Apr 23, 2021|4 minutes
It has been more than a year since life at NIT Rourkela was normal. College life has taken an enormous toll. However, the various clubs of NIT Rourkela have done an excellent job at keeping the students somewhat connected to their college life. Despite the constraints like working in an online medium and lack of funds, many clubs of NIT Rourkela have outdone themselves in these testing times. They have not only managed to stay active but have also successfully conducted various events and have brought laurels to the institute.
RITVIC, the cultural club of NIT Rourkela, has remained one of those vibrant clubs. TEN LETTERS, an original short film written, shot and produced by RITVIC Production House, has won Best Short Film at Rendezvous ‘21 - the annual cultural fest of IIT Delhi. Rendezvous, one of the largest cultural fests in Asia that attracts numerous participants from various countries, was conducted online this year from 18-21 April because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Short film making was one of the many events conducted and all the entries were live-streamed on the official website of the fest. A panel of judges scored these short films on various criteria like script, screenplay, acting, cinematography, editing, etc. TEN LETTERS was specifically appreciated for its screenplay and cinematography and was awarded the first prize.
TEN LETTERS tells the story of a mother who lost her daughter in what seems to be an open and close suicide case and a detective determined to get to the bottom of this case. The story behind how the idea of this short film came to life is equally intriguing as its plot.
Team Monday Morning caught up with Suraj Kumar - President of RITVIC, (3rd year, Department of Chemical Engineering), Amrit Kumar (Dual Degree 3rd year, Department of Chemical Engineering) who played the lead role and Niharkanta Mali (Dual Degree 2nd year, Department of Ceramic Engineering) who was the director, cinematographer and editor to get their insights.
Monday Morning(MM): How did the plan for making this short film start?
Suraj Kumar: It's our dream to establish RITVIC Production House to produce short films or mini web series. So we were planning for it, but it's quite difficult to carry out such a project due to the pandemic. So one day, I just called one of my junior and told him, "Short Flim banani hai" (Let’s make a short film). Without any hesitation, he said, "banate hain bhaiya” (yes, let’s do it). We chose Bhubaneswar as our shooting place as most of the members was from the city. Some People use to travel 10 to 12 Km for shooting. They used to shoot for 5 to 6 hours a day. A well-,dedicated team of video editors and designers was worked day and night to make this project successful.
No doubt it's totally a team effort, but I would like to take some names like Amrit, Nihar, Pratyush, Aminisha, Sumit, Chandan, and Puneet. Without them, this project could not have been a successful one. After all this hard work, here we are, having won the first prize at IIT-D for our very first short film.
MM: How did the team manage to shoot in lockdown?
Amrit Kumar: It was indeed the greatest of the tasks to perform. We had minimal budget and assets. The complete shoot had to be done inside the houses of the team members. We are entirely obliged to their family members who were a great sport to host us and were very supportive even in such a state of a pandemic. Being away from the campus was indeed a drawback that made communicating with our team much difficult. Things that could have been a lot easier inside the campus needed quite an effort to implement away from it. However, looking at the brighter side, we had many of our teammates living in the same city, making things easier. Obviously, those who weren't near us were completely accessible via phone calls or any other means to help us out. So, it's the team, the club, and the constant support, which got us going.
MM: Tell us something about the team effort behind this short film.
Niharkanta Mali: Everyone had a common aim to complete our short film at any cost within the fixed time. We also had to take some retake and reshoot many times as we were not entirely happy with the climax and gave our everything to get a desirable output. Seniors were quite helpful in the entire shoot, be it story writer Sumit Patel, screenwriter Suraj Kumar and lead actor Amrit Kumar regularly took updates from me and gave me the best suggestions on how to execute the short film in the best way. Music director Pratyush Ranjan composed excellent background scores, which perfectly suited the theme of the film. We were always trained to work as a team during our club practice sessions, and we just followed that.
MM: Cinematography and direction of TEN LETTERS was appreciated by everyone and both were headed by you. Tell us something about how you went about it.
Simultaneously, you have to direct the actors, explain the shots, set the camera angle, lights, and analyse the shot. If any of these goes wrong, then you have to go for a retake. I was often worried that if I ask them for continuous retakes, then what will they think? However, nothing happened like that, and they supported me in every shot.
