Her first short film was an instant hit on the digital platform and even fetched her a Filmfare award. In this interview writer-director Aarti S Bagdi talks about her new short film ‘Udne Do’, working with Revathi, why short films are an important medium, ‘Bombairiya’ and plans to make a feature film.
You have made a bunch of popular short films. ‘Khamakha’, the first one you made, fetched you a Filmfare Award. How did that film happen?
‘Khamakha’ will always be very special to me. It turned out to be really big but we never thought about views and awards when we set out to make that film. The producers liked the script but told me clearly that I need to be careful about the budget as it was a short film and back then, it was not as easy to make a short film as it is now. Luckily, I got Manjari (Fadnnis) and Harshvardhan (Rane) on board. They really supported me on the film. We shot in Lonavala with several some portions in a bus. The idea was to convey the message that you should not judge a person by the language they speak. Also, we should not be ashamed of speaking our other tongue or any of the other beautiful languages we have in our country. We released the film on Hindi Divas as we thought that was the appropriate day for the film to come out. People started talking about the film on social media as soon as it was out. I think at the moment it has 4 million views.
Making a film on the issue of child sexual abuse could be very difficult. You are dealing with a sensitive subject and are working with child actors.
When I started interacting with the people from the foundation, I realised they educate children about sexual abuse by introducing them to terms like the good touch and the bad touch. We wanted to make a film that would reach out to parents and teachers who do not talk about these issues and brush them under the carpet. I wanted to talk about this issue through a short film but I had to make sure that we had the right script that would do complete justice to the subject. It is a very sensitive issue and we had to be careful in the way we were putting across the message. We decided we would create characters which would be ideal for the world we live in. Revathi ji’s character is that of a school principal who takes a stand when she gets to know about the incident. We need more of such people in the real world.
Revathi is a big name. Considering her busy schedule, was it difficult to get her on board?
We had to wait for one month for her to start shooting for the film but we were willing to wait as we knew what she could add to it. We shot for a couple of days in March, one day in April when we shot the song and then we wrapped up the film in May. The principal’s character was very important and we wanted to have a powerful performer who could do justice to that role. Working with Revathi ji was a great experience. When you have such a wonderful and celebrated actor, you cannot ask for anything more.
What are the effective steps, you think, can be taken to combat this issue?
Every change takes place at home. The children need to have the confidence and the courage to speak up without any hesitation. They feel embarrassed to say that something like this had happened to them and speak up after several years. As you can see, something similar has happened with the #MeToo movement in which the victims have spoken up after several years.
You are on the producing team of the upcoming feature film ‘Bombairiya’. The film is releasing a few years after it was made. How did the idea for the film come to you?
The germ of the idea came to me from an incident that happened to me in 2009. The makers wove a beautiful tale out of that idea. My phone had got stolen and went through different people in three hours before it came back to me. There were a few people involved in that incident. I wrote the characters with my co-writer keeping those people in mind.
Do you think short films give filmmakers the opportunity to showcase their talent?
Absolutely! Although I had assisted directors like Subhash Ghai and Sooraj Barjatya, I was an outsider and getting an opportunity to direct a film was tough. Making these short films have helped me put my voice out there.
Would you like to direct a feature film in the near future?
I have been working on a few scripts and would like to make a feature film when I think I have the right script in my hand.