A five-minute-long, continuous shot: A girl is on her way home from school and is exasperated with her father’s attempts to cheer her up. It’s that time of the month and she has no one to talk to. Her father, though awkward about this conversation, consoles her. Times are different; a father can be a good mother, too. Hand in hand, they walk the rest of the way. Surya Balakrishnan’s short film, Arre Baba, made for the YouTube channel Terribly Tiny Talkies, is one of the many short films heralding a revolution of sorts.
A small office located in a dilapidated building in Saki Naka, Andheri, houses Terribly Tiny Tales ’s young workforce. Since its inception in 2013, it has evolved into a popular online forum for stories told in under 15 words. In February, its founders Chintan Ruparel (27) and Anuj Gosalia (28) moved from stories to films by launching the YouTube channel — Terribly Tiny Talkies (TTT). So far, they have released five-minute long, theme-based films on Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, and will release three more in the days leading to Independence Day (August 15). “The first film, Agli Baar, exposes the dark side of development in India. The second one is Bapu, a story shot mostly in Kolkata and, lastly, One Day Mataram, a light-hearted take on how we are all patriotic, but only for a limited time,” says Ruparel.
A screengrab of Terribly Tiny Talkies' YouTube channel.
Fast and curious
“Short films are perfect for a fast-paced life. Short attention spans help shorter narratives thrive,” says Ruparel. While TTT may be a toddler on the digital timeline, players like Pocket Films and Six Sigma Films have championed the cause of short films in the digital space over the last few years. With better connectivity and availability of cheaper equipment to shoot, aspiring film-makers no longer have to wait for big banners to adopt them. Going digital has given them an audience and a targeted reach, for little to no cost.
“The demand for short films has multiplied over the last two years, with YouTube having brought visual content to your computer or phone screen,” says Sameer Mody, founder and CEO, Pocket Films, an aggregator YouTube channel for short films. “Film-makers have always made short films, but often couldn’t find a platform for them. There was good content out there, so we decided to take it to the people,” says Mody.
Earlier this year, Pocket Films launched Prime Talkies, a talk show on TV hosted by director Nagesh Kukunoor. This weekly, hour-long segment features four independent short films and their makers, who interact with Kukunoor on the process of film-making.
Srinivas Sunderrajan, director of the feature film,
The Untitled Kartik Krishnan Project
, has made award-winning shorts like Tea Break and
, which won the Best Short Film award at the Mumbai Film Festival (in 2008). He made several short films for college projects which did not see the light of day. Then he directed
for TTT; an unusual love story that garnered two million views in under a month. He dedicated this success to the collaborative platform that short films create. “The process of making a short film is meant to be fun. People come together and do what they love, and that gives them the freedom to experiment with the technique and the story,” he says.
Surya Balakrishnan's 'Arre Baba' stars Girish Kulkarni and Gauri Deshpande.
For Devashish Makhija, who directed TTT’s El’ayichi (with 1.8 million views), it was the audience base that encouraged him. “With shorts, the gratification of having your content out there is instantly achieved. Thanks to fast connectivity, digital platforms are instantly accessible for the audience. The content gets noticed quickly and that is a major incentive for a film-maker,” says Makhija.
Clearly, the ‘audience’ that Makhija talks of is the smartphone generation. Film buff Shayak Roy, who holds a degree in film appreciation from St Xavier’s College, Kolkata, is an avid fan of short films and the topics they deal with. “In the digital space, the censor board doesn’t come into play. Most short films deal with controversial issues, and the treatment is experimental, as the chances of getting banned are rare,” he shares.
Devashish Makhija on the set of his upcoming Talkies film. (Photo credit: Arun Kale)
TTT is mainly involved in the pre- and post-production of films (the production costs handled by the film-makers).“It is difficult to raise money for a feature film in India. Luckily for shorts, financial the investment is minimal,” says Makhija, adding that the actors sometimes come aboard the project for free. “They too get a chance to experiment with roles,” he says.
Sunderrajan adds that there are ways to earn as well: “YouTube adverts or opportunities to screen short films before feature films, in theatres are ways to earn back the invested money. We just have to work on compelling content to make an industry out of it.”
TTT’s El’ayichi poster (Photo courtesy: TTT)
The road ahead
The immediate plan for TTT is to stabilise its releases from here on. “We’re thinking of launching a web series by the end of this year. The aim is to highlight exciting scripts that come our way. We want showcase good, robust stories and not slapstick humour,” says Ruparel.
“We hope to be the most respected and loved platform for short fiction stories on the social network,” he sums up.
Favourite picks by the film-makers
Directed by: Kamal Mohammad
Time: 20 minutes
Directed by: Neeraj Ghaywan
Time: 15 minutes
Directed by: Umesh Kulkarni
Time: 20 minutes
The TTT office in Kalina. (Vidya Subramanian/HT photo)
• Bianary Trouble Episode 1
Directed by: Ashish Verma
Time: 4 minutes
Directed By: Amit Kumar
Silent film Time: 15 minutes
YouTube channels you need to follow
Large Short Films
Srinivas Sunderrajan. (Photo credit: Prashin Jagger)
Six Sigma Films
Terribly Tiny Talkies
Catch the latest edition of TTT films, from August 12, on their YouTube channel youtube/terriblytinytalkies
(The writer tweets as @poorvajoshi93 )