentation. For other films, he prefers Youtube over Facebook, finding the former much more unfiltered and with greater reach. While he understands that online platforms are the best medium to gain visibility, Rajeev prefers screening his films. “You won’t understand your own movie until other people have watched it, and at screenings, you can get their uncensored feedback,” he mused. Rajeev recently worked on the signature film for the Kerala Film Festival. He plans to make more independent films over the next two years and eventually do higher studies in film.
► Crowdfund chronicles
Utkarsh Goel (21), made his first film in his third semester of college, for the ‘project’ component of his curriculum. “In the film, two people meet in a shared cab, and have to spend the day together when it breaks down,” he said.
While Goel has written and directed two films — If and When and Mitra Mandal, he has worked in various capacities in different films made by his friends, as editor, actor, producer, writer, and director. Of these roles, producing is his favourite. “There is a misconception that the producer is the person who pays for the film, but it is actually a very managerial job. Because I already knew a little bit of everything, it was nice to be involved without carrying out the actual execution,” he laughed.
Utkarsh Goel (above) and a still from Mitra Mandal, a film he worked on (right)
While most of his films were selffunded by him and his friends and made using the equipment they already had, with Mitra Mandal, he needed better equipment and to pay for production locations and set design. Goel then decided to start a crowdfundingcampaign and posted a small video. “We wanted to raise around Rs 40,000 and we reached the target in less than a day,” he said. Since so many people had trusted him with their money, he was careful and conscious about the smallest of decisions he made in the film, and this motivated him to work through many problems during production. “Every filmmaker should try crowdfunding at least once, it teaches you a lot,” he advised. His advice for other young filmmakers is to keep making new films, especially in college where you have easy access to equipment and collaborators, and to screen your films whenever possible. Having graduated from Symbiosis Centre for Mass Communication (SCMC) in October, Goel is now working in a production house. The experience here is different he says, because you are using someone else’s money, and you often don’t have much say in how the finished product is going to look. Although not sure about the future, Goel is trying his best to explore the filmmaking world as much as possible.
► Write what’s right
Gopika Kumaran (19) was in her first year when a senior asked if she wanted to join a publication called The Bastion — an independent news media platform, started by a bunch of students from Delhi, which now has multiple students working on it from different parts of the country. Run entirely by students, the platform has three sections — politics in education, politics in environment, politics in sports, and opinion. “We pride ourselves on good research and analytical work”, she said. Her last few articles have been about mental health education in India, sustainable fashion, and the ideology represented by history textbooks in Indian schools.
According to Kumaran, it can be difficult to reach people in the absence of funding. For her, it is worth it to write for the platform without getting paid because of the process and environment they have created for writers. “Every article has a researcher, a writer, and an editor, and the entire process is so collaborative that your writing can only grow,” enthused the Economics student from FLAME University. All its writers being students, the work is also flexible, and the editors are understanding about deadlines and academic pressures. Besides writing, Kumaran has also worked as a researcher for some articles. “Researchers look through data and government websites and try to find a story there that the writer can then tell,” she explained, adding that the stress on research, while unique, is required. “Somewhere, it comes from a feeling that the media in India is not believable for most people anymore, because of the commercialisation and sensationalisation,” she said.
In spite of talking about politics, there is not much of editorial discretion when it comes to the opinions will be represented. There is a section called ‘On the Fence’ on their website now, where two people with differing opinions can talk about the same topic.
“There isn’t not always one right answer, and multiple perspectives are welcome as long as they are backed by research,” Kumaran said. Presently in her second year and majoring in Economics, she hopes to continue writing.
Working at independent publication The Bastion has helped Gopika Kumaran grow as a writer; (Right) The Feminist Kitanu focuses on collaboration and the strength of its independent writers
► Underground tales
Nineteen-year-old Ritishaa Makarande (name changed) was in her first year of college when she and her friends decided to start ‘The Feminist Kitanu’, a Facebook page that later became a blog. “We started posting regular articles on the blog, and are trying to function as an alternative, independent online publication,” she said. The page first came about when she and her friends wanted a feminist news source that was unapologetic and uncompromised by funding and advertising. When they couldn’t find one, they decided to make one of their own.
The page is run anonymously, and all content is credited to the collective name. Although for some people, this compromises reliability, Makarande still thinks it is the best way to go about it. “We criticise a lot of things that can make us a target for hate, especially as women on the internet. We wanted to make sure we were not holding back,” she emphasised. Besides, the entire group being under one name helps with their collaborative process. “We come up with ideas together, and although articles are assigned to one person, we give extensive feedback and often write together. Each finished article is a product of all our inputs and opinions,” she said.
“Some people say we are biased as we’re not presenting both sides of the argument, but we are simply trying to present a side that is overpowered in the mainstream,” she says. Currently in her second year, Makarande is studying psychology and hopes to get into writing with full force once academic pressures recede.