A message that braved the tides

Abhilash Sudheesh’s To Daisy, with Love has been shortlisted to My Rode Reel, the world’s biggest short film contest.

There’s something undeniably romantic about tossing a message into the ocean and seeing to whom fate — abetted by the currents and wind — might deliver the marine letter.

Messages have been slipped into bottles and shipped on mysterious voyages at least since ages. And in fact, the so-called “drift bottles” are still employed as a means of charting ocean currents. But what would you do if you get a bottle drifting in the current? Would you rather read it and throw back to the sea or try to help it reach the waiting soul? To Daisy, with Love, a Malayalam short film, talks about a fisherman who goes on a trip to find a woman named Daisy when he received a message in a bottle written by her beloved husband who happened to be a Navy officer in the world war. “The bottle survived decades by drifting in the Arabian Sea. Why would I not spend some days to find Daisy?” thinks the good-at-heart fisherman.

The three-minute-long To Daisy, with Love is directed, shot and edited by award-winning filmmaker Abhilash Sudheesh. The short has been shortlisted to My Rode Reel, which is dubbed as the world’s biggest short film contest. The competition has over 1600 approved entries so far, but this little film has made its way into the worldwide Top 30 and the All-India Top 4 within a day of its short-listing.

Director Abhilash, who made headlines back in 2016 by winning the maiden #ShortsonNikon Award for his indie film Smudge, delivers a the superlative effort with To Daisy, with Love. From the words of a shipwrecked castaway to a sailor looking for love, these bottle-bound missives have tales of their own to tell.

There are umpteen number of books and movies chronicling the tales of message bottles which drift in the sea and eventually find (sometimes not) their receivers. Those tales actually prompted me to think about doing a short film about it,” says Abhilash. “The very idea of a message in a bottle captures our imagination because it is, at its core, a story of connection. Imagining the stranger who threw that bottle into the sea thousands of miles away is a wonderful image to conjure. The idea that two people can be connected in such a seemingly random way is fun to dream about. For seeking connection these days, it seems the internet is far too often our first choice. Maybe, the need to check these outlets so often should hint at how little connection actually comes from these sources. And I find messages in a bottle have a special life. And with that, I also wanted to make it more interesting, hence I made a fisherman who knows the value of ‘waiting’ or ‘expecting’ from his or her own families.”

Abhilash says the hardest part during filmmaking was to keep the time frame.

“The film should not exceed a specific duration to be considered for My Rode Reel awards. I tried to do justice to both ‘real-time’ and ‘reel time’ by telling a story that connects two generations and making it short and neat,” he adds. Neat editing and wonderful cinematography are the backbones of this short film. The cast includes Anoop Mohan S., Devaki Rajendran, Malavika Krishnan and Parthan Mohan.

Abhilash is based in Thiruvananthapuram and runs a media company called 11th Hour Productions, which is a production house which specialises in advertisements, documentation and programme production. As an indie filmmaker, his dream is to make more movies and expand his works to a wider audience. “We have an abundance of know-how about filmmaking and we are blessed with the cutting-edge technology too, but I am afraid we don’t have enough avenues or platforms where filmmakers like me can showcase what we have done. Entertainment giants like Netflix started out their journey in India by calling themselves a platform that supports indie makers. But I doubt how far they have done that by going behind popular movies and production banners.

But things are changing and I am hopeful the days ahead are brighter and better,” he wraps up.

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