Riju Bajaj's lastest film, The Re-Bell
, which was screened at the LIFFT India Filmotsav on 6 December in Lonavala, revolved around the character of Muskan as she contemplates suicide by hanging herself after announcing it on social media.
Most of the 50-minute short follows actress Shruti Bharadwaj, and there are tons of close-up shots catching her changing emotions as she comes closer to hanging herself. Having the camera on you constantly through most of the film, capturing your minutest emotions and expressions, could have been a daunting task, especially for a newcomer.
"This was going to be my debut film so I had to get used to the fact that the camera is going to be on my face most of the time. And I have to do something in a way that I don't lose audience's interest. So I was very nervous about it. But thanks to Riju sir. He was very calm about it," says Bharadwaj.
She gives credit to her director for extracting good work from her in her very first film.
"We met for the first reading. He told me that over drama nahi karna. Aisa nahi ke tum ek bottle pi rahi ho to gir rahi ho. [Don't overact. It's not like you're falling because you're drunk] Be subtle and do what Muskan would do at that point," says Bharadwaj, adding that she only followed his directions.
"He asked me to build a back story, what is her character, her nature. And then told me what will you do if you were Muskan and if the love of her life is marrying someone else. I think it was all his work and I just followed him. He is a very sorted director. He knows what he wants. And he also gave me liberty as an actor to try different things."
Bajaj also asked Bharadwaj to visit her character's house, which is where all the action takes place, for two days so she could become comfortable with the space and make it her own home.
There is no doubt that Bharadwaj is quite impressive in the way she holds your attention and interest through the film.
She stressed on the importance of working with a good director, especially in your first film.
"If you have a good director, it will all come naturally to you. Look at your lines and dialogues and make them your own. It should not look like you are acting but living that character."
The Re-Bell touches upon suicide, problems of the LGBTQ community and the positive and negative effect of social media.
"Social media also plays a big part in the film. What other people think plays on your psychology. It can motivate you or demotivate you," she says.