It’s showtime

Two city-based artists discuss working on a creative project amid the pandemic

Published: 09th September 2021 08:55 AM  |   Last Updated: 09th September 2021 08:55 AM   |  A+A-

A still from the film ‘Let’s Go’

Express News Service

The pandemic-induced lockdown brought a major shift in how we consume entertainment. One could have called it a creative crisis for filmmakers and artists alike as they remained cooped up inside their homes, unable to explore their love for cinema. At such a time, Delhi-based director Ashissh Kaushik decided to think out of the box by shooting a film indoors. Kaushik’s Hindi feature film Let’s Stay, which screened at Marché du Film at Cannes this July, has now been released as a mini web-series on his YouTube channel ‘AK The Storyteller’. Delhi-based actor and rap poet Abhay Awasthi as well as Kanika Chopra play the lead roles in this film. 

Talking about how short films do not help satiate his creative hunger, Kaushik, a Nirman Vihar resident, says, “I am a person who likes to make films in long form. During the lockdown, I started thinking about concepts that can be executed indoors.” In this film, he touches upon the subject of marital conflict. He adds, “Since a number of people got divorced during the pandemic, I thought of making a film on a couple that wanted to file a divorce but were forced to live together due to the lockdown.”

Director Ashissh Kaushik

Crossing the hurdle
During the second lockdown, the team decided to shoot Let’s Stay with limited resources in Gurugram. Discussing the process, Awasthi shares, “Since the movie was shot during the peak of the Coronavirus in the last week of August 2020, it wasn’t possible to go out. So, we rented a flat in a Gurugram society. The entire crew stayed together for six days to complete the project.”

With lean resources on hand, Kaushik adds that the team had to improvise from the start. He mentions, “We were making this film for the Work-in-Progress Lab of the Film Bazaar held in Goa. The crew worked on everything from the lighting to artwork. We even brought furniture from my home to the set. It was a heavy project but we worked on it with full energy.”

The one hour and 20 minutes film faced a few glitches before they wrapped up. “Our producer contracted the virus and decided to back out of the film. So we were unable to submit it at Film Bazaar.” The crew decided to complete dubbing and post-production this year. “We took precautions even while dubbing because of how difficult things got during the second wave. Thankfully, in time, another producer came on board, and we finally released the film in Cannes,” adds Kaushik. 

Making the shift
The art of theatre differs from cinema. Discussing the contrast between performing on stage and acting in front of the camera, Awasthi (a Kanhaiya Nagar resident) says, “When 400 people are watching me enact a scene in which I am crying, the person sitting on the last bench won’t be able to see my emotions. So I will have to make some gesture to convey that emotion to every audience.” In films and series, he adds, the camera focuses on the actor. “When you wear a collar mic, the process becomes less loud than what it is on stage. I realised that I have to make myself feel that the audience is a lot closer to me now.” This process worked for him, making him perform with conviction. “Acting is like a tree; cinema and theatre its branches. But the effort is the same. I feel that working in theatre intensifies an artist’s performance.”

In search of hope
Despite artists trying innovative mediums, the city’s theatre scene has now come to a standstill due to the pandemic. Awasthi agrees, adding that the government did not do enough for the thespian community. “There were schemes for everyone but nothing was done for theatre artists. Shoots for movies have started and cinemas have reopened but theatres like the Little Theatre Group and Shri Ram Centre for Performing Arts are still shut. Groups are rehearsing independently in smaller spaces. While people have become used to digital performances, I feel that the medium doesn’t make an impact. Theatre is a dialogue between the audience and actor,” he adds.

Kaushik is of the opinion that the web space is a boon for independent performers. Talented artists from across the country are getting both a break as well as recognition. “People have started liking realism, and they have gotten over larger-than-life things,” he adds. Currently working independently, Kaushik is prepping for his next web-series titled Uber Man. He concludes by telling us how  positive things look as of now, adding, “I believe things will get better. We have become used to shooting with minimal resources. Wastage has decreased and social distancing has taught us to be efficient.”


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