{ Page-Title / Story-Title }

Interview Bengali

I  wanted to focus on mental health affected by isolation, says Shieladitya Moulik on his lockdown short, Ekti Taara

The film features Payel Sarkar, who plays herself, a celebrated actress in 2025, a year in which most people in the world have died. Shubhro S Das plays her only surviving fan.

Roushni Sarkar

In the these times of the lockdown, the film industry is suffering due to the lack of both creative and commercial work. While individual artistes have taken to social media platforms to create content, directors and producers have started a new trend of lockdown films. These films are generally conceived by the directors, who meticulously explain the script and the frames to the actors, as the latter now have to perform the role of a cinematographer as well.

Shieladitya Moulik, the director of Sweater (2019), is coming up with one such short film in the coming week. Moulik's upcoming feature film, Hridpindo (2020) which was to be released this month, has been postponed indefinitely. 

The short film, titled Ekti Taara - The Lonely Star, will feature Payel Sarkar and Shubhro S Das, in a futuristic setting of the post-pandemic era. 

“I primarily wanted to focus on mental health affected by isolation. See, there are certain common factors in all of us, and the emptiness caused by the lockdown is getting manifested in certain common tendencies,” said Moulik. He feels that the lockdown has suddenly brought our fast-paced life to a halt; a life in which we always had the scope to satiate our growing cravings for various experiences. 

“There was a time when we did not get everything we wanted instantly and also did not know about the existence of so many things. Now, when shops are closed, we can order online at midnight. This trend has created a demon inside us that wants everything then, and there,” he said.  

In the short, Sarkar plays herself, a celebrated actress in 2025, a year, in which most of the people in the world have died. “In this case, I have taken a creative license. The social media platforms are working, but nobody is writing anything on them,” elaborates the director. “Posts are popping up on memory, depending on the time when the account holder died. In this context, Payel is not being able to contact or get in touch with anybody and the loneliness is killing her,” he said. 

The film presents Sarkar as a celebrated figure, who used to run away from people once, but is now hungry for attention. Das, who made his debut in Ranjan Ghosh’s Ahaa Re (2019), is playing her only surviving fan. Sarkar wants to meet him as she is not satisfied with a video call. So she starts asking for more. But her fan responds, saying that once she did not even bother to give him an autograph.

Ekti Taara is also a story about overcoming greed. As Sarkar's anxiety about connecting with her fan increases, the latter asks her to come to terms with the reality and accept it for what it is.

Moulik, who is quite particular about the frames of a film, said, “I am not being able to handle the visuals on my own and hence, have read out the script and explained the frames to the actors on video call, referring to the angles from which they possibly need to shoot their respective parts. It is challenging but great fun as well. The actors are doing their best from their own aesthetic sense.”

He also feels that the relationship between an actor and a director is quite personal. “It is difficult to conduct the entire process through phone. The actors perceive one script with different interpretations. On a set, two actors react to each other’s action but in this case, nobody has an idea about what the other is doing. They can only stay true to what is written, as there is not much scope for improvisation,” he said.

Making the film was a nerve-wracking experience at times for Moulik but he is happy about the fact that more films are being made in this format. Windows Production has started a series called Lockdown Shorts. Two of the films in this series, Rupkotha and Hing, are already out.

Moulik recalls how difficult it was for him to find shots of empty streets of Kolkata for the film, which has been made on a rather small scale. He finally had to resort to drone shots of the city. “This is a short film, but I hope that it will carry some message across. At the same time, I am not trying to propagate or preach anything. I am attempting to present a fictionalised story through this format,” he added.

Speaking of the dual role that artistes working in this format have to perform, he said, “Actors are generally quite pampered. They prepare themselves, go to the floors and leave as soon as they are done with the shoot. But now, they are working like crew members.”

Moulik said that many actors have refused to get into shoes of a cinematographer. “A lot of them are quite sceptical about whether they can successfully shoot themselves. On the other hand, some of them are quite excited. They are making mistakes and learning too. You never know, maybe a good filmmaker will emerge out of these actors,” he said.