Thanks to the lockdown, more Tamil filmmakers are readily embracing the concept of filming using iPhones. Actor-filmmaker Sripriya, who follows the likes of Gautham Menon, is the latest to have entered the fray with her short film Yasodha.
The film is shot using the ProMovie Recorder app for iOS.
Says Sripriya, whose lawyer-daughter handled the camera for her portions, the short film is a reminder that filmmakers can put out quality content despite limitations imposed by COVID-19.
Featuring actors Nasser, Nithya Ravindran and Sripriya among others, Yasodha follows a day in the life of a woman diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease during lockdown. “Kameela (Nasser’s wife) and I came up with the idea for a film. There was hesitation at first, but then we were convinced to go forward after I compiled the script. It helped that Nasser has always been someone who has wanted to be a part of projects that are different,” she adds.
Sripriya wrote the script with detailed instructions for reactions and shots to be captured. “Shooting when all of us are in one spot is easy. Here, each of us had to stick to the script for details; there was no way for an actor to know how I reacted to a previous shot,” says Sripriya, noting that Nasser’s son Luthfudeen and Nithya’s son Arjun all chipped in with the photography.
On taking up the subject of mental health, Sripriya, who says she has witnessed the downs experienced by a family member diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, remarks that though awareness has improved, the attitude towards people who are suffering remains an issue. “The people who are extending the care and support ought to be more sensitive. People battling issues like depression can overcome it with family support,” she says, adding that it is a shared desire to explore such topics that brought those who worked on the film together. “None of the actors or technicians took a remuneration. They all came on board taking me on my word that I will split whatever revenue this film makes with all of them,” she adds.
Sripriya, who was last seen in mainstream cinema as the director of Telugu film Drushyam, a remake of the Malayalam film Drishyam, is making a comeback of sorts in an acting capacity with this short film appearance. Ask her if this will extend into a return to mainstream films, the actor says no. “Not full time. I keep myself happy even without films because of my other artistic interests like painting and embroidery. I like doing things at my pace. A return will only happen if something very tempting comes my way that the actor in me decides to wake up,” she says.
‘Virtual filming gave us hope’
Long before his shortest-great performance in Nayakan (1987) — that truly marked his arrival — and when he was just a film student learning the craft of cinema, Nasser remembers having discussed a lot about one particular movie. It was C Rudhraiya’s Aval Appadithaan, shouldered by Sripriya and also starring Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth.
It might seem strange that Nasser never got a chance to work with Sripriya, despite boasting a body of work spanning three decades now. “She [Sripriya] has done some great films but I remember Aval Appadithaan being the most talked about film when we were film students,” says Nasser over phone, “To work with such a senior artiste is an honour.”
He was referring to the short film Yashoda, wherein he plays Sripriya’s pair.
The entire experience — to be directed virtually — was something new to Nasser and understandably so, especially for someone who started out when movies were made in film and has seen various transitions in the format over the years. “Directors used to work in close quarters with actors when we started acting. Then came the monitor era where directors began giving instructions to us over microphone,” he says, “However, virtual filming has helped us achieve what we set out to.”
But he does agree that he was nervous initially as to how the shots would pan out, given the physical absence of the director. “My son shot my portion under the instructions from Sripriya amma on phone. It was magical to see the edited version because everything was coherent and conveyed what we intended to.”
Nasser, however, is sceptical about virtual filmmaking being a potential option for filmmakers in the future. “I doubt whether this method would work for a feature film since it’ll have its own restrictions,” he says, adding, “More than anything, it gave us hope… that we could make something like Yashoda possible in these testing times.”