Director Shashank S Singh, who is garnering praises for his short film 'Dobara Alvida' featuring Gulshan Deviah and Swara Bhasker, has been part of Bollywood as an assistant director for almost a decade. As an assistant director, Singh has worked with production houses like Yash Raj Films, Aamir Khan Productions, UTV films, Disney and more.
In an exclusive conversation with The Free Press Journal, Shashank S Singh gets candid about his love for filmmaking, his upcoming projects and more.
'Dobara Alvida' is Shashank's first work as an independent filmmaker. When asked why it took him a decade to make his debut, he says, "It takes time for people to place their trust on you and your skills. Also, I am not from any film school. I started working as an assistant director and learnt everything while working on set. It took time for me to reach a stage when I could think of being confident of pitching my stories as a film maker to the producers. And, getting producers onboard is one of the most toughest things, especially if you don't have a body of work to show as a showreel. It's all part of the process. So, for some it takes time and for some it doesn't."
"Am happy being where I am right now. My first work is out and people are really liking 'Dobara Alvida' and this is what matters," he adds.
Talking about his journey as an assistant director, Shashank shares, "My journey started after my college. I came to Bombay and started working on films as an assistant director. I used to give clap on set in my first film as an assistant director. Late Ashok Mehta was the DoP (Directors of photography) in that film. We would fondly call him Chachu. It was a very enriching experience for me to be working on a film with such great names. After that, I went on to work with UTV films, Yash Raj Films, Aamir Khan Productions, Disney, Walkwater and many more as a freelancer. I also did a lot of ad films in-between."
The director reveals that he initially came to Mumbai to become an actor, however, fell in love with the process of filmmaking.
"I always wanted to be an actor in films. Somehow I was looking for opportunities to reach Bombay and fulfill my dream of working in films. I have been doing plays since my school days and did lot of plays in my college times with my college's dramatics society. After I started working as an assistant director on films and ad films, I just drifted into the process of filmmaking," he says.
Talking about his love for filmmaking, he further adds, "I started loving it. I started thinking about the kind of stories I would want to make. I realized that I can write my own stories and can develop them into scripts of my own. It was such a pleasant experience to sit and create a world in your head and translate it on-screen the way you had wanted it. The whole process of exploring myself happened gradually. I am glad to have honed the skills needed to be a filmmaker while working as an assistant director. It was a lot of hard work and tough times but a satisfying one cause it helped me a lot in trying to transcend my story onto the screen as a filmmaker."
"As far as acting is concerned, if I get something interesting that would satisfy me as an actor then why not. But, right now, I am kicked up about the scripts I have written and working towards making them into full fledged feature films," he says.
Asked if he had expected 'Dobara Alvida' to get the reviews it did, Shashank says he was always confident that people were going to like the short film.
The filmmaker says, "I knew it will connect with the audience as it is a very relatable film. I always wanted to make a relatable film. Also, with the kind of story idea I had for this short film, I knew it is not going to work if the conversation between the two characters -- played by Swara and Gulshan- doesn't work. The conversation would only work if it's relatable to the people in contemporary times. So, it has a mix of reality and fantasy both. I am glad that my perception paid off and the audience liked the film."
Shanshank reveals that he had to opt for a short film for his debut because he wasn't getting producers to fund his scripts.
He says, "I was not getting a producer to put in money or trust into my script. I was roaming around to make it into a feature film. Even though people were liking the script, they were not willing to put in money, saying, 'you haven't made anything and you don't even have a short film as your showreel.'"
"After struggling for about a year for my feature film to get a producer, I thought let's just make a short film. I had this one liner in my mind since a long time. So, I decided to develop it but never wanted to treat it as if I am making a showreel.
"I was like, I am not able to make a feature film, so let me make a short film and treat it as a feature film as the only difference between a short and a feature is the length of the film that is it's running time on the screen. Given a choice, I would've definitely gone for a feature, but I got the money needed to make a short film before I could've got it for my feature," he adds.
Shashank recommends every aspiring film maker to make short films as "it is a great learning experience."
While a feature film's box office numbers and reviews can dictate its success, it is not the same with a short film.
When asked what, according to him, determines the success of a short film, the one-film-old director says, "In my opinion, if your short film is loved by the audience and the comments are really positive, whether in the comments section if released on YouTube or the reviews it is getting from the critics, then it is a success. It means people have connected with the short film, which is what happened with 'Dobara Alvida'. It's getting people's love from all over and that is the only parameter of success for a short film."
Shanshank S Singh also reveals that he faced a lot challenges while making the film due to budget constraints.
"Cause of budget constraints and to save time as I had only 2 days to shoot it, I had to put the camera inside the car. I couldn't afford to rig the camera while shooting in the car. I did a lot of planning to achieve the kind of shots without rigging the camera. Also, I had to sit in the last row of the car with my sound person after removing the seats. Sitting throughout the shoot, continuously for 2 days, was tough but I loved it," he says.
"The roads were not that smooth, so we could only shoot in good patches or else the camera would shake. It was very tricky and tough. With proper planning and preparation tough shoots can be pulled off smoothly too," he adds.
Spilling the beans on his upcoming project, Shashank shares that he is currently working on his first feature film.
"I am already in talks with a leading actress for the social drama I'm making as my next. I can't reveal much now, but will make an announcement soon. There is another one which is a super natural thriller and am very much excited about that too," he shares.
He says that there is no particular genre he would want to restrict himself to.
"I have a bank of 5-6 scripts which I have developed. One is a musical romantic drama, other one is a social drama while one of them is a supernatural thriller. So, I would love to make films of all kinds of genres, but I want to be a good, impactful entertainer," Shashank says.
On being asked if he has a favourite actor he would like to work with, the director says, "Tricky question! I would love to make films with all of them, but my scripts will eventually decide whom I'd want to approach."
He signs off by saying, "Like the moment I decided to make 'Dobara Alvida', I had thought of Swara Bhasker and Gulshan Devaiah as my lead pair for this story and accordingly, I approached them. I was really lucky to have them on-board for this film. Thanks to both of them for believing and coming onboard, cause lot of times you don't get what you want. But, I got what I wanted so a big thanks to both of them again."