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Interview Assam

Film festivals are a way to reach the audience: Maharshi Kashyap on how his short film got discovered

The student filmmaker's Assamese-language short has travelled to almost 30 festivals around the world.

Sukhpreet Kahlon

Maharshi Kashyap’s Assamese-language short film Kaan-phus-phusot Phus-phusoni (Poetry Of Whispers) explores the situation of young lovers who are apart and stay connected by telephone.

Frustrated with life in the city, Biswa finds solace when his girlfriend Mukuta calls him from her village and speaks of her home, the fragrances of the night and her longing for her mother.

At one level, the film looks at the situation of young lovers. At another, it opens up to contemplate questions of art, inspiration and ethics.

Kashyap, a final-year student at the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI), made the film as part of a second-year project, which required him to create a one-take film and explore the mise-en-scene.

“In doing this project, we had to use a long take, but the use of that long take had to make sense in the film because that’s an aesthetic choice that a filmmaker makes," Kashyap said.

"I wanted people to be in that space and then break out because I wanted them to know that the filmmaker is present in that milieu and going through the struggle of finding a story," he explained, "not being sure of the film [he is] trying to make, and I wanted this to be present in the film.

"When you try to do something like this, breaking the fourth wall, it becomes a gimmick, especially when done by amateur filmmakers like us," he continued. "I wanted to avoid that though I don’t know how successful I have been.”

Speaking of the film's title, which hints at its evocative soundscape, the filmmaker said, “The name is more interesting when you get to know it in Assamese. ‘Kaan-phus-phus’ is the Assamese term for telephone. It is rarely used but that’s the word we use. So, it translates as 'whispers on the telephone'.”

The student filmmaker continued, “Cinema is an audio-visual medium but sound is often ignored. I think people from my region are very sensitive to sounds. I don’t know why or how this happens, but I have seen a lot of sound engineers from my region in Mumbai, and great musicians. Even people who have no knowledge of cinema often have a sensitivity towards sound, probably because we live in mostly hilly areas, surrounded by nature, and get affected by minute sounds.”

Poetry Of Whispers has travelled to almost 30 festivals across the world, winning the award for Best Student Short Film at the International Moving Film Festival in Abadan, Iran, and awards for Best Cinematography and Best Sound Design at the Flame First Cut International Film Festival, Pune.

“I always look at a festival as a medium to go to the audience," said Kashyap, "because it is very difficult for us as film students or independent filmmakers who do not have access to cinema halls or big OTT platforms. So how do we reach people? I think festivals are very important. It has worked a lot for me because through festivals people have seen my film.”

Talking about the reception to the film amongst his crew, he said, “I am like this confused filmmaker and I was very confused and asked the main crew if they were happy with what I was doing. They were not really sure about the film, but now [after its reception] they are really happy!”

Kaan-phus-phusot Phus-phusoni can be viewed on the OTT platform MovieSaints.