Published: 05th January 2021
Why the film Like A Midnight Dream is a lesson on sketching out female characters, delivered straight from a 28-year-old filmmaker
As a writer and director, apart from researching and reading up, it is a lot about observation for Sharan Venugopal. He takes us through the shooting of his film, Oru Paathiraa Swapnam Pole
Personal space is a concept that Sharan Venugopal has ruminated on a lot. What constitutes one's space? How much is one required to share with one's family members? Where does one draw the line? The search for the answers to these questions (and destiny, of course) led him to the story penned by his Malayali writer-friend Susmesh Chandroth. It was about a mother who discovers that cancer is eating away her life and at the same time, chances upon a video on her daughter's laptop that has the potential to change their dynamic forever. "But when I read the story, I felt that there was a lot more to explore. For example, would the mother confront the daughter? Would she tell her that she might now have much less time on her hands?" expresses Sharan. Thus, the 28-year-old made his diploma film Oru Paathiraa Swapnam Pole (Like A Midnight Dream) in 2019 while pursuing his Master's in Direction and Scriptwriting from Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute, Kolkata. And just last month, this 37-minute film was selected in the Indian Panorama section of the 51st International Film Festival of India (IFFI), Goa!
Oru Paathiraa Swapnam Pole (Like A Midnight Dream) poster | (Pic: Sharan Venugopal)
The Kozhikode-born took seven months to flesh out the story and started shooting in February 2019 and wrapped up in eight days. And he got none other than Nadhiya (Zareena Moidu, who is best known for Malayalam movie Nokkethadoorathu Kannum Nattu and Tamil film M Kumaran S/O Mahalakshmi) to play the mother. "I wrote the script with her in mind and the story literally revolves around this one character. She has the charisma the character demands and agreed to take up the role when I approached her," says Sharan. The story plays out in an urban set-up contrary to his first short film Sopanam, which did the rounds of its fair share of festivals and was set in the 80s. It was about a daughter who wants to carry forward the musical legacy of her father, though society is against it.
Born in Kozhikode, the budding filmmaker says that he did not have many avenues to watch cinema. It was only after he moved to Thiruvananthapuram, with its many cinephiles, film clubs and festivals, that this hobby was nurtured
Looks like he is interested in telling women-centric stories. Is there a pattern here that we see, we ask. He laughs and says, "I don't know about a pattern, but I am surely curious to explore the female psyche, which is very different from that of a male. It is both interesting and exciting," he says. But does the filmmaker fear the 'male gaze' problem? Where there is criticism about men taking up women's stories and telling it through their point of view? "It is true that we don't have enough female mainstream storytellers to tell their own stories. But when you are a filmmaker, you need to be sensitive and empathetic to sketch out any character, male or female. As long as those are there, I don't see an issue," says the Thiruvananthapuram-based writer.
Behind the scenes | (Pic: Sharan Venugopal)
Currently, Sharan is writing his first feature film. That's right! And it's going to be in the realm of interpersonal relationships again. So does being a writer and director feel like added responsibility, we wonder. "I don't consider it two different things. When you feel like you have given words to something, created something, you feel a stronger connection to it," he says and concludes.
Sharan's previous work:
- Dual: As an exchange student who had gone to ZeLIG - School for Documentary, Television and New Media in Bolzano, Italy, he collaborated with students there and made the documentary Dual on Bolzano's mixed Italian-German culture
- For Clint: This documentary is about the parents of Edmund Thomas Clint and how they dealt with the loss of their son, a prodigy who drew 25,000 paintings in six years
For more on him, check out instagram.com/sharanvenugopal