September 27, 2008

To Cut Long Stories Short

By Laxmi Birajdar

Pune: Given Puneites' love for the arts, it wasn't difficult for Shamiana Film Club to attract audiences for its screenings of short films. For the last two months, the Mumbai-based film club, founded by theatre personality Cyrus F. Dastur, has been drawing an enthusiastic audience for its screenings held every last Thursday of the month.

On September 25, film aficionados enjoyed six new short films at a lounge bar in Kalyaninagar. To make the sessions a wholesome experience, Dastur travels abroad to handpick films featured at various international film festivals . "We want to show as many varied short films as possible. No feature films," says Dastur. Started some seven years ago in Mumbai, Shamiana held occasional screenings in Mumbai. Back then, it was India's first short films' club, run under a different name and funded by a publication from Pune.

Today, the club organises two screening in Mumbai and one in Pune each month. Its collection includes over 500 short films from all over the world. Selections are made from reputed short film festivals like the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival in France, Hull International Short Film Festival in the UK, the Cannes Film Festival and the River to River Florence Indian Film Festival in Italy.

Dastur receives at least three to four short films per week from different countries . They don't make it for a screening without a stringent 'quality check' . Most often, quite a few are rejected in keeping with audience tastes and preferences.

Early this year, Dastur made his first short film, 'Hide and Seek,' a family-centric thriller. Shamiana's collection of short films includes offerings by firsttime film-makers and film students from India. Interestingly, the club has screened a good number of diploma films made by students of the Film and Television Institute of India.

"We always make it a point to give a platform to first-timers ," says Dastur, who sources short films from places like Delhi, Kolkata, Pune, Mumbai, Kerala, Hyderabad and Bangalore.

He now plans to introduce interactive sessions with film-makers at the monthly screenings in Pune. "We've just started reaching out to Pune's audiences. Their penchant for short films is palpable and heartening," observes Dastur.

Besides short films, Dastur's theatrical productions, which he writes and directs, also keep him busy. While Tom Alter features in 'When God Said Cheers,' Juhi Babbar recites Ghalib's poetry in 'Intehaan.' 'Gandhi (15th August 1947- 30th January 1948)' depicts the last five months of Mahatma Gandhi's life. His first theatrical offering, 'The Homecoming,' first performed in 1996, dealt with child sexual abuse.

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