"If I want to tell a story, I just get up and say it," announces Sahirr Sethhi, a young filmmaker, who has written and directed Adrak, being screened at the Mumbai Academy of Moving Images (MAMI) Film Festival 2011. He has also worked as a script supervisor in the film My Friend Pinto.
"I can't really tell you what Adrak is about," he begins mysteriously but continues regardless, "but, it is about perspective. About how what you see may not necessarily jibe well with what I see."
The film is a "lighthearted rom com", he says, then changes his mind, "Okay, yes it has a little bit of everything"; a five-minute film that has everything. "Even though it spans only five minutes, you know it is enough. You see two strangers meet, two artists having a strange encounter and how they react."
Between doing his Masters in Direction at UCLA and juggling projects, he has lost track of the festival and is clueless about the line up but strongly recommends watching Pina. "A beautifully shot film. Really visual," he exclaims, listing John Hughes and Michelle Gondry as his cinematic inspirations. "No one really inspires me but these are people who have definitely left a unique imprint on cinema," he says.
Early on in his career, Sethhi has already learned the balancing act in his diverse roles as a writer and director. "Working as a script supervisor of the film My Friend Pinto, I got an idea of how to deal with it," he says. Adrak's MAMI entry was another opportunity; the original script was for a seven-and-a-half minute film, but for the festival it had to be cut down to five. "Cutting out the two-and-a-half minutes was a director's call. Was it easy? No. But was it necessary? Yes," he says.'
And while a lot of things make movie-making financially exhausting: the equipment, the salary of the crew, post production and permissions, the money aspect "Once you start something small, something big will follow. For Adrak, I had written the script last year but never got to working on it. Then suddenly I decided it needs some re-working. In an hour, I had a new script. I started making some calls, people were interested and the project fell together. A solid start is provided once you have an excellent script. After that, everything is networking."
He makes it all sounds so easy that I wonder if that is really the case. "No, it wasn't. People were kind to me, the producers, the actors who heard me out and came on board. But I was persistent. Then shooting on live locations wasn't easy. We shot the entire film in five hours. Editing was an ordeal because of the sound. Getting permissions wasn't easy. No one wants to give indie film makers a chance," he complains.
In the next breath, he moans Indian indie film industry as well. Comparing it to America, he says, "Americans are fearless. If there's a story that needs to be out there, all they need is a camera. But Indians, they don't want to take the risk. It is surprising that we haven't achieved anything substantial as indie filmmakers, considering Indians had such a head start on cinema. We need to be braver. Just stop looking for encouragement and do it if you feel like."