Twenty-two-year-old Shubhashish Bhutiani’s short film Kush is one of the 10 films to get shortlisted for Oscars this year. Three or five out of these shortlisted films will be chosen for nominations for the final award.
Kush, a film made with 20 kids, was recently bestowed with the Best Innovative Budget Award at the Venice film festival. The film also won the best short film in Bresca, Italy. Shubhashish got intrigued with a true story that his economics teacher narrated to him at the Woodstock School in New York.
Kush is the story of a Sikh boy during the riots that followed ex-PM Indira Gandhi’s assassination. Kush, who had assisted Vishal Bharadwaj during Kaminey, decided to make this into a film. He took the project to his father, Sanjay Bhutiani, an ad filmmaker, and his company Red Carpet Moving Picture decided to produce the film. Excerpts of a conversation with the young talent…
Tell us about the journey of Kush, from a seed of an idea to now...
This is such a hard question because I feel I could write a book on this. I saw the idea in my head when I was in class 10 in an economics class. Our teacher told this story that captivated me. Six years later, I decided to make the film and we raised the funds through some prize money awards the script won. I flew my cinematographer friend down from the US and after spending months in pre-production, we shot the film in five days. I did the editing and other post-production back at my film school. The music composers, Dharam-Sandeep, were in Mumbai and did the recordings for me from there. The film played in the school’s festival in May where it won three awards - Best Editing, Best Director and Best Film. In July, we got accepted into the Venice Film Festival where much to our surprise, we won an award. It’s been quite a journey and it’s not been easy but the experience was worth it.
And why this particular story?
This story stayed with me for six years. This was an inspiring story during a horrifying time that I felt I needed to share.
Any bittersweet memories during the shoot that will stay with you forever?
The whole making was quite an adventure. For five straight days, the kids goofed off, played games and were playing pranks on each other. A lot of the film actually happened between the kids and we were fortunately there to record it. There was also a great love triangle going on between three of the kids but I can’t divulge any details on that! Once we were shooting, the bus moving through a landscape. Our American cinematographer Mike Mcsweeney tied himself on the hood of the car to take the picture and my dad was driving the car. That was scary. But that’s the reason why I wanted Mike to shoot this film. He is very adventurous.
Now that you have been attending festivals, what do you think of the short film scene worldwide and also in India?
Short films are mostly screened in festivals and on the Internet and such amazing work is being done not only by new talent but some accomplished directors too. It is just a different medium and can be a good place to try out new ideas and find new talent. In India, we need to give new people a chance. The government should be more involved. So many countries have art and culture centres that fund short and feature films. They also help in distribution. There’s no reason why we can’t do that.
Who was your biggest support, financially and emotionally?
My parents. They helped me in every way possible and gave me the space that I needed. A lot of friends and family also came together to make this film happen.