Horror high in 13 minutes: Film-maker Bharghav Saika on his short film

Assam-born filmmaker Bhargav Saikia’s short horror film, Awakenings, has been wowing festival audiences abroad. He shares his love for the supernatural and the film’s journey so far

  Bhargav Saikia, who previously produced the critically acclaimed Hindi feature film, Kaafiron Ki Namaaz, which is scheduled to release in India this year, has come out with Awakenings, a 13-minute horror short film in Hindi/English which has earned critical acclaim already. Excerpts from an interview with the director:

A poster of the film, Awakenings
A poster of the film, Awakenings

Q. Tell us a bit about the film (the story and its title).
A. Awakenings is a 13-minute short film in the psychological horror genre. The story takes place over the course of a night when a babysitter’s child-care session turns into a nightmare as reality becomes more and more twisted on being chased by a supernatural entity. The title, Awakenings, refers to the multiple moments when the lead protagonist of the film, Meera, suddenly becomes aware of the presence of a malevolent entity, which gradually corrupts the innocence of her young charges. The thin line between reality and dreams is highlighted in the title.

A still from  Awakenings
A still from Awakenings

Q. Why did you choose to tell a ghost story?
A. The fear of the unknown fascinates me. It is an emotion that I enjoy experiencing. Be it books, films, folklore or mythology, I have always been attracted to stories of the supernatural. When it comes to cinema, creating an atmosphere of suspense and fear through visuals and sound is very challenging and exciting. Moreover, the horror genre in India is still underdeveloped. I would like to, in my own way, contribute to the growth of ‘genre cinema’ in India. What really attracted me to the story of Awakenings is its ability to keep the audience guessing about what is real and what is unreal till the very end.

Q. How has the journey of the film been till now?
A. Awakenings had its world premiere on May 2, 2015 in the US at HP Lovecraft Film Festival. Since then, the film has been selected to screen at 52 international film festivals, most of which exclusively showcase ‘genre cinema’. Several more festival selections are expected by the end of this year. The response has been fantastic. I am proud that the film is being screened with some of the best horror short films from across the globe at prestigious festivals such as Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival in Switzerland, Feratum in Mexico and Razor Reel Flanders Fantastic Film Festival in Bruges, Belgium. Till date, Awakenings has won the awards for Best Foreign Short Film at California International Shorts Festival (USA), Best Thriller at Liberty Massacre Horror Short Film Festival (USA), Best Cinematography, Best Scare & Best Atmosphere at Independent Horror Movie Awards (USA), and an honourable mention for Original Background Score at Asians on Film Festival (USA).

Q. By when can viewers in Mumbai and rest of the country watch the movie?
A. Awakenings will screen exclusively at film festivals in various parts of the world for a few more months. In India, the film was screened recently at the International Documentary & Short Film Festival of Kerala and Bengaluru International Short Film Festival. Following its festival rounds, I plan to release the film online early next year.

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