45 days, seven nations, five short films: This is how short film 'Unlocked' was shot

Written and directed by Abhijit Das, the films have actors from India, USA, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sweden and the UK telling their stories, unravelling a secret trapped in the lockdown.

Published: 03rd July 2020 07:28 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd July 2020 07:28 AM   |  A+A-

Smiriti Kalra in the short film The Stranger

Express News Service

Unlocked is a set of five short films, intertwined together, shot from home.

Written and directed by Abhijit Das, the films have actors from India, USA, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sweden and the UK telling their stories, unravelling a secret trapped in the lockdown.

Das has released two of these short films, The Stranger and The Seeker, on his YouTube channel, Netanki. Excerpts:
Why did you release Unlocked on your YouTube channel?
These short films have been shot across seven countries with actors from there. It is minus frills – no lights, no recording equipment, no cameras, no make-up, no catering, no vanity vans. Just stories. I guess the media industry still loves the frills because no platform or channel took these. Hence, the decision.

writer & director Abhijit Das

When did the idea of Unlocked strike you and how did you go about making it?
A month into the lockdown and we were all frustrated. There was no new work. Actor friends were going crazy sitting at home. Then it struck me – the true fight isn’t just a medical war, it is a fight with our minds. Art knows no boundaries, just like COVID-19. If a virus can unite the world, it can unite us artistes. We just needed to unlock our minds. So, I started thinking about unreal situations that could arise due to the lockdown.
How did you connect with the actors from different nations and create the stories?
There is just six pixels of separation between nations these days. Each actor recommended the next actor. A small character in a film becomes the protagonist in the next film. My message in the first Unlocked film is my inspiration for this series – “there are no strangers in this world. Just friends we haven’t met”. I found the stories as I found my actors. Nothing was pre-decided. It was as organic as life.
What challenges did you face during shooting?
All the scenes were shot on mobile phone cameras, either by the actors themselves or by their friends or family members. It took about three days for actors to film their part. Each film is unique because it is a 15-minute incident narrated in a 15-minute film. I asked the actors to tread a path blindly, and they did. They performed scenes with other actors as if they were in the same room. The actors would shoot a scene and send me the file. I would either make changes or approve, and then move forward. I had never met the editor or the music director. But we shared one vision, one voice, one dream. I had never tried this format, which is a difficult craft because each word has to have a meaning, has to resonate with the audiences. However, for those 45 days, we forgot the virus completely.
Your future plans and projects in hand?
My YouTube channel, Netanki, will see much more content. I have created some interactive content that I believe will be the future of entertainment. I also co-produced and directed a series based on relationships evolving during the lockdown. My pet project is a social experiment documentary that I am working on involving juvenile criminals and stray dogs. And a new web series for ALT Balaji will go on floors as soon as the lockdown opens completely.


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