Sarthak Bhasin talks about his student film Ekaant, the desire for a wider audience, and the importance of an institute like the FTII for aspiring filmmakers.
Arrogant of people to think they make films for themselves: Sarthak Bhasin
New Delhi - 05 Jun 2019 9:00 IST
Sarthak Bhasin’s film Ekaant is set in a dystopian world, with the protagonist being the sole survivor in a ruined city. He struggles to survive, remember, think and negotiate his reality, till, one day, he happens to meet another person. Only, this person looks exactly like him.
A recent alumnus of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, Bhasin studied Direction and Ekaant is his graduation film. The film has travelled to several festivals and won the Best Short Fiction award at the Tbilisi International Student Film Festival in Georgia.
The film was selected for the Student Film package at the recently concluded Habitat Film Festival in New Delhi and Cinestaan.com caught up with the filmmaker for a conversation. Excerpts:
How did you conceptualize this film?
I actually had no idea and I did have to make a film. It was around Diwali time and I was in Delhi and the air quality here was very bad. The drone footage of the Syrian city of Aleppo had also come on the internet, so I put 3-4 elements together. Delhi was looking very dystopian at that point with all the dust, so I thought I would carve something out of it and this is what it is.
The world in front of you is feeling so dystopian, it’s right there in front of you. Everyone is complaining about the air and cities are completely devastated.
Your film looks at memory, the idea of home, loss of being, in conjunction with the physical devastation that is mapped on to the person who is the sole survivor. Were you also thinking of the mindscape of a person when surrounded by environmental devastation?
It was definitely there. As filmmakers, you want to reflect on things you see and want a change to happen. I don’t know whether cinema has that power to make a change, but one is trying to be socially, environmentally, politically relevant. The idea of environmental destruction was definitely part of it because it is very essential in today’s times and we can’t choose to ignore it.
Why did you choose to shoot your film in black and white?
We actually shot it in colour because we had to do the VFX and green screen. One cannot do that in black and white, but I conceived the film in black and white. The director’s monitor was calibrated to black and white, so it was conceived in black and white.
I personally find black and white beautiful, that was one of the reasons. Everyone used to tell me I had a very good grip of colour in my previous work, so I really took it up as a challenge and decided that this time colour’s out and let me just see how much I can push myself in black and white. Thankfully, it also became easier to do the special effects in black and white than in colour.
Your film has done very well at festivals and is travelling across the world. Did you expect that reception and what is your response to it?
It’s always great if people like your film and it travels, but now what really irks me is that it’s not for everyone. I have started hating that the film is for a niche audience. That pinches me sometimes.
There is nothing wrong with that, but I think films should have a greater reach because they are made for people to watch, and if it’s not for everyone then the audience gets limited. As a filmmaker, you are hungry to let everyone enjoy it or be a part of it or give their interpretation to it.
I hate it when people say it’s a festival film because I feel that films should be for everyone. I am not of the belief that one makes films for oneself. One makes films for people to watch. I think it’s very arrogant for people to think they make films for themselves. That is something I seek to improve upon.
A lot has been happening at the FTII with respect to the people appointed and students have expressed their displeasure. As a student at the institute during this time, what is your response to the way things have panned out?
During the strike [students had gone on strike for 139 days when actor Gajendra Chauhan was named chairman of the FTII but they failed to budge the government] I was not there. I was on an exchange programme on scholarship, so I do not know the incidents firsthand. But I think a place like FTII, or any film school, is very important because it is making cinema affordable to people who otherwise will never have access to it.
People come from all over the country and I have had the privilege of being friends with people I would not have been friends with because one’s social network is very limited.
I do not know about the policies that the institute will come up with later, but I do hope a place like this exists in times to come, or even betters itself.
Sarthak Bhasin's student film Ekaant was screened at the 14th Habitat Film Festival at New Delhi's India Habitat Centre on 25 May 2019.