Friday April 29th, 2016 sees the release of Amitabha Singh’s Shortcut Safaari. A qualified cinematographer from the FTII and one who has made quite a major mark in the world of television commercials and feature films, Shortcut Safaari marks Singh’s directorial debut.
Shortcut Safaari looks at the adventures of a group of 7 children – 4 boys and 3 girls – who find themselves stuck in the thick of the jungle while returning from a day-long nature trip conducted by their school. So what is it that attracted Singh, who has photographed films like Khosla Ka Ghosla (2006), Chillar Party (2011) and The Good Road (2013), to not just helm the film, but produce it as well? And that too for a target audience of children who hardly get enough good content made for them by a formulaic film industry? “I believe strongly in issues we are going to face in the future and children are the future.” replies Singh. “In that sense, the genre of a children’s adventure film, which also teaches them about the jungle and the preservation of our green lungs, came easily to me.” When asked if it was difficult to direct children, Singh says that surprisingly it wasn’t. But then he goes on to add that he has worked with children before in Chillar Party and The Good Road. If anything, the schedule of the film had to be worked around the children, that’s all.
What is not easy, however, he adds, is making a film. Though it was a creative journey he can never forget, Singh admits the ups and downs of filmmaking can sometimes take its toll. But in the end when everything comes together, you cannot help but feel it was all worth it. To ease up on production logistics, the group of children were all selected from the same school. In an interview to Pandolin speaking about the film, Singh commented, “We only had to convince one authority and one source for permission. Also, the way we went about casting them was very innovative I think. We didn’t tell them (the kids) that we were there to cast for a film and we just observed them playing and in their leisure time. We had already written the characters and so we started identifying the children as per the characters. We then shortlisted them and went into a 4-week workshop and by the end of it we had our child cast in place.”
Besides the children, Jimmy Shergill plays a small but pivotal role in the film. Shergill happily came on board without even reading the script since Shortcut Safaari is not just aimed at children but also deals with important issues like global warming and environment conservation. It was something he believed in as well.
Shortcut Safaari has been screened at a few select Film Festivals and some private screenings so far. Speaking about the response at these screenings, Singh says that thankfully, it has always been positive and especially so from the film’s target audience – children aged 8-13.