A short film with a extravagant heart
Shajan Samuel, the co-producer of ABC, a Hindi short made with a massive budget of R7 lakh, says he considers it a feature film that was just 15 minutes long
It’s the summer of short films, especially after the overwhelming response to Sujoy Ghosh’s Ahalya, which released on YouTube this July. Even though that has led to mainstream directors and actors lending their support to smaller projects, the genre retains its shoestring budgets and quintessential indie vibe.
But here is a short that might just break the mould. ABC, a 15-minute Hindi short that premiered in Bengaluru this Friday is one of the most lavish the genre has seen in recent times. We catch up with director Madan Ram Venkatesh and producer Shajan Samual to talk about this small biggie.
ABC starring Shruti Hariharan and master Shahbaaz Saleem
Q. What’s does ABC mean?
A. Madan Ram Venkatesh: In a country of 1.25 billion people, very few come forward to help build dreams and fulfill the aspirations of others. This forms the crux of ABC. ABC is about a homeless boy who is a class IV dropout. He has lost his father and washes cars for a living. One day, he bumps into a female entrepreneur riding a car. The story takes off from there. The boy, during one of their conversations, says he knows everything about cars — A for Accelerator, B for Break and C for Clutch.
Director Madan Ram Venkatesh
Q. How did you chance upon the script?
A. Madan Ram Venkatesh: Finding a good script, which is the anchor of a film, is hard. So Shajan Samuel, the producer of ABC, joined hands with Shamiana Shorts Club led by Cyrus Dastur, and organised a nationwide script-writing competition. This script, written by Sonia Mackwani, won from among 400 entries. Shajan then bought the rights from Sonia and after speaking with several directors, zeroed in on me.
Q. How did you end up spending so much on it?
A. Shajan Samuel: ABC is not just another film. It symbolises a changing India, which seeks radical transformation. We wanted to make this film on opulent scale — similar to that of a mainstream film. In fact, our promotion and marketing campaign were planned during the scripting stage. We wanted to change the way short films are made and marketed in India.
Q. What do you mean when you say it’s been treated as a mainstream film?
A. Shajan Samuel: ABC is treated at par with international standards. The film has been shot on Red Epic camera, which ensured it has rich visual texture. Another aspect is sync sound recording, which gives superior quality to the dialogue and ambiance and makes it more realistic. We are spending close to R7 lakh including the promotions. We have spent R50,000 for every minute.
Producer Shajan Samual
Q. How difficult was it to fun the project?
A. Shajan Samuel: Both Babul and I are senior working professionals — so we put in money from our savings. Mohua Bhowmick, who joined in as the executive producer, also pitched in.
Q. How do you plan to recover the money when short films hardly get a mainstream release?
A. Shajan Samuel: It doesn’t matter whether we recover the cost. The objective of floating Shajan Samuel Productions is to create an ecosystem for short filmmakers. We didn’t want to compromise on any aspect of film making. In fact, we never considered ABC a short film. We looked at it as a feature film of 15 minutes.
Q. How do you plan to promote it?
A. Shajan Samuel: We have planned something quite unique. We are writing to thought leaders from the world of cinema, asking them to talk about the film. We are holding special screenings at colleges and reaching out to students. The film has been sent to the viewing room at the International Film Festival of India scheduled for Goa next month. However, we didn’t want to release the film on YouTube as I feel it will dilute our focus and relevance.
The film will be screened at the Fazlani Altius Business School, Mumbai, on October 13.