By Sukant Deepak
New Delhi, Jun 28 (IANS): Moving from Bangalore to Delhi, she lived in a busy apartment complex for the first time, and could sense possible stories behind the many windows and balconies. While the architecture offered physical proximity, but often no closeness. Stories were created based on the sounds one could hear across the wall. "This, along with my keen interest in exploring the idea of love and desire in women at different stages of life made me write this series. I wanted to create a story where there was no clear black and white morality, but an exploration of grey areas -- what one woman has, the other woman wants," Aditi Bannerjee, the writer and director of 'In Love at 5th Floor' being streamed on MX Player tells IANS.
She says that once the seed was in place there was a fair amount of primary research -- talking to people, attending meet-ups, and familiarising herself with certain ideas and contexts. "Kieslowski's Dekalog and Alain De Botton's The Course of Love are two additional inspirations."
Interesting the project has been crowdfunded, a goal they achieved in less than ten days although the budgeted time was one month. Done primarily to ascertain creative freedom and share ownership, Bannerjee stresses that she wanted to work outside of the big studio system and felt strong enough to take a chance, even if it meant less budget and tighter timelines. "In short, I felt responsible for my dream," she smiles.
The project is driven by a largely women cast and crew -- while the casting demanded that, but as far as the crew is concerned, she asserts that even though we see more shows with women protagonists, there is a long way to go. "In fact, I was surprised when someone recently commented about why my series poster was 'so feminist'.The pay gap still exists, and often the bigger roles are for male stars. In order for the system to change, I feel that the more women are involved on-screen and off-screen, the more possibility for equal opportunities will emerge."
For someone who has worked across genres but enjoys being fluid- moving between documentary and fiction as both feed into each other well, she adds that working in documentary films has enabled her to travel, meet people, develop an ability to do research and encounter several realities. "Fiction offers control and freedom of a different kind, which I experienced through this series which is my first long fiction. Imagination is a lot of hard work. I found that these genres are not in watertight compartments for me. Finally, it is about telling a story, about creating an experience."
While the popularity of OTT platforms keep soaring, it is hard to miss the fact that it is mostly crime-thrillers that are ruling the charts. The director says that she has been asked several times to pitch a crime thriller in the past year or so. "I feel that there is an anxiety that platforms have of losing viewers and there is a perception that a thriller with twists and turns will keep the viewer hooked. The language of series is also geared towards that- faster cuts, louder aesthetic. It has been a struggle to get my series out, where the focus is on inner drama."
The writer and director, who studied Film & Video Communication at the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad may not believe that formal education is a prerequisite for making films, but adds that it has helped her in different ways. "The freedom of exploration and making mistakes without fear as a student was precious. The exposure to cinema, people and stories of different kinds, being mentored patiently, working within tight budgets and limitations, and the habit of writing and re-writing (which comes from formal education in both film and literature), is something I value, not to mention the peers that NID gave me," she says.
Bannerjee who has developed a story based on her original idea for an OTT platform and is set to pitch a few more concepts says she would looking to collaborate with more people. "Apart from my own work, I like to enable people to tell their own stories, so a scriptwriting workshop with Adivasi students in Jharkhand is going to happen. Another one in Arunachal is also being planned," she concludes.