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Interview Hindi

Trying to explore a poetic sense of being, says filmmaker Shashank Walia on his films  

The filmmaker talks about how both, Somewhere Nowhere and In the Month of Love, explore the interaction between people and spaces in their own way.  He also shares his experience of being at the Rotterdam Film Festival earlier this year.

Sukhpreet Kahlon

Somewhere Nowhere is an observational essay film that explores the universe of a city. An old man, who is also a photographer, tells a tale of the city in which he has spent his lifetime, opening up the idea of a colony, a commune and how a city is reborn constantly to accommodate newer narratives. The themes of nostalgia, memory and constant flux bind the shifting city spaces.

Directed by Reema Kaur and Shashank Walia, the film was screened at the IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival in New Delhi. Walia has also directed the fiction short, In the Month of Love, which was screened at the International Film Festival of Rotterdam earlier this year.

Navigating the space between fiction and documentary, Walia spoke about the form that excites him as a filmmaker. “The form of meditation, meditation through film, and a form through which we can reflect on the times that we live in and on ourselves. How we should look at our past, our memories, our surroundings through film… and if we can expand some sensitivity in society through films. We [Kaur and Walia] also think that there is a sense of resistance that can come through cinema. But that can only come through if we move away from conventional story-telling methods and forms,” he says.

Both the documentary and fiction short explore the interaction between people and spaces in their own way. In Somewhere Nowhere in particular, it looks at those whom society has largely chosen to forget, the labourers and workers in the city, going into spaces in the city that are largely ignored as well.

Addressing this, Walia said, “Largely, we are trying to explore a poetic sense of being. With this documentary [Somewhere Nowhere] specifically, the idea is not to open up a story or a narrative but to really open up moments and time. I think cinema is also a medium of time and we have to somehow experience a sense of time in us. There is a sense of time that we develop through our lives. Everybody has a different experience of time and when you put your experience of time with these people [the characters in the film], they start connecting with your time. I remember specifically with the fiction film, when it premiered at Rotterdam, one filmmaker from Latin America said that she could find her childhood through the film. I think if you are able to build on time and a certain poetry, you can connect with people through cinema.” 

He added, “Somewhere Nowhere looks at the city in a certain way, it looks at a certain class and people who, in a certain way, build the city, and are on the penultimate spectrum of the city. Nobody is even thinking about them and even if we do, we are mostly concerned with why they have come [to the city]. But there is a certain sense of time and a bodily experience that these people go through when they are building a city. So I wanted to explore their life.”

Both films employ the use of folk songs but there is no music as such, in the films. Speaking about this aspect Walia said, “For me and Rima, miniature paintings and classical music have a sense of time, beyond their compositional value and the play of colour and light. I think music is another medium, like cinema which can deal with time. We can get a sense of time through music. It is about how a raga is constructed and how one starts with a few notes, and you build on them, there is an improvisation, high and low, and final settlement of notes. So there is a structure to that and this is the structure that we followed with In the Month of Love as well. In terms of colour, light, the few dialogues in the film, the idea is to really create a sense of time and music plays an important role as there is no use of music as such in the film.” 

In the Month of Love was received very well at Rotterdam and the filmmaker shared his experience of being at the festival saying, “It is a fantastic festival. It’s very open and it’s a kind festival. There is no hierarchy. It went beyond people who watched it for the first time in the theatres there. There is a podcast that happens about the films at the festival, and there were about 20 films that people had responded to. Our film found a mention in that as someone felt that it was very poetic and had a sense of nostalgia. People also really talked about the sound in the film. These are things that are really important for new filmmakers like us because one thinks about whether or not people will be able to relate to the cultural context. But they do and they could respond to the subtle elements in the film, which is very encouraging.”

Related topics

IAWRT Asian Women's Film Festival