It is very rarely that one comes across a piece of art that is both thought-provoking and intensely applauded at the same time. There are films and then there are good, wholesome films and it is the latter which is becoming a largely well-received medium. And this is exactly what four novice film makers deliver at Weaver Films, a two-year old passion project that was conceived right in the middle of a hectic college life in 2014. The creative geniuses Joel Thottan, Manish Khushalani, Debdeep Mukherjee and Gaurav Dharmani came together to create what could be best described as films with a heart. Speaking to us about their hugely popular brand of cinema is writer-director Joel Thottan who gave us a lo-down on the work they have dished out so far.
Before we elaborate on how Joel works the ropes in his craft, the fact that the four-film old team have a lot more than popularity to their credit. After their shorts like ‘Chai’ and ‘Human’ were featured on popular entertainment websites, they have become a force to reckon with in context with the way they treat a particular subject. Despite so much of credit to their name, the boys have been very slow with the work they’ve put out so far and as we prod Joel about why such a thing should happen, he says, “To be very honest, we get asked that a lot. And time and again guilt strikes us when we have to answer. Back in college, we had a ton of projects and exams to prepare for, so the films would be spaced out between three to four months. Besides, scripting, preparing the actors and pre-production would always take time. But since we graduated last year, two from the team are freelancing, one is taking a photography course and I have been busy working, so it’s been really difficult coordinating and getting everyone together.”
As much as they are loved for what they do, Joel does realise that the internet is a place of many hits and misses and consciously works hard to preserve his craft. “I personally believe seeing the film through the end, the way it was visualized is the biggest challenge. Often, money and resources make you compromise but the end result, if focussed on, can be achieved with whatever little you have. Releasing it online isn’t difficult. What’s difficult is being satisfied with what you’ve released,” he quips. When you watch one of the Weaver shorts, one can get the feeling of experiencing cinema that is simple, engaging and consistently maintains the focus on the subject. Joel explains the key to such seamless film-making by stating, “Before the film is shot, we’ve ensured that everyone in the team, including the actors is on the same page as us. We’ve often followed a method of two characters, simplistic setting and maximum character development in all our shorts. The line of thought is decided initially and is then maintained throughout the film through character sketches, setting of the scene, and shot composition.”
When we questioned Joel on how he tries to keep up with the rat race and remain relevant, he retorted by saying, “Making frequent videos often helps keeping one in the spotlight. But to be fairly honest, till date, we still get a lot of appreciation for Chai and Human which were our initial two films. Yes, there is an internet star every day, but I feel our films have left quite a mark on the viewers who till date shower us with a lot of appreciation, requests and support. So it’s safe to say they remember us and our films, and will continue to do so in the years to come no matter if we’re active or not.”
For a twenty-one year old, Joel comes across as profoundly mature and grounded to reality at the same time and it is this quality that sets him apart from the lot; not to mention his intricate understanding of his craft. He goes on to explain, “I, for one, think that our perceptions and likings often decide what a great or a bad film is. A lot of times your film might be technically correct but lack story. So I believe the intent of the film ultimately decides it. A good fresh story and attention to detail is what I think makes it a good film. An unclear intent, is what I ultimately feel, makes it fall short.”
Like any young, creative film-maker, Joel too has his fanboy moments and talks about his cinematic idols who he’d love to collaborate with if he had the chance. “I’ll go with Joon Ho Bong who is a South Korean director and has directed one of my all time favourites, ‘Memories of Murder’. The way he handles the camera, the characters and the story whilst simultaneously maintaining a sense of intrigue till the end is very inspiring. The second would be Anurag Kashyap, mainly because he keeps everything in his films as real and raw as possible, something, I really admire as both a writer and filmmaker”, he gushes.
“As a learner myself, I always tell budding filmmakers to go out there and finally make that film they’ve been thinking about. Write concise and pay much attention to detail with whatever little you have. Often the best locations are owned by friends and the best actors, willing to work on a good script for free. Besides, have fun while you make it, you always want some good bloopers for later”, he signs off with a smile.