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Mixed feeling of fear and aggression pushed me to make #Cafe2022, says director Sudipto Roy

The film, viewed at Marche Du Film in Cannes earlier this month, was shot in 10 days with the entire team, consisting of the five-member crew and actress Madhurima Ghosh, in quarantine together. 

Roushni Sarkar

Director Sudipto Roy’s short film, #Cafe2022, featuring Madhurima Ghosh, has been presented at the Cannes online film market this year. The film has been jointly produced by Roy and Christopher Cornelsen of Cornelsen Films GmbH, who also produced Roy’s debut feature film Kia and Cosmos (2019).

#Cafe2022 is set in a dystopian future and was shot by a team of five members, all in quarantine together. The film features Ghosh as the solo performer on screen with Arjun Radhakrishnan, Joy Sengupta and Deboprosad Halder as voice actors.

In the film, Ghosh plays a girl stuck in quarantine for an indefinite period. It is set in a situation where people are forcibly kept in quarantine. “It is a hypothetical situation in which an asymptomatic carrier has been kept in quarantine for an indefinite period. The person has to be in quarantine, knowing that he or she wouldn’t die because of the strong drugs,” explained Roy, who had been conceiving a film on a dystopian future for a while.

Initially, the film was set in 2025, keeping in mind the political and environmental scenario of the country and the entire world.. “Then the pandemic happened and all of us were stuck at home. There were scary moments of watching people banging plates and chanting, 'Go Corona Go'. There was a mixed feeling of fear, depression and a kind of restrained aggression that pushed me to conceive the film,” added Roy. He also feels that writers and artistes perhaps look at these events with a rather exaggerated perspective.

However, the film subtly comments on the chaotic situation around us. In the film, the girl begins to hear voices while trapped inside a room. “They could be voices from the government or the system instructing her to follow certain rules. If you have spoken to someone who has recently travelled by flight, you will be scared to know the kind of grilling one has to go through. People are also being forced to download certain apps and being tracked regularly these days,” said Roy.

At the same time, due to the lockdown, the director had to drop several projects that were lined up. Hence, when he conceived of #Cafe2020, he thought of joining the team consisting of the crew and the actress, who were already staying together a short distance from his residence.  “We maintained social distancing and all precautionary measures at every step of making the film. Even the film has been shot in a way featuring Madhurima profusely using sanitizers,” he added.

While these days most filmmakers are depending on actors shooting themselves at home, Roy chose the conventional route because he was simply not impressed with the idea. “Apart from Tathagata Ghosh’s Mangsho -The Meat (2020), I found most such work to be extremely amateurish. It was kind of anarchic to see people doing so many things at the same time. On the other hand, since we had access to cameras and lenses, we gave it a shot,” Roy explained.

Since they were all in quarantine, it took 10 days to shoot the film. In normal circumstances, it would not have taken more than two or three days. The film has been shot by Adris Halder on a Sony Alpha7III and FujiXT3 and the director is more than satisfied with the outcome.

The film has an interesting sound design as it progresses as an audio drama as well. “Visually, you will only see a room and there is a washroom attached to it. Madhurima can be seen inside the room, while a person sitting in a café is trying to contact her, wanting to invite her on a date. Other people are also moving around and all their voices can be heard while her voice does not get across to them,” Roy clarifies.

#Cafe2022 was up for private viewing for the delegates of the Marche Du Film, held online this year from 22 to 26 June. “With the help of Christopher, we were trying to tap new markets in Europe, where we can distribute the film. The Indian short film market is a different scenario but the short film market in Europe provides more opportunities. Short films are released there in theatres. They also have language learning apps where they put short films for language lessons,” said Roy, who was quite sure that pitching for European connections would work in his favour during this lockdown.

Interestingly, #Cafe2022 is a Hindi film, a debut experimental initiative by the director towards carving a path for making Hindi feature films and series in the future. “People from Italy, Spain and Greece have liked the film and expressed their appreciation for Madhurima’s performance and the sound design. We are also in talks about sending the film to Stockholm Short Film Festival,” added the director, who is also hoping to turn certain connections into business once the Cannes Film Festival is over.

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