Although I had done some short films before, it was a big responsibility to represent an entire club. Many eyes were on me as it was our first venture, something we had never done before, and I had to carry out three main aspects of the film, i.e., cinematography, editing, direction. I always take it seriously that ‘FIRST IMPRESSION IS THE LAST IMPRESSION.’ I had to do triple homework before every shoot. I had to deliver my 100%, no matter how much time I spent to get the best possible output. I am thrilled that everybody liked our film and made it a successful venture in our very first attempt.
MM: The screenplay was extremely attractive for an amateur short film by college students and gathered appreciation from the judges. Tell us how it was executed.
Amrit Kumar: To start things off, we already had an appealing script with us, put down by one of our club-mates, Sumit Patel. The script was a story that was engaging enough to be displayed on a grander scale. If someone is into the technicalities of filmmaking or scriptwriting, he/she shall know that a screenplay requires so much more than just a story. Accordingly, we had multiple chat sessions, teams meet, etc., with the entire team of Ten Letters to understand the script and put down a detailed, step-by-step progression of scenes and the character graphs of each character. The creative team was competent enough to fit in the lavish-looking scenes even with minimal budget and assets. All said and done, we had a neat and clean blueprint before getting out on the field.
Much of our time was consumed in visualising how more or less impactful these segments will be on the bigger picture. Such things had to be dealt with on the set itself, so it was literally a very time taking task, which again required the complete team to communicate every now and then stop getting worked up. With Niharkanta Mali's vision and camera skills, we could make adequate improvisations on the spot, which added to the amazing screenplay.
Summing it up, it wasn't like having a plan and executing things right off. It was rather like taking things one at a time, scene by scene, performing, reviewing, and making the required changes delivered for us.
MM: How was the experience of playing one of the leads like?
Amrit Kumar: To be very honest, I had no idea how challenging this thing would get with time. I had quite a bit of experience in playing the lead on stage and performing in street plays. However, the lesson I learned is that every form of acting brings in new challenges. This one, too, had to offer a lot. Getting yourself adjusted with the camera, acting inside a limited space so that you won't disturb the camera’s focus, was quite a task. Not getting much into the technicalities, the lead role was very well written and clear enough with what I need to do to make it look good enough on screen. More than performing it I enjoyed the journey I had developing the character and adding quite a few easter eggs to the role, some of which were implemented, but there were still some which I couldn't suffice. Frankly wasn't completely satisfied with my performance but was contended how it was edited and presented on-screen by our brilliant editing team
MM: How has RITVIC managed to be active in this unusual academic session?
Suraj Kumar: I always believed that art has no boundaries, thus at the starting of our executive year (20-21), we were well prepared with our plans to explore different art forms related to the theatre online. It is a team effort to make this online year a successful one. Excellent work was done by the sophomores of our club. A separate dedicated team is working for different social media posts like Abhinay ( for acting), Sargam (for music), Awaz ( For social issues), Voicenotes ( for podcast), etc.
As we all know, a well-written script is the core requirement for any dramatic activities for this RITVIC Main Script Team is working very hard for writing different scripts. I would also like to give a special spotlight to our Design and Video Editing Team. Without them, online presentation of our art is not at all possible. Last but not least, this would not have been possible without our Executive Body.
MM: What are the future plans for RITVIC?
Suraj Kumar: We are hoping that college will resume offline soon. We have plans for both online and offline mediums. Currently, we have our focus on the online medium and working on some new ideas that will entertain and give a message to our viewers.
As previously, we have successfully collaborated with some clubs in and outside the campus. This year, we plan to increase our collaboration with different clubs to raise various social issues and make people aware of them. We will be back with some new short movies soon. Hopefully, if college resumes, we will work on our street and stage play art of which RITVIC is known for. We are working hard and will continue to do so to improve ourselves. We will make sure that we stand by RITVIC’s motto- “Awaaz Tez Nahi Buland Hai.”
Head over to watch the short film here.
Team Monday Morning congratulates RITVIC for their achievement and wishes them more success in the future.
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