The movie starts off with two friends sitting in a cafe, narrating unforgettable incidents from their lives over a blueberry cheese cake. They seem to be quite comfortable with each other, cracking smutty jokes. While the movie takes the viewer on a lively ride, it suddenly ends with a confused bump!
Confessions over a Cheesecake- An interview with Director Pranjal Vaid
1. How did you get the idea for the movie? I am guessing that one day you found yourself all alone in the Monkey bar and the entire vision just stood before you. What was the motive behind?
We had just started juggling with the idea of film making and it had to be our first short. More than the content, we wanted to get the process right- learn the basic film etiquette and principles and come up with a decent short film that has elements like, cinematography, editing, production, lighting and audio set at an above average level. The idea of a conversation between two people in a restaurant that takes a different course in the end seemed pretty pragmatic to start with.
2. Swear words have been used liberally in the movie. In fact it added to the taste. But what was the exact reason behind it?
For the revelation about the protagonist’s loneliness to be really effective and to have a strong catharsis at the point where the waiter walks up to him, we felt that a penultimate emotion as stimulating as eroticism would be quite efficient. Moreover, the requisite possibility that he could have been hallucinating all this while- to be able to find a company so free and non-judgmental that one could discuss all details, all kinds with her, gave in a lot of room for such titillating conversations and smutty jokes.
However, the biggest challenge Padmaja, Naval and I felt while writing was, to make the screenplay gripping in spite of having the same scene-same actors and the same location throughout without much dynamics. All the salacious stuff just acted as a cheat code there.
3. Recently we have been seeing conversation based short films, shot in specific locations. I personally feel such shorts has tremendous scope to make powerful statements, apart from being interesting. Your thoughts on that…
I really feel so too. A short film based on a conversation gives a lot of freedom to viewers to decipher the text in multiple ways. I saw Ritesh Batra’s ‘Café Regular, Cairo’ some time ago. It shows the changing face of relationships in modern day Cairo in a subtle manner and it quite leaves you with food for thought. Ram Subramanian’s ‘Mute’ is also a very impactful short film that raises essential questions about democracy, humanity and rights of a citizen in just about 3 minutes.
4. Thoughts on the look and feel of the film. Did you get the cue from the cake? Just asking…
Despite not having a producer backing us up financially, we did not want the film to look ‘cheap’ at all. In my opinion, the location, lighting setup, color grading and camera equipment all add to the cinematography of the fil m and once it’s in place- it boosts up the visual value of the film that finally appeals to the viewers. We tried really hard to scout around for the best possible restaurant in Delhi and I believe Monkey Bar has actually instilled a unique flavour to our little film. Amulya (DOP of the film) wanted to get the right lenses for all the three cameras so that the footage really has shallow depth of field and great optical quality. As far as colour grading is concerned, Anmol (editor of the film) spent a lot of time on it and kept pushing the envelope till it seemed to fit right. We also wanted to make sure that the background music acts as a mood-setting device and the ambient sound does not take away anything from the film in terms of authenticity. The cake, well just brought in brownie points.
5. Tell us more about the crew. Particularly cinematography. Any inspirations for the movie?
We all are undergrad students- extremely passionate for film making, theatre, writing, and music. ‘A funny little company’ is where we all get together and pursue our creative realms. There is Padmaja Venkataraman, the co-writer in the film, Amulya Suneja, the DOP, Anmol Chopra, the Editor and sound designer, Naval K Garg, the co-writer as well as the male lead, and Aditya Manoharan, the cinematographer. Akshay Varshney and Nimisha Nair are also a part of our creative enterprise.
We had decided to shoot with multi-camera setup and high key lighting after seeing a number of one-on-one conversations in films and learning about techniques such as 180 degree rule, three-point lighting etc. on YouTube. Two Canon 70 D were placed at almost over the shoulder shot positions and a Canon 600 D was kept mobile and was used in a lot of different ways to inject a sense of pace and dynamics. Maintaining a synergy between the three cameras for ease in post-production and at the same time helping them retain their individual asset was really a great experience. As a matter of fact, it was in editing that we realised we fell short of cut-in shots and cut-away shots but we couldn’t help it.
Ben Briand’s Apricot was surely an inspiration. The kind of cinematography, actors and music design the film has is unparalleled. We tried to learn the framing of the shots from it. We also drew feeble implications from the film during post-production.
6. Pranjal tell us more about yourself. Where do you want to go as an independent film-maker?
I come from a middle class Punjabi background where it’s almost a sin to say that you want to join films. My father doesn’t have a mill and neither do I know a Kapoor or a Johar in the industry. But today I feel liberated to see a Anurag Kashyap releasing his film without a loud start cast to a packed audience and a Anand Gandhi doing justice to his creative vision without any interferences from the market. It makes me hopeful.
I feel excited to work in ‘a funny little company’ (AFLC) where we all share a common wavelength and have similar ambitions in life. We have already started working on the next set of projects and hope to strike a chord with the masses this time. The point that tops the TO-DO list at AFLC is to bring out good content. The commercial viability of short films somewhat bothers all of us but I’m hopeful. I can feel the trembles of a boom in the short film market and we all will be benefitted.