Walk into Khar’s dimly-lit pub, The Daily, on a weekday, and you notice a hip, young crowd in the outdoor seating area, all eyes on a screen suspended from a wall. On the screen, a 10-year-old is speaking to his sister in Arabic, with a war-ravaged Iraq as the backdrop.

One of the monthly short film nights at The Pantry, hosted in association with Mac Product-ions and Shamiana Short Film Club
One of the monthly short film nights at The Pantry, hosted in association with Mac Product-ions and Shamiana Short Film Club

As Sahim Omar Kalifa’s 17-minute short film, Land Of The Heroes, progresses, 24-year-old Reema Sengupta, is gauging the audience from the sidelines. Does it interest them? Are they gulping sangrias or checking their mobile phones instead of watching this award-winning short?

Sengupta takes mental notes that will come in handy the next time she chooses a film to showcase at the pub. A short film curator, Sengupta, like a few others of her ilk, pursues her hobby of scouting for engaging titles that get screened in Mumbai’s eateries and pubs.

Shorts in the city
In the last couple of years, short film nights have become a popular concept in the city. earlier, we had dedicated venues like BlueFROG and Not Just Jazz By The Bay that hosted film screenings. These days, you can watch a movie over beer at pubs like The Barking Deer and The Daily or soak in such a coffee-laced evening at The Pantry as you watch a Spanish, Iranian or even Rajasthani film.

While the Pali Village Cafe owners project classics on their French glass windows every evening, the event organisers at He Said She Said, a popular Andheri hangout spot, are chalking out plans to start short film screenings soon. And more are sure to follow suit. “Today, there is a dedicated audience for short films, and credit should go to eateries like The Pantry for having created a short film-friendly environment.

A short film screening as part of F.A.M Jam organised by Krunk at The Daily
A short film screening as part of F.A.M Jam organised by Krunk at The Daily 

There are times when patrons, who want to book a table but are not interested in watching a film, have been asked to step in later so that the interested ones can enjoy the experience,” says Cyrus Dastur of Shamiana The Short Film Club. Last year, Shamiana tied up with Kala Ghoda’s The Pantry in association with Mac Productions to organise Short Film Nights, an event that takes place on the last Friday of every month.

Warming up the crowds
Breweries and pubs are leaving no stone unturned to entrench this concept in the city’s culture-scape. “At The Barking Deer, the space is for free, and we earn revenue on the food and drinks ordered by patrons who attend such events. We give an extra 25% discount to customers attending such events,” informs Saloni Sancheti, Marketing Coordinator at the brewery.

The rise in film screenings has, in turn, led to the rise of a new breed of short film curators. They might not have the resources like the experienced film curators connected with larger film festivals, but are an ardent bunch of cinema lovers. With most practising this as a hobby with a steady job on the side there is a rare monetary exchange. However, if one takes this up as a profession, a short film curator is likely to earn anything between 5,000 to 10,000 per edition.

“You have to give a certain amount of dedication and time and be consistent while curating short films. Currently, the problem is that many curators showcase substandard films that might drive audiences away. A short film needs to be engaging and entertaining like a stand-up act or a music concert or else one will leave the venue or get busy on WhatsApp,” reminds Dastur.