Meet Rajdip Ray, a 4th year law student of Symbiosis, Pune, who spends a million sleepless nights (sometimes, more) to pursue his passion of Film-making.
In the first part of this interview, we explore Rajdip’s quest to establish himself in the film-making industry while coping with the hectic schedule of law-school. Rajdip also gives insight into film-making as a career option for law students.
For me to make films independently, every screening, every selection, and every bit of appreciation is special. It motivates me to go on and make another film, despite the stress and compulsions of law school.
RW [Ryan Wilson]: So what got you interested in films and making your own short films?
Rajdip: It’s hard to tell what exactly got me interested in films. I had always enjoyed literature, and read a lot. Somewhere during high school, I started enjoying cinema as a means of story telling. Subsequently, I got into theatre. I watched a lot of films from all around the world, and got inspired to capture stories on camera.
Sometime in Class 11, there was a documentary making competition for students. I was sent in as a last minute entry on behalf of my school, and shot with a Sony video camera. The film won the second prize in the competition.
It wasn’t until the end of my first year in law school that I decided it was high time I tried making a film myself. I came across a bunch of really talented young actors while attending a theatre show which I was covering for dfuse.in, a counter culture magazine, where we write about theatre, films, music, etc.
I asked them whether they’d be interested in being part of a short film, and they agreed. I also had a couple of friends from media school, and they agreed to help me out with the cinematography and editing. And that’s how What She Said happened on a budget of 600 rupees.
It was a relatively amateur effort, with us shooting with the available DSLRs that we had, and no sound recording equipment. But then, once it was done, a lot of people told me that they liked it.
And Shamiana, Asia’s biggest short film club screened it in Calcutta, Pune and Mumbai. That gave me the encouragement to take film making up a bit more seriously.
RW: Tell us a bit about the films you have made?
Rajdip: What She Said was my first film. It is about a writer who struggles to balance his dreams and aspirations with his personal life.
It is bilingual, in English and Bengali, approximately 9 and a half minutes long. The film was screened by Shamiana at Eros Theatres, Bombay, Amanora Park, Pune, and Alliance Francaise in Calcutta.
After that, it took 11 months to complete the next production, Keu Eshe Bolechilo (Images). It’s a 22 minute Bengali film set in Calcutta in the 90s; about a photographer battling with a marijuana addiction. I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of alternate reality, and this film allowed me to explore that.
The film premiered at The East Side Festival 2.0 this February, where it won the awards for Best Film and Best Cinematography. It is also an Official Selection to the upcoming edition of the International Shorts and Documentary Film Festival of Kerala (ISDFFK), organized by the Kerala State Chilachatra Academy and the Department of Cultural Affairs of the Government of Kerala.
There are a couple of other short films I’m working on currently, in various stages of production.
Apart from these shorts, I have been an Associate Director for The Other Way, an independent documentary film about indie film making and film makers in India.
The directors of the film, Aniket and Swathy, gave me a wonderful opportunity to come on board and shoot with national and international award winning film makers like Q (Qaushik Mukherjee), Onir and Sandeep Mohan, and that turned out to be quite an exhilarating experience.
RW: Any awards you’re proud of?
Rajdip: Keu Eshe Bolechilo (Images) winning Best Film and Best Cinematography at The East Side Festival where it premiered. And then the selection to the IDSFFK. For me to make films independently, every screening, every selection, and every bit of appreciation is special. It motivates me to go on and make another film, despite the stress and compulsions of law school.
Also, The Other Way is slated for a limited theatrical release in the near future. It’s a film by my best friend and a lot of people I admire intensely are a part of it; so really looking forward to that.
RW: What’s unique to short film making that is absent in commercial Indian cinema?
Rajdip: While making a short film, you aren’t under the pressure to deliver a “Blockbuster” or a “Super hit” film. Since there isn’t a market yet for short films, the process is yet to get commercialized.
If made independently, the film maker has no liabilities towards a producer. Which gives one complete creative freedom. To experiment, to learn, and to evolve.
The mainstream Indian film industry meanwhile is blinded by star power, plagiarized dance music, and the glamour attached to film making. Which is why you see a sudden surge of indie cinema all over the country, whether it’s a Bengali film like “Tasher Desh” or a Kannada “Lucia” or even an English production like “Good Night Good Morning”.
When was the last time you saw the Indian film industry churn out a good English film, despite it being the language of the vast urban population?
RW: How does short film making give you greater artistic freedom than being a part of feature films?
Rajdip: First of all, it encourages me to think and write beyond the research papers and assignments that I’m forced to write. Once I have an idea or a story and I have it written down, it’s then up to designing every bit of it.
Casting is a huge responsibility. What does the character look like? How does he behave? How does he speak?
And then of course there is the scenario that the character finds himself in. Is he broken and homeless? Or is he rich and spoilt? Bald or bearded? Is he reminiscing about old days over a quart of rum?
As a film maker you have the freedom to decide every single thing, down to the brand of the rum that the character eventually ends up drinking.
Here below are Links of some of Rajdip’s finest works yet!
Click here for the teaser of “Images”
Click here for “What She Said”
Click here for “The Other Way” (First Look):
Click here for “Off The Record” (Episode 1)
Click here for “Off The Record” (Episode 2)
Editor’s Note: Keep following Lawctopus for Part II of the Rajdip Ray interview, where Rajdip elaborates on how Law School benefits one interested in a film-making career and how it has influenced him as a film-maker!