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BWW Interview: FILMAKER OJASWWEE SHARMA On His Latest Short Film Zubaan

BWW Interview: FILMAKER OJASWWEE SHARMA On His Latest Short Film ZubaanIndian film maker Ojaswwee has gained critical acclaim for his many short films such as Lucky Kabootar, Butter Toast, Badalti Soch and many others.

His latest short film Zubaan that released worldwide this month has been gaining a lot of appreciation. Zubaan was recently shown at the Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival, Sikh Arts & Film Festival 2017 (California) and EchoFilmFestivals BRICS - EFF BRICS The Russian Federation (Moscow).

On the home turf the Punjabi short film has gained accolades at New Delhi Short Film Festival 2017 (New Delhi), NFDC FilmBazaar 2017 at Goa and many other platforms. It was chosen as Best Film at Rajasthan International Film Festival 2018 and got special mention at New Delhi Short Film Festival 2017 and Chandigarh Music & Film Festival.

The film has been gaining attention because it deals with a heart-touching topic of a mute worker in a shop who accidentally becomes a witness to a crime scene. With no witness protection rights implemented stringently in India, the protagonist has to fight his inner demons on whether he should save himself or his conscience. The film relates to the audiences on many humane levels and the struggle between choosing the right or wrong is a universal dilemma we all face in life in one form or the other.

BWW catches up with director Ojaswwee Sharma on his recent release and the future of regional cinema in India

1. When you were filming Zubaan did you ever think that you will get an incredible international response too?

Honestly, no. I believed that I had a good story on board and during the filming process and post production, all I wanted was for things to happen the right way and fall in the right zone. I breathed a sigh of relief when the first print came out. My team worked on it further until it hit the first festival at Vancouver. The response thereafter had been overwhelming and heartwarming.

2. A lot of Indian films have been doing great on the international circuits lately. Why do you think this has happened and what may have changed from previous years?

There has been a tremendous quantitative growth in the Indian community outside India in the last decade, majorly due to an outflow of the young population. Entertainment has always been an integral part of our daily lives and perhaps it has added to the growth and consumption within the international circuit. The internet with its various video-content platforms has helped with this outreach, enabling diverse stories to reach to the masses. Moreover, in the past decade, the subjects and genres from Indian filmmaking have evolved strongly which are being received extremely well by international audiences too.

3. Your short film is in Punjabi. at a time when the west knows Indian cinema only as Bollywood, is it risky to make a film in a regional language?

I believe that if I have a story to tell, language doesn't matter. Emotions turn out the purest in their native language and forms of expression. Cinema has no language. If one mutes the film (turns the volume down) and is still able to understand the context and scenes, I feel that my team and I have done a fine job!

4. What has been the response towards Zubaan in India and abroad amongst the viewers?

It has been heartwarming! I receive new messages everyday, largely from Indian viewers. Abroad/overseas has seen a gradual growth. With the overall response, I am happy and thankful to the viewers for accepting the film whole heartedly to this independent format of film-making.

5. Tell us about Zubaan in detail. Any memorable moments from the making?

Zubaan pans out in a small village in Punjab where a god-fearing mute shop assistant works. As he rides his bicycle home, he unfortunately witnesses a murder. He is faced with a dilemma to report the crime to the police. When he gathers the courage to reach the station, would he or wouldn't he report and get the culprits behind the bar takes the story forward. India still awaits a uniform act on witness protection. There have been innumerable cases of witness intimidation - loss of honor, property and even life - in many cases. This film is a realistic attempt to highlight the lack of legal provisions in term of protection to a witness during a criminal proceeding in India. The intention has always been to make a film that speaks for itself. I am proud of my team and the people who have been with and believed in me from day one. Awards are overwhelming, but the acknowledgement and appreciation that has been pouring in from the viewers cannot match anything in the world at the moment! We shot the film day and night over a period of 72 hours in a village on the outskirts of Chandigarh. It was peak summers in northern India during that time. I remember the village we were filming in was a character in the film by itself. We shot most of the sequences guerilla, that gave us slightly tough times, but eventually reaping results. The entire unit stood spine-strong and didn't wink an eye!

6. What was it like working with Kanwalpreet Singh, one of the finest Indian tv actors?

Working with Kanwalpreet has been fantastic. He is a director's actor. I kept challenging him throughout and kept him thoroughly uncomfortale - contrary to his regular portrayal of the roles he gets to play. Together we had the big picture in mind which helped us sail strongly. He kept his nerves throughout. He has received an award for the Best Actor at the Haryana international Film Festival 2017 for his role in Zubaan.

7. What next?

Zubaan as a film is open to invitation from institutions and film clubs in India, and internationally. I am currently on completion of a biographical docu-drama on human rights in India, which would be ready by August 2018. It is an inspiring feat. My next short film 'The Last Date' and 'Lucky Kabootar (Fortunate Pigeon)' both in Punjabi are stated to release in August 2018.

See the film below!

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