To do something different, to be spontaneous, to feel the essence of life, to live in the pursuit of your passion, many have such thoughts and feelings. But few have it in them to take the bull by the horns and succeed. Part of that rare breed, is Shilpa Johar.
Shilpa is diverse in her talents as a film-maker, director, producer and writer. Her quirky nature adds to her charm, while also making her brilliant. When she was just 16, she co-authored an article called ‘He = MC2’ (God = Science), with intelligence and skill way beyond her years. Her articles became regular with Bangalore Mirror and were highlights of the column called “Teen Spirit.” Like most of us, she grew up wanting to get into different careers at different points. But today, she is living out her dream of being a film-maker. She is definitely one of a kind, who is proud to feel vulnerable. “True power lies in being able to get affected and being vulnerable. And allowing myself to feel all these things has given me the vision that film-making is what I want to do.”
True power lies in being able to get affected and being vulnerable. And allowing myself to feel all these things has given me the vision that film-making is what I want to do.”
Shilpa’s journey started when the articles in Bangalore Mirror came out. She gained popularity among many senior authors and writers, who began to ask for her assistance in copywriting and proof-reading their works. These articles changed the dynamics of her career. As she grew older she worked as an artist-manager for popular Comedy artists, and then moved on to writing for and shooting short films through workshops. It was then that Shilpa Johar finally began to shine.
Her three minute short film ‘Nange Pair’ brought her immense popularity in the media industry, and also won Gold at the International Independent Film Awards 2016 in California and was the only Indian film to screen at the Charlton and Woolwich festival in London earlier this September. But the film was not even intended for a big audience, it in fact started out as a simple classroom assignment. It is a one-shot film, that is, the entire sequence must be shot without a single break or re-take it in. Shilpa is often hit with random thoughts in the middle of doing something else, and hence is always with her small notebook, ready to jot them down. And that is exactly what happened with ‘Nange Pair’, “I remember parking my car, right there in the jam and noting down the idea and immediately in a span of 10 minutes I knew who I wanted to cast in my film. So, my vision was very clear, when I want something I know exactly how to go about it.”
Shilpa makes movies that are raw and real without any extra mirch-masala. ‘Nange Pair’ has all these elements. The film is based on marital abuse, but her take on the story is what makes it a truly riveting piece. Shilpa believes the magic lies in creating a visually enticing film having a social message that might make the audience uncomfortable. She takes it as a compliment if she can make her audience feel and react to a film. It means the film has left a mark and will stay in the minds of the viewers for a while. Shilpa feels so strongly about making films of matter and substance that she is looking to associate with certain NGOs for whom she will make films pro bono.
With just her thoughts, notebook and video-camera, Shilpa today has the confidence to create bigger films. Which is why in June this year she registered her own creative production company called Shilpa Johar Productions. Shilpa’s drive to make good films led her to creating a space where she and others can make ad films and documentaries according to client requirements, and also produce short films. She says, “I want to put creative work out there. And producing a film gives you an idea about the entire creative side, from writing to direction, to casting, to detailing. The name on the company is to ensure maximum retainability with the client so they know my personal touch will be involved in every project. ”
In all honesty and humility, with the work that I have done I am absolutely not meant for the typical, commercial film maker.”
Shilpa is hopeful of one day producing a feature length film that would play all over the world. Though expressing her worries about Bollywood, she says, “My genuine concern for which I really feel is that Bollywood has tarnished cinematic taste for its audience.” Through her conversations with other movie buffs she has come to understand that some mindless movies are so well viewed because of the hectic lifestyle that people lead these days. Such movies get their minds off it. But her taste is more in sync with independent directors and writers like Nagesh Kukunoor, Anurag Kashyap and Deepa Mehta. “Their theme and writing is exactly where my taste and tone lines. I love deep hard hitting films like Water, Ugly, Udaan. Most of the Indian audience is not receptive of such films, which is fine ‘cause these serious topics aren’t for everybody.”, says Shilpa. For Shilpa it is very important to have an elemental artistic perspective to her films as it is important for her to ensure she has created something visually enticing.
Being clear about her preference in film-making, she says, “In all honesty and humility, with the work that I have done I am absolutely not meant for the typical, commercial film maker.” But for now she is taking baby steps, and needs to make 200 more films before she can progress to an hour long movie.
Just because there are so many constraints, you mustn’t settle. You don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. So might as well live you dream today. Nobody can do it for you. We will never be able to do what we were meant to do in this life time, if we don’t start what we crave to do right now.”
Her experience with different kinds of people has given her deep insight. She categorizes them as: one who will be wowed by your work and encourage your out of the box ideas, and another who will be dismissive by saying that you are out of your depth. Shilpa’s advice on dealing with it: “The reality of such a situation is that you can’t stop what you have to do because people are commenting on it. Just because there are so many constraints, you mustn’t settle. You don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. So might as well live your dream today. Nobody can do it for you. We will never be able to do what we were meant to do in this life time, if we don’t start what we crave to do right now.”
To do is to feel, and to feel is to live. Live the way Shilpa Johar unhesitatingly lives. For what is life, if not a kaleidoscope of ever-moving colourful moments, never to be the same. So take that bold step towards that dream, which will make you smile with giddy happiness.