No, I won't watch your short film!

Published: Jun 05, 2019, 07:02 IST | Mayank Shekhar | Mumbai

With content-overload across the Internet, the curator is king — groaning under the pressure of sifting through hours of video footage

I kept postponing Humara Movie's six short films' anthology, Shuruat Ka Twist. It is directed by untested debutants, mentored by established filmmakers
I kept postponing Humara Movie's six short films' anthology, Shuruat Ka Twist. It is directed by untested debutants, mentored by established filmmakers

Mayank ShekharSo here's exactly where I think the line on politeness must be drawn. It's that point, when a person, supposedly asking for a favour, automatically places on you the burden of necessarily acquiescing to it. Otherwise, you risk being certified a douche. No, seriously.

Circumstances may vary. But I've been inevitably finding myself in a spot over the past year or so, when more often than not, someone whose eyes have barely met mine at a cafe/bar/airport/event — mostly in Mumbai, where movies are made — demands my phone number, or email id, as a fundamental right.

Before you know it, they drop into your inbox a short film. That they've made. That I must watch. Gradually, this playlist starts spilling over. The follow-ups (calls/messages) don't stop. And I feel guilty, as charged.

Don't know what the subsequent hope is. But they seem to look for "feedback." If you've been in the world long enough, you'd know "feedback", often also cloaked under "constructive criticism" are essentially euphemisms for praise.

Nobody ever liked you because you didn't like their work. It's only fair. Things could be a little different, if the said work was under construction. Otherwise, what's there to learn from an opinion, when the deed/film is already done?

I could still find a good thing or two to say. Like, "It's beautifully shot," you know. Here's the rub though. Never in human history have we been surrounded by as much visual content as there are consumers. Let alone, almost as many creators.

Assuming you read at the rate of three words a second, which is the broadcasting norm. By the time you're done with this column, 1,200 hours' worth of new videos would've been uploaded on YouTube, which would take you five days, round-the-clock (no sleep), simply to catch up on what you missed in the four minutes you were here.

And that's just YouTube. Haven't even opened Insta, Vimeo, FB, Netflix, MX, Eros, Zee5, ALT, Prime, Liv, Viu, Voot, Hooq, Hotstar, Hoichoi… There are shorts, docs, doc-series, stand-up specials, web-series…. And I'm sure you haven't even switched on your TV in long. Our lifetimes are limited; also, vastly precious, to be spent entirely before a flickering screen.

So what do you watch, when, and where? In ancient times — that is about a decade ago — box-office was great measure for gauging public likeability. But numbers count for little on the Internet, where a cat-video can thump a modern Casablanca, and porn would inescapably top all views.
In the future, on the web, it's not content, but I suspect the curator, who'll be king—groaning under the pressure of sifting through footage, discovering on your behalf, pointing to the one you must pick and choose directly, from so many apps, that you can't individually subscribe to anyway.

And the role of this curator (the post-modern critic, if you may) will be simply to recommend. For, there is no use calling attention to stuff in the first place, and then calling it shit anymore. What's the point? Unless, of course, the material is too anticipatorily mainstream to ignore. This is the stark opposite of multiple movie reviewers of the past, who saw and screwed everything (on the big screen) that moved.

Therein remains the issue with tonnes of shorts from bare-acquaintances lying in my inbox. None have been vetted. Just feel they might be shit. It's become just as easy to make a film as it's always been hard to make a good/great one.

And so, since I was simultaneously dealing with funk, fever, even a frickin' toothache (sorry for TMI), I kept postponing Humara Movie's six short films' anthology, Shuruat Ka Twist. It is directed by untested debutants, mentored by established filmmakers, like Vikramaditya Motwane, Raju Hirani; starring, among others, Neena Gupta, Chunky Pandey. This, despite, repeated calls, messages, mails, from the producer. The film also got a theatrical release, which usually spells high-cred.

Hoping to feel better at a late-night bar, I found myself surrounded by young directors of the same anthology, again, to be repeatedly urged from thereon, in the following days, to watch their shorts. I finally clicked on the link at some point, while still catching a new web series that had been earning raves on my Twitter timeline.

Here's what happens: I'm totally stunned by the quality of films by newbies, who could give any veteran a run for their money. At least three out of six shorts — Avalokita's Gutthi, Heena D'Souza's Adi Sonal, and Praveen Fernandes's Tap Tap — are as good as any film I've seen thus far; with sharp, distinctive styles, and a deeply personal world view.

What did I learn foremost? That the distance between what you wish to say, and how you can say it—namely funds, and technology—is nearing zero, for films as an expressive medium. It's our bad if we don't spend enough time among fine, emerging voices. Sure, will watch more shorts. Soon. Just go easy though, okay?

(Inspired by Josh Olson's must-read, 2009 Village Voice piece, 'I will not read your f***ing script')

Mayank Shekhar attempts to make sense of mass culture. He tweets @mayankw14
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