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Lokvani Talks To Gauri Adelkar, Director - The Theft


Gauri is an independent filmmaker based in Somerville, MA. Born and raised in Mumbai, she came to the US in 2002 to pursue her graduate studies in engineering at Northeastern University. Following her passion for cinema, she did a certificate course in digital filmmaking at CDIA, Boston University. The Theft, is her graduation film. 

She is deeply passionate about projects and stories that narrate the human condition and explore questions and issues that are relevant to today's society. Previously, Gauri has worked as an Asst.Director, DP, and editor on independent projects. She was an Assistant Director for the short film “That Bitch” which was  screened at the New York New Filmmaker 2014 Winter Series. She is currently working on a documentary about Boston and writing her next film.  

I know that filmmaking is not your day job; what do you do as your day job?

I am an engineer by training, and I work for a software company in my day job.

Tell us about your interest in films? How did you develop this interest?

I have been consumed and fascinated by cinema for as long as I remember. I grew up in Mumbai in the 80’s and  90’s and developed my interest by  watching  every single film that I was allowed to watch, some multiple times . As a child I was mainly exposed to Indian cinema particularly Bollywood but I enjoyed watching regional Indian cinema the most that was shown every Sunday. I think it was when I watched films like Jabbar Patel’s Umbartha and Chaplin’s Modern Times as a teenager, that I realized how impactful this medium is and secretly hoped that someday I could be a part of it.

 After I came to the US, I was exposed to more international cinema and filmmakers like Bergman, Kurosawa, De Sica and many others and I found my curiosity for cinema and the art of filmmaking only increasing with time, that’s when I decided to join a film school to learn more about it.

Tell us about your course at BU? What did you like most about it?

I did a digital filmmaking certificate course from the Center for Digital Imaging Arts at Boston University.  What I liked most about it was that it was a very hands-on course and we spent most classes, setting up equipment ourselves and learning about the vocational aspect of filmmaking from pre-production to post-production, which is important especially for independent filmmaking. Coming from an engineering background, I had no prior knowledge about the film community in the New England area, and this course enabled me to put my foot in the door.

But most of all, I made some really good friends there who are equally passionate about cinema and we got to work on each other’s films

The Theft, it was your thesis film for the course. I believe you wrote the story and screenplay too. Where did you get the inspiration from? Can you tell little bit about the story/characters?

I believe that stories become an integral part of our subconscious, through what we observe and experience. Initially I struggled with different ideas for my final project, while considering the limited resources I had to shoot them. Eventually I realized I was trying too hard, and The Theft came to me when I asked myself that if this was the only film I had the chance to make, which is the story I would like to tell the most and what are the questions I would like to explore through it.

The Theft, is a story of how young minds are induced into a class based society. Its protagonists are 2 kids Arjun (Omayr Kazi) and Bhima (Ayush Mitra) who observe, discern and ask intelligent questions but eventually are roped into the prejudices of the adults around them.  The other characters in the film are Ira, (played by Sanaa Kazi)  a NRI mother settling down in Mumbai, who struggles with the dichotomy between her acquired liberal ideologies which are against things like casteism and her own Indian upbringing which is immune to the visibly different treatment given to servants in India. Ajay Jain has beautifully portrayed the role Pandu, who is a servant and a father who is accused of the theft, and his character has shades of grey. Java Joshi plays a nosy neighbor, Mrs. Joshi who brings some comic relief to the otherwise serious storyline.

How long is the film? What was the budget? Who financed it?

The film is 21 mins long and was made with a very tight budget of a little less than $5000, financed from my personal funds. Credit goes to my producers Preethi Prasad and April Oprea for managing the budget to every single penny and my husband Nilay Pradhan for allowing the film to be shot in our apartment, while we lived in it.  This was the first film for most of our cast and crew, who volunteered to work for free, and this would not have been possible without their support and enthusiasm.

As per our research, The Theft is the first narrative short-film based in Mumbai, India and shot near Cambridge, MA.I understand cast don’t get paid; how about crew? Were they professionals?

A large part of the budget was spent on the camera, lighting and sound department and the rest on food for a crew of about 20, for 2 weekends.  I was very particular about the fact that I did not want the film to look like a home video, and wanted a specific look for the film especially because we were shooting a story that takes place in an apartment in India but we were actually shooting in an apartment in Cambridge, MA. So the lighting, color and look of the film were planned around that.

Our DP (Director of Photography) Wilfredo Ramos is an award winning cinematographer and most importantly a great guy to work with. We also hired some professionals local to the Boston area independent film community for lighting and sound and they have done a great job.

Why did you choose this format? I mean I have never seen short films except those viral videos, how do you reach a wider audience? How are these films are usually released?

The Theft is my first film and so it had to be a short, also because that was the requirement of my final project.  Short films, are a great way for new and independent filmmakers to test the waters and hone their skills before taking on a mountainous project like a feature film.

The short film format has existed since the early years of cinema but given the advent of affordable digital cameras and with websites such as Vimeo, YouTube, social networking web-sites and a large number of film festivals which encourage and showcase short films, the short film format has become a very empowering format for independent filmmakers, who are limited by budget and resources.

For a film to be commercially released it requires to go through a whole process of sales and distribution. But short films can be released online as well for public viewing non-commercially, once they have finished their festival circuit.

Congratulation on being accepted for BIFF.  Are there specific festivals for shorts? How do you participate in them? How can general public see a film in a festival?

Thank you!  The Boston International Film Festival will showcase around 100 films this year, both shorts and features, from around the world. These films were selected from over 2,600 entries and The Theft was one of them. It will be screened at festival on April 12th at the AMC Loews at Boston Commons. Here is the link to buy tickets: https://www.amctheatres.com/movies/session-2-el-ceilo-azul#61804

Nowadays most film festivals have a short film category that you can apply to but there are also festivals that just showcase short films.  Film festivals have a selection process and you can apply for it by submitting your film directly to the festival or through websites such as Withoutabox.  If selected by the festival, your film is screened at the festival. Some festivals have a competitive category where all selected films compete for awards and festivals are a great way to network with other filmmakers and reach out to a wider audience.   Assuming the festival has tickets for sale (most festivals do), one can see films at a festival just like any other film. Besides our film, they also have a great line-up of other films that you should not miss, if you are in the area!

Is The Theft also participating in any other film festival?

We have applied to a few other film festivals, and keeping our fingers crossed!

What does ipsgold stands for ?

Haha! it is rather silly. One of my several ambitions as a child was to be an IPS (Indian Police Service) officer (that was the time when the TV series Udaan was being shown on tv) and gold is one of the several nicknames my mother calls me by. So I thought ipsgold would be a nice name to reminisce on the eccentricities of my childhood.

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