At Asia’s largest filmmaking challenge, the India Film Project, thousands set to compete with one another to impress the country’s renowned directors including Madhur Bhandarkar, Nagesh Kukunoor and Sriram Raghavan. On a scale as large as this, and with only 50 hours on hand, city photographer Dharma Teja had few expectations but when their film Vertigo was awarded the fifth place for the best short film, they were on top of the world.
The 25-year-old Teja is into wedding photography and has been an assistant director for some Tollywood films like D for Dopidi. “One day, a team member casually suggested that we take part in this challenge. I was sceptical but the opportunity was good, so we dived in,” says Teja, the writer, director and cameraman of Vertigo.
The challenge was to conceptualise, shoot and edit the film in 50 hours. “We started shooting at 1 am, while the submissions were at 10 pm. The first 24 hours were exhausted in conceptualisation as there was no room for error. If something went wrong, we didn’t have the time to re-shoot.”
The film shows a struggling director trying to sell his story to a producer who isn’t willing to accept it. “I wanted a face that the audience could sympathise with. A friend recommended Jaidev and although he looked like a hero, I cast him anyway and was happy with his performance,” says Teja.
Actor Jaidev Reddy wants to make it to Bollywood. “Many had their doubts about me getting into the industry, and with this film, I’ve answered them all,” says Jaidev who now plans to take acting classes and look for more projects to hone his skills.
The film’s lead Akshay Mittal has worked in a few Bollywood projects and will be seen in a significant role in an upcoming film, Ghazi, alongside Rana Daggubati. “I felt the rush while shooting for Vertigo. That made me put my best foot forward. I didn’t expect the film to turn out so well but I had faith in Teja — the guy knew what he was doing,” says Akshay.
So, are short films a gateway to the feature-film industry? Teja explains, “The effort put into making a short film is only one per cent of the effort that goes into a feature film. But, after this win, people in the industry have started taking me seriously. I have been offered a couple of TV commercials and was asked by the producer of a travel programme of an international channel to come on board.”
The team has also been invited to a challenge to make a commercial for a popular coffee brand....