Lights, Camera …. SHAMIANA !

Think ofshamiana Jpeg Hi res a dark hall with lots of people waiting to watch a film on a large white screen and you think a big bang extravaganza with larger than life stars waiting to pop up on the screen, right? Think a film screening where you buy a ticket to enter the hall and you think a Hollywood/ Bollywood blockbuster that’s released this weekend, right? Think an evening of movie outing eagerly awaited by a cinema loving junta and you think a hugely publicized blockbuster Khan film that runs to packed houses, right?

Wrong on ALL 3 counts! This is a phenomenon that’s been sweeping most cities of the country over the last couple of years with more and more people now wanting to not just see a film but also make their own films. SHAMIANA today is not only a place to watch good short films but also a platform and an opportunity for people to come showcase their work, tell their stories. And perhaps it is this factor that has touched the raw nerve of hundreds and thousands of people across the country.

This weekend we celebrate 4 years of our SHAMIANA in Ahmedabad and the experience has been nothing short of magical. Day after day, month after month it’s been an experience and a hugely enriching one at that. For all those who thought short film screenings were for the metros and world cinema loving intellectual communities need to come and interact with the film loving junta of cities like Ahmedabad or even Guwahati and Dimapur to know the reach that short films have started to enjoy across the length and breadth of this country.

Audience at a recent screening at Ahmedabad !!!

Audience at a recent screening at Ahmedabad !!!

I am often asked if I am surprised by the huge success of the short film space in Ahmedabad and my answer has been consistently same – NO. Why do we think that short films are a different species that only a certain section will understand? Anything that is entertaining and captivating will always find an audience and that has been the SHAMIANA funda since day 1. So while experimental films are interesting, the bottom line is that one needs to respect the time and effort of the audience which is there to have a good time at your screening. The moment you stop giving them a good dose of entertainment, they will always find an excuse not to come.

Not many would realize but short films often act as a catalyst to changing tastes and also a litmus test of the times to come. It’s easier to gauge the cinematic tastes of the people by the way they react to a short film and SHAMIANA screenings have been a testimony to the same. We’ve screened Oscar winning shorts over the last one year and can assertively say the tastes of the film going audiences have surely changed over the last year. From just wanting an entertaining film to now wanting a sensible entertaining film, it’s a huge paradigm shift. Yes there will always be the commercial potboilers that will make no sense but still do well but the fact that quality matters is hope to a lot of underdogs and independent filmmakers who want to tell their stories.

And THAT according to me is SHAMIANA’s humble contribution to Ahmedabad!

– Cyrus Dastur

(The author is the Founder of SHAMIANA, Asia’s Largest Short Film Club)

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