83-yr-old Shyam Benegal continues to inspire generations

New Delhi [India], Dec 20 (ANI): Shyam Benegal, the man who invented the genre of "alternate cinema" with his initial films, is still considered to be one of the most influential filmmakers of our time.
A pioneer in every sense of the term, he continues to inspire not just a whole generation of veterans in the industry, but also new age artists and filmmakers.
While on the one hand Shabana Azmi, a legend in her own right, considers him to be her 'guru' even today, up and coming independent filmmaker Prateek Rajen Kothari on the other hand feels honored to have had the opportunity to be mentored by him.
Shyam Benegal played mentor to Prateek's latest project, a short film titled Hell O Hello, which is part of an anthology of seven short films titled 'Shor Se Shuruaart' each based on the theme of noise.
On the timely occasion of the legend's 83rd birthday, Prateek pays his own special tribute to the filmmaker by sharing his key takeaways from what will be a forever cherished mentorship:
We all tend to get excited with ideas that may not necessarily translate into engaging content. When in doubt, the question – 'Does this idea merit a film?' can act as a true mantra. When Prateek presented Shyam Benegal a couple of ideas for his project, one of which was intended to be a back up, Benegal saw more potential in the back up idea. When Prateek kept going back to the idea that he was more convinced about, Shyam would keep asking him the same question – 'Does this idea merit a film?' Eventually, the back-up idea got more and more detailed through further discussions, finally resulting into Hell O Hello.
How often does it happen that we want to try a lot of things at one go, in the process losing perspective on whether the story that was set out to be told truly comes across to the audience. You live with the film for so long that you tend to expect viewers to understand your perspective. It was at this very point that Shyam Benegal's inputs helped Prateek. Benegal would always stress on the fact that the story should come across to the audience who is watching it for the first time, and the rest is secondary. By the time the final cut of the film was arrived at, the essence of Hell O Hello was articulated much effectively as compared to the first cut.
Prateek realized Shyam Benegal's precision while recalling his experience of working with the legend on Samvidhaan – the making of Indian Constitution. As a director, you are always thrown into a position where you have to choose between what you want and what you don't want. More the information you have about the subject, the easier it becomes for you to tell a story. Various life experiences came in handy for Prateek while making his satirical short Hell O Hello, especially because satire walks a thin rope. It runs a risk of turning into a mediocre spoof if not treated with care. His past experience of working with Benegal kept him in good stead.
Working on a film set requires you to be extremely patient. Prateek has seen Benegal wait half an hour to take a shot just because in one particular instance, raindrops were hitting the roof of a soundproof studio for a film which was being recorded in sync sound. Shyam's patience had a profound effect on Prateek. The golden 8 letter word comes in all the more handy when you are working on shoestring budgets as you are required to take favors and wait, while people finish more money generating work.
Shyam Benegal always believes in letting people expressing themselves like the way they want to. Chances are that as an individual, you will be able to deliver your best when you find yourself in an environment of comfort. Prateek implemented the same on Hell O Hello. Once the screenplay was fixed, the casting was done after which the actors were allowed to build on their own dialogues. It really helped the director because it meant that the actors didn't have to memorize any lines. It not just brought out the best from the actors, but also boosted the overall speed of completing the film.
Prateek is just one among a plethora of budding filmmakers who are deeply inspired by the man and his school of film-making. (ANI)