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When I discovered cinema, it became easier to express myself: Siddharth Chauhan

Chauhan's short film The Flying Trunk will be screened virtually at the Silvereye International Film Festival being held from 18 to 20 September.

Sukhpreet Kahlon

Independent filmmaker Siddharth Chauhan’s latest film, Udiaando Sindook (The Flying Trunk), is a multi-generational tale about loss and memory and explores the mindscape of his characters, who are located in a small picturesque village. The film has travelled to several international film festivals and premiered at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) this year. 

The self-taught filmmaker from Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, Chauhan’s films are rooted in the local milieu, bringing alive the realm of fantasy and myth amidst a pastoral landscape. Fascinated by storytelling and the craft of cinema, the filmmaker made his first film on a borrowed camera when just in school, and said, “I felt that I was discovering myself through this process.” 

As the filmmaking bug took hold, he chose to shoot in and around Shimla. He said, “I was in Shimla and couldn’t think of going anywhere else. That would require resources. I wanted to use all the resources around me and do my best. It started like that, and as a follower of Buddhism, I was encouraged to look at my limited environment in a different way."

Even while starting out, Chauhan was clear about the path he wished to tread and said, “Bollywood [commercial Hindi cinema] has never really fascinated me and I was very sure that I didn’t want to make films like that, but something different. I realised that the festival films were mostly personal films that were being given a form through cinema and the space being explored is very local. I took it from there and started experimenting.”

His latest film, The Flying Trunk, is in Pahari language and is based on a popular fairy tale. However, the story became a starting point of thinking about the trunk through a child’s imagination which interweaves myth, fantasy, the supernatural, along with ideas of freedom.

Speaking about this, Chauhan said, “While growing up, I was very imaginative and I would never enjoy the games that other children would play - cricket, football and others. I would always be interested in imagining things and thinking out of the box and that would fascinate me, so I am deriving all this from my childhood. There were many things that I wanted to do as a child, but I did not know how to do them or give a proper expression to all those feelings, so when I discovered the medium of cinema, it became easier for me to express myself.”

Chauhan has been busy developing his next project, the feature Amar Colony, which was the first film based in Himachal Pradesh and made by a filmmaker from the state, to be selected for the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) Co-Production Market. The film expands on his earlier short film, PaPa (2016).

He said, “I shot PaPa at a very mysterious place in Shimla. It’s a heritage building built by the British with beautiful architecture. From inside, there was a secluded and unused floor, so when I was doing the rekki, I discovered this space which had so many doors and corridors. It was so fascinating and mysterious. I made my short film and since then I wanted to do something more there. Amar Colony is a film where I have expanded on the same idea and in fact, shot the film in the same place.” 

The Flying Trunk will be screened at the Silvereye International Film Festival being held from 18 to 20 September.

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Indian independent cinema Other