Short filmmaker Abhiroop Basu's Meal starring Adil Hussain makes it to the Odense Festival
He got noticed with his very first short feature, The Day after Tomorrow — a dystopian story of atrocities against women, which got a standing ovation at MAMI festival in Mumbai — when he was barely 17. His second, Afternoon with Julia, a tribute to the French New Wave cinema was screened at Cannes Film Festival and his third, The Paperman, a story of a daughter overcoming the grief of losing her father, got the Dada Saheb Phalke award for Best Screenplay. And now, his fourth short, Meal is the only Indian movie to make it to the Oscar-qualifying short film festival Odense International Film Festival in Denmark, one of the biggest short film festivals in Europe. That’s Abhiroop Basu for you.
“The festival will be held from August 26-31 and Meal is one of the 121 shortlisted from among 3,600 films. The top three will qualify for nominations to the Oscars,” says the 25-yearold filmmaker from Kolkata, adding that the film has already bagged the best film award at Ottawa Indian Film Festival, where it was competing alongside Anurag Kashyap’s Bebaak, starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the titular role. Meal, starring Adil Hussain and Ratnabali Bhattacharya, is an impactful, 11-minute direct attack on extreme right ideology, portrayed through chaos and shorn of any dialogue. “The advantage of doing a short is that you don’t have to adhere to any strict rule. The same is true for my next, Laali” says Abhiroop.
Starring Pankaj Tripathi in the lead, Laali, a 40-minute featurette, is the story of a lonely istriwala or a roadside laundry guy, and his relation with a red dress. “We plan to premiere it in one of the big festivals and then release it at one of the leading web-streaming platforms. The young director, who studied filmmaking from Prague Film School and did a three-month course in screenplay writing from Alt Studio Tuscany, says Pankaj Tripathi is the Virender Sehwag of acting, who’s an instinctive actor believing in on-the-spot improvisation. Whereas, Adil is more like Rahul Dravid, a spontaneous actor who is a perfectionist.
After working with both, Basu is now hopeful of working with Shefali Shah in his next short. “It’s a crazy story of a middle-aged woman living in a house with her donkey. I am yet to approach Shah for this. I hope she says yes,” he tells us. So, what’s next? “I will be doing a full- length feature starring Adil in the lead next year,” he discloses. So, are shorts a stepping-stone to Hindi films? “In a way yes, but with more platforms like Large Short Films, shorts are creating a strong space of their own. Even web platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime are picking them up. Recently, Netflix bought Period, End of Silence. There are dedicated TV and web channels such as Shorts TV and Shorts Cut, too,” remarks Basu.
And does he have any plans of making Bengali movies? “I will not make Bengali films; nothing inspires me in Bengali industry in terms of work. I had a couple of very bitter experiences. But my stories will be rooted in Kolkata,” tells the young director.