Interview Debanjan Nandy, Director of Chhaya. ASFF 2015 Filmmaker

Dabanjan Nandy showcased his animation Chhaya at the Aesthetica Short Film Festival (ASFF) 2015. An old man living with the memory of his beloved wife as his own shadow, finds himself facing a difficult decision: to live in a mesmerising but unreal dream, or to experience life himself? We speak to Nandy to find out more about the story behind this film, and how it came to be realised.

ASFF: Chhaya follows an old man trapped living in the memory of his wife as a shadow. Where did the idea for the film arise from?
DN: I was working on another script which was based on a couple’s life too. I was doing lots of concept arts for it. Once I drew an illustration of an old man sitting in a dance bar, and his shadow was of an old woman. And he was looking at the bar dancer, but his mind was someplace else. Later when I showed it to my partner, she was intrigued by it and I saw a story there. In NFTS when I was pitching ideas for our graduation film, I put this forward and people came with numerous possibilities. It was overwhelming to know that people were able to connect to the idea, but the next part was to find my own interpretation to it which came through an extensive script development process with my writer, Katerina and producer, Josh. Death is like a ultimate breakup and makes everyone linger with the shadow of their loved ones.

ASFF: Since graduating from the National Institute of Design, India, you have continued to work across the fields of 2D and 3D animation. How did your initial love for the genre develop?
DN: After my graduation from National Institute of Design (NID), India, I went on to work on commercials and TV series. It was a great learning curve to learn so much about the production process. I have always loved to draw and was always fascinated with the visual medium. I never thought of making films, but always loved watching them. After my graduation in NID, I was still overwhelmed with the idea of audio visual imagery, but slowly I realised the deeper meanings of the medium. I think i started discovering myself and my taste for story. The values of life, the emotional connections made it more interesting. And from there on the journey is to explore that aspect.

ASFF: Chhaya was created during your time at the National Film and Television School, UK. What techniques did you focus on when making the film?
The story of Chhaya is very emotional; the feelings are more important than the plot, and I always connected paintings to feelings. I wanted to have a very painted feel for the piece. One way to go was to do oil on glass which is a stop fame technique. But the story needed a more subtle approach so trying to have both, making sets with oil painted decor and then adding lights to shoot the space. My cinematographer Jannicke helped me in this along with Jacqueline, my Production designer. We built miniature sets, painted with oil along with props. Then we placed the Characters in CG animation to have the process be more fluid and revisions being possible.

ASFF: Your short film screened at ASFF in 2015. What did the experience offer to you and your filmmaking career, and what advice would you offer to emerging practitioners?
DN: I think the screening of films really help young aspiring filmmakers to have a platform to showcase their work and see the audience’s reaction. I think once an audience sees a film, that’s where the film actually gets finished. So its a huge honour and opportunity for me to have Chhaya screened at ASFF. I am really thankful for giving us such a lovely audience to showcase the film.

All I can suggest is to keep making films. Nowadays it has become much easier for people to make films, than it was before. All the tools are at our disposal. I also think having a personal connection is as important in making the film.

ASFF: Can you tell us about any of your upcoming projects?
DN: I am currently developing another script for a short, which is a part of a feature idea, however I want to explore it as a short first. I am also working on a micro short inspired by sound with my sound designer Rob.

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1. Debanjan Nandy, Chhaya