Check out all that Director Abhijit Suvarna had to talk about regarding his movie Compartment and his life as a filmmaker.
Short-films make for a great part of the entertainment industry. Telling stories within a limited span of time is quite difficult. However, there is many who have aced this game and are doing an incredible job of talking about various issues through their films. Film Festivals play an important part in introducing and familiarizing such movies to the audiences. They find and bring movies from around the world that are of rich cultural and social importance. Indian filmmaker, Abhijit Suvarna‘s movie Compartment is one such example.
Previously a marine engineer, Abhijit Suvarna knew his path was all about creativity. He quit his job to take up his dream of film making and experience the art in its full form. A movie fanatic, Abhijit has always found the process of movie-making interesting. He took up a job at a production house to know and learn about everything that goes into making a movie. His first venture as a director become special after his first movie Compartment was selected to be screened in KASHISH Mumbai International Queer Film Festival. His movie stars Swapnil Alizeh who is a Queer artist as the lead. The movie takes the audiences through the life of an ordinary man and his life that is secretly extra-ordinary. We had the opportunity to interview the director himself and get to know more about this creative process.
Here’s all Director Abhijit Suvarna had to share with us:
Can you talk about your movie? What inspired you to tell this story?
“So as it happens, my wife, who was working with Times Of India. She was looking at an LGBTQ film so when she was talking to people she came to know that there is a compartment in the local train called the ‘Two by Two’. And I don’t think a lot of people actually know about that. Two by Two is a compartment that is unofficially used by the LGBTQ members. I found that completely astonishing because I used to travel by train every day you know going to college etc. And it is a very good metaphor too because that is how the society operates right, they compartmentalise everything by caste, creed, minority whatnot. Everybody is in a compartment. That is why I thought that it was apt to name the film ‘Compartment.’ Here I wanted to tell the story like a common Indian guy who you won’t even glance when he is passing by and what kind of world he would have in his mind. Because you see, it is my personal observation that it is easier for people with privilege to talk about their problems but the people who are not so well-off in their life find it very difficult to find a voice in society. So, I thought, why not approach in that way of telling the story where their voices can be heard. But you know the irony is that it’s never heard. It is more like when someone might be feeling a lot of apprehensions where the parents are very stereotypical and structured or when they are afraid to tell their parents or to come out and face who they truly are. It was a very interesting set up to tell my story in a very short format. In Fact, it is more like a music video than a short film as there aren’t any dialogues and there is music playing in the background. And obviously it is the music that goes on in his head. So that was the inspiration of my story.
I actually wanted to write the story about the compartment, but after speaking to few people I realised that they are not ready to talk about it in the open and they don’t want to publicize it in terms of film. That is why I chose to keep it on the side and still explore the character of the person in the sense that this is what can happen in a Two by Two compartment. I have tried to say it metaphorically or subtly where people don’t directly come to know about it. But if somebody would ask me they would come to know that there is a compartment like this. So, there is also a side story to tell.”
What difficulties do you, as a filmmaker, face when you have to bring the story you thought of into life?
“First of all, filmmaking is an expensive craft. It costs a lot of money. In order to make something really good and to make something look really beautiful a lot goes into it. At every stage like there has to be art direction, the camera has to be good, the equipment has to be good, you have to work with a lot of talented people. It is a collaborative effort not like one guy just goes out and pulls the camera and directs it. You need to have a good team in place. So it is very difficult to bring out these things when there is no money involved. And I think for people who started off like me that is where we face the most problems where we are struggling to find people who are as passionate about the craft or to tell a story yet compromise on the money. If you have the money you can get the budget and make it happen. But if you don’t have it then that is the real test. That is one thing that stands out when we are talking about filmmakers who have no budget than the ones who have it.
Even in this movie it clearly shows. I just went and shot it guerrilla-style. I had no permission. The railway staff was chasing us, the Dhobi Ghat bhaiyas were telling us that you need to leave from here. We really took a lot of effort and pain to kind of bring the visuals together to tell a very nice story and also the importance of the character. Because I was of the opinion that we always talk about the views and what is always going bad and what problems they are facing. Nobody really talks about the good side of it. Like how colourful the people are and how wonderful they can be. That is why I chose to show the positive side of their life. I could have shown how he has been abused all his life and all that but I chose to stay away from that.”
What is your experience of being part of film festivals where you create and witness movies from around the world?
“Honestly, I have been to other festivals like Mumbai Film Festival and all that but it is the first time that I have made a short film. This is my first short-film. So, I was a marine engineer before and about 3-4 years ago and quit that job. And then I joined a production house where I was working in the post department. There I was doing these small assisting jobs where I came to know the details of how a production house works. In terms of making a film and writing my own story and stuff like that this is my first venture. So in terms of making films, I don’t have much experience but I obviously have experience in seeing films, I love watching films and love seeing content online. It is my pass time. It is not my work, it is my pass time. Getting to watch a movie for my work is amazing. In that sense, I am very grateful that I also got a chance to make one.”
How are film festivals contributing to filmmaking and the entertainment industry?
“They provide a platform, first of all. Without them, only the privileged would have contact and get the chance to make something. But here I don’t know anybody and they provide a platform for me to reach out to an audience who might like my work. It is important for anybody for any artist for instance, not just a filmmaker but for any person who wants to put out their work in general. Everyone needs a platform, that is where you can show your work. So it is a very important chance for us to show that we have the potential. The production may not be that great but in the future, there is this hope of improving and telling stories. It is a great opportunity because in the coming years we don’t know what things are going to be like. I don’t know how long this COVID is going to go. We are not allowed to shoot also. So, at such times it is even more important that we have a filmmaking community that supports each other and appreciate people who really want to pursue it.”
Movies play an important part in normalizing conversations. How do you think the LGBTQ representation in movies changed?
“We have movies made nowadays that are experimental, but most of the films are about like I said they are mostly about what’s happening and obviously they want to talk about what these people are going through. And how it has changed is that now people want to see them in a positive light. Earlier they were not agreeing to the fact that a community like this exists. Now more people, because of the media I think it has improved and it has become better for the community.”
What kind of movies and shows did you watch during this lockdown?
“Well, I like thrillers and old films. I watched the series Dark, I somehow missed Mindhunter so I watched that. All the new films that have come on Amazon Prime. I tend to watch more European cinemas compared to Indian films, obviously some Indian films that people recommend and are good and definitely watch it. I also like all the old English movies of course from all the top of the line directors like Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher. I like them because they are really invested in their craft and they really celebrate stories. So, they are kind of my influences in general for their raw movies.”
Any future projects that you would like to share with our readers?
“So, now I am planning on shooting my mother. And I feel that her story is really interesting. The most under-rated person is our mothers, right. They do everything for their children, they sacrifice everything and in return get nothing. Because kids grow and they go away and they are left alone at home. So in that sense, I feel that I owe it to my parents that I do something for them. So, I really want to make a movie for my mother. She couldn’t pursue a career because she was a house-wife, or she had to take care of us or because of how the family structure was. And now that she has the time to pursue it she has the physical problems that is stopping her. She was a very good painter that she could have done professionally. That I think is one regret in her life. I want to explore all of these and other personal things. I’d rather explore it onscreen.”