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‘Whether in real life or in films, never ignore your instincts’

‘Captured,’ a film about stalking and cyber-crime, directed by AIMC students, which drives home the importance of trusting one’s instincts, wins first prize at the Anhad 2021 Film Festival



Captured, a film on the theme of stalking and cyber-crime, follows the fortunes of a young girl obsessed with social media, who gets a feeling that she’s being watched. In the initial stages, she tries to ignore her instincts but then she begins noticing strange things around her. Her gut instincts turn out to be right when she comes face-to-face with her stalker.

Helmed by a team of students from the Apeejay Institute of Mass Communication, Captured won the coveted First Prize and Best Editing awards at the recently held Anhad 2021 Film Festival organised by Galgotias University.

In an interview, director Vaishnavi Thakre and team lead Arunabh Chowdhury explain how the group of students, despite being separated by thousands of kilometres, overcame the challenges of shooting, storyboarding, editing and carrying post-production in the middle of a pandemic. Their labour of love was rewarded when the film went on to emerge the winner in the Best Film and Editing categories. Edited excerpts:

Director Vaishnavi Thakre (left) and Team Lead Arunabh Chowdhury of the Apeejay Institute of Mass Communication

Were you expecting your film to win the top awards at the festival?

Vaishnavi: Not really, this was the first time we participated in an online film festival. It was a wonderful experience because first of all it wasn’t easy for us to shoot the film and edit it because the members of our group were not together at one place. We did this when we were at our residences during the lockdown. Even the idea about the climax of the movie was something else to begin with. Then many of our members could not reach Delhi on time. I wasn’t here either. We had to change the entire climax of the story and we didn’t get time to properly storyboard or discuss things.  We just got a couple of days to complete the shooting and the post-production process. Representing AIMC was a great experience, because we didn’t ever think of giving up. Even when many members of our team were separated by thousands of kilometres, we never thought we would complete the project only when we met physically in college. We submitted our film on time and it worked out nicely in the end. It was a pleasant surprise when Captured was adjudicated the best film and our hard work paid off.

Arunabh: This was primarily an online film festival but the films were also screened at the Galgotia University campus.  We were informed about the competition by Professor Naveen Gautam. We never expected our film to be accepted let alone win the first prize. When Naveen Sir shared the details of the competition, we realised it was based on a social cause. So, we thought it met the parameters. We crossed our fingers and sent our film with minimal expectations.

How did you arrive at the theme of stalking and cyber-crime?

We were discussing random ideas and we thought we had already done short films for assignments in which we chose genres like love and comedy. We had not done horror or thrillers before. Our original climax was in the horror genre. But then, because of circumstances, we chose something else. But the good thing was that our mind didn’t stop looking for novel ideas. Our involvement was 100% and we kept thinking and arrived at the stalking theme. More than cyber stalking, the central theme is our instincts. Many of us know cyber-crime and stalking exist, but the basic premise for Captured is that we often ignore our instincts. This isn’t actually portrayed by many films. The protagonist felt she was being stalked. She followed her instincts and her gut feelings and instincts came true. She was getting an instinct but she kept ignoring it. One must never ignore one’s instincts if you are getting continuous warnings about some harm coming your way. I think trusting one’s instincts can also be useful for a filmmaker.

Looking forward, what are your career plans?

Arunabh: Since I enjoy the process of filmmaking, I would like to explore that field as I go further in my career.

Vaishnavi: I want to become an anchor but I am very interested in the post-production process and filmmaking process, if I get an offer to do so, I will definitely take up that offer.

 What were the biggest challenges you faced owing to the pandemic?

Vaishnavi: As a team, since we were not at one place, storyboarding was a challenge. Also, the direction was difficult. I had to actually shoot in the middle of the lockdown compelled by Covid-19. I had to get out of my house and shoot in a marketplace in my hometown Nagpur. During the lockdown, people asked me questions about why I was shooting in a pandemic. My parents also tried to dissuade me and said it wasn’t safe to venture out. But I didn’t have the time to stop and think about it since the deadline was tight.

At a personal level, all the pressure came to me at one point because I had to shoot all the scenes and there was no other person with me who knew how to shoot. Shooting can’t always be done in one take. During the post-production process, you may realise, some portions need to be reshot. This wasn’t easy. My DSLR was in Delhi. So, I shot the entire film on my phone. I had to hand over my camera phone to my sister and give detailed instructions on how to shoot. Explaining all this to a person who had no little idea of filmmaking wasn’t easy.

 Arunabh : As we were indulging in a creative pursuit like shooting a film bang in the middle of a pandemic, the chances of miscommunication were high. Someone may not understand an instruction clearly. Also, the feedback could have been misinterpreted. Distributing the tasks between capable people as team leader was not easy. Also shooting the film is such a physical process that Vaishnavi had to figure it out. We could support her with the post-production process and editing of course, but the main difficulty was hers. Vaishnavi and I were closely coordinating during the post-production process. I arranged graphics and edits in Premiere Pro and she used other apps for editing.

What role did the teachers at AIMC play in supporting your endeavours during the pandemic?

Arunabh : Our session started in the middle of a pandemic. Our professors stepped up to provide us with all the things that we needed without stepping physically into the campus. They prepared us even though we were in a virtual setting. Thanks to the efforts of the teachers and the know-how imparted by them virtually, once we reached the campus physically, we could use the equipment in the studio and the classes spontaneously and easily. When we entered AIMC, we had a lot of queries and doubts about how this industry works. Our professors such as Naveen Gautam Sir and Rajiv Kumar Panda Sir helped us a lot and guest faculty such as Professor Pradeep  Bagchi and Manika Gaur Ma’am, were kind enough to resolve all our queries patiently.

As students of cinema, which are the filmmakers who have influenced your practice?

Arunabh: One of the main names that always strikes me is Martin Scorsese. I follow his films a lot. In India, it has to be Rajkumar Hirani, the director of 3 Idiots and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra. I think Scorsese captures the essence and soul of a story very well. There is his film called Hugo, based on The Invention of Hugo Cabret , a historical fiction book written and illustrated by Brian Selznick that Scorsese shot in 3-D that I immensely admire. Raju Hirani narrates the subject or agenda of his films in a very relatable manner. Everyone can relate with it and find their own character in his movies. A lot of people say 3 Idiots was his best film, but I’d say the Munna Bhai series was also very good because to think of it the protagonist’s character was so odd, but still so relatable and so iconic.

With Mehra I really liked Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Rang De Basanti. I liked how he is so progressive with his films. There are so many things that are difficult to digest about his films but he never hides you from it. In Rang De Basanti nobody thought the lead hero, a hero like Aamir Khan, would eventually die in the film. All the lead actors die in the end.

Vaishnavi: I like the kind of films that surprise the audience. You don’t have any idea about the climax and you can never predict what will happen. Christopher Nolan makes movies involving time travel such as Inception in which the concept is really different. Making such movies involves a lot of research about the finer details and nuances of the storyline and characters. The genius of the filmmaker lies in taking you by surprise.

Aasheesh Sharma is a seasoned journalist with an experience of more than 25 years spread over newspapers, news agencies, magazines and television. He has worked in leadership positions in media groups such as Hindustan Times, India Today, Times of India, NDTV, UNI and IANS. He is a published author and his essay on the longest train journey in India was included in an anthology of writings on the railways, brought out by Rupa Publications. As the Editor of Apeejay Newsroom, he is responsible for coverage of the latest news and developments in the Apeejay institutions. He can be reached at [email protected]. He tweets @Aasheesh74