When living in isolation though the long months since March got too much for him, Anant Mahadevan decided to write himself into a film. Touched by the story of a man living alone in a row house in America, who lets the loneliness creep up on him and take control, making him imagine an intruder is often at his door, and falling apart mentally as a result, Mahadevan found it echoed his own loneliness. ‘It could be our own story,’ he said and decided to narrate it.
His story took the form of a writer writing a story about a writer suffering the effects of loneliness and being trapped into a mental state by it when he hits a writer’s block...and imagining unseen intruders... a kind of story version of the Russian Babushka doll, with identical themes fitted one into the other.
As he decided to shoot the screenplay of The Knocker (as he titled it); Mahadevan made sure he was not creating ‘another static-camera lockdown film’. ‘I wanted to use movement and place the camera everywhere it needed to be, to get the real feel of a film,’ he says. It was tough indeed, he adds, but he managed by using dummy objects to frame each shot, and then shooting himself in the frame. It demanded much checking and reshooting if the shot was not perfect or the frame was not focused enough. But it kept him happily busy.
( Stills from The Knocker. Written, Directed and Acted by Anant Mahadevan)
The 17-minute film, in black and white, is aesthetically pleasing in contrast with the tension it portrays, and rolls on to a climax. The pace echoes some of the ennui of being trapped in timelessness; but the underlying tension keeps you watching.
The Knocker premiered to international audiences at the Four Seasons Virtual Festival held on 16,17 and 18 of this month in the US, as an offering by Anant Mahadevan and Ashvin Gidwani. ‘At Ashvin Gidwani productions (AGP), I have a full sound and post production team and they edited Anant’s film, added the music and ensured it was ready to be marketed internationally,’ Gidwani says, adding that since the premiere, ‘We already have 250 Festivals asking for the film’.
Gidwani’s ‘Unscripted but Real,’ which this film was a part of, is a slot under which he already has five more projects including feature films, all collaborations between like-minded creative filmmakers and their teams. Gidwani aims to position all his productions for global audiences.
He adds, ‘I am looking for curators of this kind of work and have reached out to Italy and France. When work creates an emotional connect with audiences, it can be enjoyed by people anywhere’.
( Photo of Ashvin Gidwani)
Since writing this, news has come in that The Knocker has won an award at the Four Corners Film Festival, USA
Songs from many seasons
Nothing like music to stir the heart strings. And when extends itself to help a cause, the result is magic. Classically trained Sanjeevani Bhelande, who, like many other talented singers has found her metier in stage shows singing songs from Hindi films that garner huge, appreciative audiences, often extends the entertainment factor to include charity. One such show, Sunhere Sur, held on the 19th, in aid of Ekal Abhiyan and Friends of Tribal Society (FTS) India collected 3 crores from the 9000 plus strong live virtual audience and those who watched the show on you tube late.
‘It took a lot out of me, left me tired’, Says Bhelande of the fact that she has to sing as well as handle acknowledging the donations that flowed in with surprising alacrity.
Putting together the show with live artistes playing together in a hall that had been modified for virtual programmes, wasn’t as tough. Most of the instrumentalists, as well as singer Prashant Nasari often team up with her, and were ready to get back to doing their favourite thing; playing together. The other singers were also only too happy to get a relief from the forced silence.
( From Raga in a song video)
Though, personally when it comes to film songs, I prefer to listen to the original singers, I must applaud fact that in these days when playback singing has come down mostly to recording instruments and singers on different tracks; shows like Bhelande’s bring in focus the mastery over the craft of each of the artistes, especially the instrumentalists, performing as they do in perfect harmony and sync. The songs ranged from old favourites like Ayaega Ane Wala to newer numbers. Bhelande who used to sing Geeta Dutt and Shamshad Begum numbers has ‘ kept with the changing age group of her audience, and switched to include newer compositions. ‘I like to sing songs with some gayaki in them,’ she says,’ and sing even Arijit’s songs, though they are for a male voice, as the melody in them gives me satisfaction.’
Like many singers and musicians who feel the need to return to their classical base; Bhelande finds a need to ‘sing my own songs’. Raga in a Song is her foray into creativity. The five songs in her first album are based on Bhatiyar, Darbari Kanada, Sur Malhar, Bhairavi,and Tilak Kamod. Each weaves a song around old bandishes. ‘In some cases, I have added a stanza, as a bandish only spans four lines,’ she says.
Do listen. Raga in a Song is on all streaming music channels, and the videos can be watched on You Tube. The dulcet voice and the flowing ragas should help soothe some of the pains of being held hostage by an unseen enemy.
( Views are personal)