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Santosh Ram

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From humble beginnings to living life at 24 frames per second, filmmaker Santosh Ram’s journey is one to marvel at. Santosh unravelled his passion for the reel with his first film Vartul [The Circle] in 2009. Since then, there has been no looking back for him. His new film, Galli, has been received with love and acclaim at festivals this year. In conversation with the director, who is part of the ongoing Matheran Green Festival...

How did your love for celluloid begin?
I was born in small town Udgir, Maharashtra. My father was a teacher and he wanted me to be either a doctor or an engineer. Growing up, I was introduced to cinema by my brother and very soon I caught up by watching filmmakers such as Shyam Benegal, Satyajit Ray, Gautam Ghosh, Girish Kasarwalli, Amol Palekar, Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukhtankar. During the Ganpati festival in my town, they would get VCR cassettes of commercial cinema, independent films and pornographic films. Cinema for me was the life beyond truth, but which came close to the truth and that is what inspired me to become a filmmaker.

What inspires your stories?
Life inspires me, the people that surround me, inspire me. I am a literature student and most times it is those characters, plot or the backgrounds that inspire me. Legends of realistic cinema like Ritwik Ghatak and Satyajit Ray inspire me. My own life and the conflicts that I have suffered have inspired my films and shall continue to do so. 

Give us a blurb on your short film, Galli.
Galli (The Lane) is about the people and the life in a lane.  The film tries to explore incidents taking place across seven days and through that it  highlights the contrasts, similarities , paradoxes , randomness  and abstraction of contemporary  human life, with universal themes of birth, trust , loneliness , frustration , friendship , happiness  and death. There are 13 stories in two forms which try to define life, and it is that lane which connects them all.

I often go to Kolhapur because I like the place very much; there I would wander without any intention. I found the lanes in Kolhapur very different from the lanes of my region. I used the board of the lane as in silent cinema to communicate my story.

Tell us about some of your achievements.
My short film Vartul travelled to over 56 Film Festivals across the world including 11th Osian’s Cinefan Film Festival, New Delhi; International Documentary and Short  Film Festival, Kerala; 17th Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, Canada; and 5th National Show of Independent Cinema ‘OtrosCines, San Nicolas , Argentina , winning 13 Awards. I have also done documentaries and corporate films on various issues. Galli has been selected in more than eight film festivals all over the world so far.        

How has your art evolved? 
In 2001, I shifted to Pune where I appeared in a test for the Film and Television Institute of India, but couldn’t make it. I’d rather call myself the FTII Canteen Passout. I shot Vartul on 35mm and I shot Galli on High Definition Video. We are old-school filmmakers but I find that the new digital HD Format is more flexible and gives more options. 

What lies ahead?
Currently, I am working on the Santosh Ram Project, a series of 15 short films on various subjects as well as a full length feature film debut with Marathi film, China Mobile.

Text Rhea Dangwal


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