Bejoy Nambiar on foraying into digital space with Flip and the future of mid-budget movies in India
Bejoy Nambiar says hes's happy about the fact that new shows like Made In Heaven and Delhi Crime with good writing and great performances are working
Bejoy Nambiar, who has cemented his position as an experimental filmmaker with films like Shaitaan, David and Wazir, is excited to have entered the digital space with his original series, Flip. A drama-thriller anthology of four short stories based on the occurrences that cause a 180-degree turn in certain people's lives. The episodes are titled Bully, Happy Birthday, Massage and The Hunt. The cast of the series includes Ranvir Shorey, Arjun Mathur, Shweta Basu Prasad, Jim Sarbh, Viraf Patel, Sandeepa Dhar, Sheetal Menon and Naman Shaw among others.
However, Nambiar, known for his unconventional narrative structure and stylised visuals, has approached each story in Flip like a short feature film. “I didn't think of it like I am doing a digital project and that really helped me shape the story also. It's not a long format show. Every episode is a new story and not interconnected. We had a bank of stories and I was quite fascinated with the concept of doing an anthology. These are the stories which I couldn’t have done in a long format because some stories have limitations, some stories work better within a certain format. I'm a big fan of short format, even my last film Solo was a collection of four stories," says Nambiar.
Ranvir Shorey plays the lead in Bully, a dark comedy that centres around an under-confident married man (Shorey) whose problem stems from the bullying he faced in early life that completely changed his personality making him socially awkward. The story is inspired from Nambiar’s initial days in college when he was pursuing engineering and became a victim of a severe ragging incident. Years later, the filmmaker is showcasing the life incident on screen. “Ragging had a big impact on my life. I had started writing stories to avoid those unfortunate thoughts,” he said.
“The film was very relatable to me because I feel very strongly about it. I view ragging as a bane of college life. It has got no positive outcome whatsoever. It is said that bullying started because people considered it a great bonding exercise between seniors and juniors, but I feel it is a terrible idea to have one individual exert power over another. It leaves you traumatised for life and changes personalities. It may be inspired from Bejoy’s life but even I have faced it in college. These are very basic human emotions that many of us experience,” adds Shorey.
Sandeepa Dhar, who usually gets to play a goody two-shoes, is happy to bag a character with a grey shade of that of a manipulative girl, in Massage. “On the one hand, playing a negative 50-year-old was challenging, and on the other hand, it was crazy to have a co-star like Jim (Sarbh) who plays a Parsi lover-boy and whose take on romantic scenes is very different. Also, the suspense part and that whodunit feel was quite interesting,” says Dhar. She is part of two more web series this year, including Zee5’s Abhay and Alt Balaji’s Cartel (with Vivek Oberoi).
Sarbh says that his character Keki has a similar experience to the lady Sarah Scantlin from the Netflix documentary The Real Sleeping Beauty. Keki plays a Parsi on the verge of marriage and a promotion, and his life is flipped upside down when he slips into a coma. To prep for the part, Sarbh said, “I watched The Real Sleeping Beauty and Michael Hanneke’s beautiful film Amour to try to understand the way my character might speak and move.”
Digital content is more liberating for filmmakers like Nambiar. "I like the format essentially because it requires a certain time commitment and there are not too many barriers and do’s and don’ts. I had a lot of fun directing and collaborating with the writers. I am also happy about the fact that new shows like Made In Heaven and Delhi Crime with such good writing and great performances are working. That gives you hope that this platform has a future,” said Nambiar, adding, “Good thing is that there are more and more outlets for good actors who are not getting great breaks in features. Now you have access to those actors and newer talent. It has opened up avenues."
Going further, Nambiar believes that both, feature films and digital will co-exist. "Earlier, I would feel that if we don’t continue to make medium and small budget feature films then we might end up going the Hollywood way where only big blockbusters get made and everything else is on digital. But when films like Stree, Badhaai Ho, Uri...became successful then I thought there was hope. We can keep doing small and medium budget films and we can do digital as well, so both can co-exist," said Nambiar.
When asked if his role as a filmmaker gets more demanding, and he said, “The audience is getting evolved and they are ready to accept new content but the expectations are more and the onus is on the filmmakers and their craft. Today, the audience does not just want to see stars, they want the whole package which is a good thing. But my approach towards filmmaking hasn’t changed in any way from whatever I was doing, though I am glad that it ups the game. I will continue pushing for content driven stuff like I was always doing."
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