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Celluloid nibblets


Thanks to novel concepts and strong storylines, even 10-minute films are finding audiences.

For Neeraj Ghaywan, the 16-minute film Shor was a test of his talent and skill. At the very start of the venture he had asked his producer Anurag Kashyap: "Please tell me if I have it in me". Shor is one of the films in the compilation of five short films called Shorts co-produced by Kashyap.

While the audience is yet to pass its judgement, Ghaywan could not have hoped for better timing. For, audiences long used to Bollywood's two-and-a-half-hourlong epics are warming up to short films. Shorts comes close on the heels of Bombay Talkies, another anthology of short films, which opened to critical acclaim. Multiplexes, however, are not at the forefront of this expanding universe;film forums, city clubs and online screenings are.

Leading from the front is Shamiana - The Short Film Club, founded by Cyrus Dastur, theatre personality. The club's screenings reach out to 4 million people across 10 cities, according to Dastur. "When I initially started this club in 2000, I had 20 members (it was called Blue Note Film Club then), then it was reborn as Shamiana five years back with 5, 000 members. There is a huge market coming up and these are exciting times for short film makers and this space. Earlier, we used to get maybe one short film submission in two weeks and now we get two hours of content everyday, " says Dastur. Shamiana's screenings are usually a bouquet of films from different genres (usually a series of 6-7 films), but they can also be thematic. For the last few months, the club has had 10 screenings every month across cities. Though most of these screenings are free, new formats for revenue generation are being experimented with.

Sripriya Krishnaswamy, 39, is a producer and PRO with Lensmangops Pictures, which has made four well-received amd widely screened short films. Krishnaswamy and Gopukumar, her partner, started broadcasting films through YouTube initially. "Then we tried new things - paid previews at Rs 50. We also got other short films together in a package, Rs 100 for three films. Our last film, Aghavizhi, was pay and view online at $1-1. 5. The response has been good, " she says, crediting short filmmaking competitions on television with helping build excitement for the format.

Access to the technology and tools for filmmaking has led to the spurt in shorts. Both Dastur and Krishnaswamy say the originality of these films makes for very engaging products. "You get a full, satisfying experience and story even in a short film, " says Krishnaswamy.

Ghaywan says that the appeal of short films has been increasing because people from outside the industry are finding it creatively satisfying. He adds, "This form of story-telling also means that the experience is more intense. Characters have to be established in a minute or two. For me, the charm lies in the mystery of the film that is left to the audience."

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