Streaming platforms can help Indian cinema tap into global markets like never before: Abhishek Chandra

Kerala-born Abhishek Chandra, who is currently an internationally acclaimed film maker, has been making waves with his award winning short film ‘Lady Bug’.

Film maker Abhishek Chandra’s short film Lady Bug is hogging the limelight at the moment. The film has already won 16 awards globally, including Best Drama Film Short (Europe Film Festival – Jan 2021); Best Drama (Venice Film Awards – Sept 2020); Best Short Film (Silver – Virgin Spring Cinefest – Oct 2020); Best Director (Virgin Spring Cinefest – Oct 2020); Best Indie Short Film (Five Continents International Film Festival); and many more.

Lady Bug, which Chandra co-produced with the film’s writer and lead actor Isabela Valotti, comes across as a poignant story about dealing with the loss of a loved one. An English-Portuguese drama, the film produced in Los Angeles under Meraki Studios, the US, stars Isabela Valotti, Mia Drake, and Andre Mattos in lead roles.

Kerala-born Abhishek Chandra, who began his film career in Mumbai producing award-winning television commercials before shifting base to Los Angeles, had earlier produced a bunch of successful music videos and shorts.

Abhishek Chandra talks about his global film making career, his experience in the Indian film industry, future projects and more in this interview:

Could you tell us in detail about how you became part of the international film industry?

Well, after graduating from film school in Mumbai, I was part of the Mumbai film industry for 6-7 years, producing commercials and advertisements. But, somewhere down the line, I realised that writing and directing was something I wanted to do more. Frankly, I was a little tired with producing ad campaigns, because I didn’t find much creative satisfaction there.

At that time, a Los Angeles-based friend asked me to join him in directing some music videos. I took that as a sign, and landed in LA. It’s been a very interesting five years since then. I’ve produced multiple music videos, award winning shorts and have also worked with reputed studios in Los Angeles.

We have seen filmmakers from India going a long way in their quest to making great international movies. Have you also set yourself a similar path?

Making movies and telling great stories have always been my priority. All I can do is work hard and better my craft and make stories that speak universally.

How would you differentiate between the Indian film world and world film industry, from your experience?

I miss the Indian film industry. We could do so much in so little time. The biggest difference between both worlds is (a) the discipline (b) the manpower. Industry in the West work very differently. Producing a project in the West can be very expensive as the manpower is expensive. However, the discipline and professionalism are outstanding. In India, because the manpower is cheaper, we can aim to do more in a little time compared to the West. But for me, I just love being on set whether it’s in India or in LA. The passion to create is the same, the resources a little different.

Please tell us about personalities and role models who have influenced you and your works?

I’ve been heavily inspired by Asian cinema. I am a huge fan of filmmakers like Kim Ki-Duk, Takeshi Kitano, Zhang Yimou, Park Chan-Wook. I’m a very big Korean cinema nerd. At home, I love Lijo Jose Pallissery and Anurag Basu. I think the world should be more aware of Mr. Pallissery’s work. He is someone everyone should keep an eye out for. I love his work.

Do you have a Guru or Godfather you can elaborate on?

Not particularly. My guru has always been the books I’ve read, the places I’ve travelled and the people I’ve met along the way. But, I’ve always found support, strength and inspiration from my family, especially my father. Our journey as a family – it’s a true example of hard work. Being born in a small village to getting world-class education and working with the best of talents in the entertainment industry today, I think my journey is as much as of my family as it is mine. Without their hard work and support, I wouldn’t be here.

How would you evaluate the contemporary world of film and theatre in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic?

In all honesty, it’s not been easy. Making and viewing cinema is a community thing, we do it as a group. And when the pandemic hit, that very idea took a hit. But, fortunately, humans are nifty and resourceful. With many streaming platforms taking flight and bringing entertainment right into your house, I think it’s helped us keep our sanity in these dark times. And, we’ve seen some brilliant stories so far. Human spirit cannot be tamed. We always find a way. Now, things are opening up and it is my hope that we go back to normal as soon as we can.

Do awards increase the burden of responsibility in an artist / film maker?

To an extent yes, I wouldn’t lie. But, it also pushes you to do better next time and the competition is always with yourself, as it should be.

Have you ever felt that those working in the film/art sector in India, especially in regional spaces like Kerala, are not getting the recognition they deserve?

Yes, absolutely. Like for example, I know the film ‘Jallikattu’ was one of the finest cinema I’ve experienced in recent years. It deserved more recognition. It was a far better film than ‘Parasite’ in my opinion. And why I’m bringing ‘Parasite’ into the conversation is because a Korean film made it to the Oscars. So, there’s hope for all other languages. And I think Malayalam cinema has always been the king of content and good script in India. No one can deny that.

However, we should do more in promoting it the way others do. And now, with global streaming platforms, I bet we can penetrate into markets that were impossible to do before. So, there’s a way but there’s a lot of work to do as well. We should look for more external collaboration with talents and producers. We have to market ourselves better. We are doing it, but there’s always scope for improvement.

Abhishek Chandra Lady Bug
Film maker Abhishek Chandra

Have you lined up a dream project of the future?

I have many. I want to adapt our mythological stories and produce TV series for the West. I bet we have better stories than ‘Lord of the Rings’ and other fantasy shows we’ve seen till now. I’m already adapting the Ramayana into a TV series. The writing on the pilot episode is underway.

Do you ever feel that only a set of particular themed projects are accepted by the general masses?

No, not really. Today, with the internet age, people have access to all kinds of content. And, filmmakers will find audience for any kind of content. Yes, there are tried and tested formulas that work for the masses, but we’ve also seen those very same kind of films fail at times. I would say audiences are very intelligent today. If you present a well entertaining story, it will definitely work. Sometimes right away, and sometimes by word of mouth.

Could you please elaborate on your education?

Well, I was born in Kerala, brought up in Nepal, completed my schooling in Dehradun. I then graduated in Journalism and Mass Communication from Delhi and Post-Graduated from Whistling Woods International, Mumbai in Film Direction.

About your family, their support and influence on your work.

Like I said earlier, I wouldn’t be anywhere without my family and their support. It’s because of them I’m here and everything I achieve or have achieved is totally dedicated to my family.

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Sanjeev Ramachandran

A journalist with 23 years of experience, Sanjeev has worked with reputed media houses such as Business Standard, The New Indian Express, MSN India, PanAsiaBiz. Sanjeev can be reached at [email protected]
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