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DIFF 2016 – A Peek at the Indian Short Films

October 30, 2016 | By

Curated by film-maker Umesh Kulkarni, the Dharamshala International Film Festival 2016 (DIFF 2016) presents to the audience an eclectic mix of short films. Silhouette editor Amitava Nag peeks into a few of the Indian ones which are diverse and breath-taking, in equal proportions.

DIFF 2016

Short films, like short stories have come now to stay. At a time when the consumer himself is the producer and everyone has an apparent scarcity of time, short films suit every stake holder.  Generally the budget of a short film is far less than a commercial venture which makes the young enthusiast try his/her luck at film-making. Yet, like any art form short film as a genre is no different and hence, after the initial excitement settles down the aesthetics of successful short films are different. Just as a 100 metre race is different from a marathon, a T20 necessarily dissimilar from its 50-over counterpart, a short film isn’t a shortened version of a narrative feature. It has its own conditions, its own paradigms and its own mechanism to be fruitful.

In acknowledgement of this, many of the film festivals worldwide have started a short film section even though the same isn’t as popular as the feature film section. However in distinct difference from documentary films which were always been branded as ‘serious’, short films have started to have its own audience thanks to the age of internet.

The Dharamshala International Film Festival 2016 (DIFF 2016) is no exception and hosts 13 short films across 2 sections – SHORTS and ROYAL STAG BARREL SELECT LARGE SHORT FILMS. One of the notable films is Marathi short Daaravtha (The Threshold) by Nishant Roy Bombarde where we find a pre-teen Pankaj caught in a crossroad – between the strict norms of a patriarchal society and its expectations, and his own desires.  Winner of the ‘Best Debut Film of a Director (Short Film)’ award at the 63rd National Film Awards, India the film narrates how Pankaj finds himself being bullied and how closed the society is to accept the layered differences within a heterogeneous society.

Daaravtha Trailer

Another significant presence this year will be Ghuspaithiya (Infiltrator) by Gurvinder Singh whose feature films viz. Anhey Ghorhey Da Daan followed by Chauthi Koot have already placed him as one of the leading young film-makers of India. The short film Ghuspaithiya is a satirical tale of a pigeon that crosses the India-Pakistan border and enters a village in Punjab. It is taken into custody and then investigated by the police as an enemy spy.

Gurvinder Singh’s Ghuspaithiya

A still from Gurvinder Singh’s Ghuspaithiya

Another interesting 25 min drama is The Guide by Pankaja Thakur, the ex-CEO of Central Board of Film Certification where the director raises an interesting question about gender equality and what it takes to bridge the gender gap that exists today. This extends to gender violence and exploitation. Payal Sethi’s Leeches is one such that bases its story in a Muslim backdrop in Hyderabad which still has the shameful custom of ‘one-day bride’. But Leeches doesn’t end in mere acknowledgement of this exploitation. Rather it puts forth Raisa, a young Muslim girl who tries to save her 13 year old sister from being ‘married’ off by plotting an improbable plan which is dangerous and threatening. The film which is sharp and hitting hard at the face has already won a few awards including the Grand Prix Internationale at Brussels Short Film Festival 2016 and the Best Short film at the Indian Film Festival of Stuttgart 2016.

Leeches Trailer

Then there is Anurag Kasyap’s That Day after Everyday where the maverick director takes up issues of molestation and eve teasing in the Indian society. Needless to say, it is a scathing attack on the urban mores of gender abuse rampant in modern India.

That Day after Everyday The Film

The audience will get to witness Naseeruddin Shah’s poignant magic in a quaint short Interior. Café – Night by Adhiraj Bose about love, loss and a happy reunion at the end.

The film that won the Best film award at the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala 2016 is Papa by Siddharth Chauhan. The story of Papa is another story of human relationship, this time between a paralyzed mother, Sushma and her young son, Rajiv. An accident leaves their lives in total disarray and they start adjusting their lives to confront the new reality. Symbolically we find Sushma’s only hope to be a pigeon, the metaphor for peace, after her husband died.

 Papa by Siddharth Chauhan

A Still from Papa by Siddharth Chauhan

Chaitanya Tamhane has burst into the International film scene with his debut film Court in 2014 which had won more than 30 international awards. Six Strands which is set in the tea plantation of Darjeeling, is Tamhane’s first short film, made in 2011. The DIFF official synopsis reads – “A mysterious, lonely woman lives in a strange, utopian society in the hills of Darjeeling, which produces the most expensive tea in the world. Plucked under mysterious conditions, ‘Moonlight Thurston’ triggers sensations including taste, memory, love and pleasure. Six Strands delves into issues of human rights, the nature of evil and the enigmatic unknown.”

Six Strands The Film

Short films have a liberty to experiment with the form and also the content since the financial stakes are considerably controlled. Most of the films in this selection will provide the audience with a platter to choose from. Curated by Umesh Kulkarni who is equally at ease with both feature films as well as the shorter version, DIFF 2016 presents an eclectic mix of Indian short films – surely an attraction for the audience to savour.

More to read

5th Dharamshala IFF 2016 to Throw Spotlight on Docu-features and Shorts

Dharamshala International Film Festival 2015: A Curtain Raiser

The State of Independent Cinema in India


Creative Writing

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Amitava Nag is an independent film critic based in Kolkata and editor of Silhouette. His most recent books on cinema are Murmurs: Silent Steals with Soumitra Chatterjee, 16 Frames and Smriti Sattwa o Cinema. His earlier writings include the acclaimed books Satyajit Ray’s Heroes and Heroines published by Rupa and Beyond Apu: 20 Favourite film roles of Soumitra Chatterjee published by Harper Collins India. He also writes poetry and short fiction in Bengali and English – observing life in a platter. He can be reached at
All Posts of Amitava Nag

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