Siddhartha Bedi - Your Idea of Stories Will Always Be Different to My Idea of Stories and That Is What Makes Film So Wonderful

I think the best advice I can offer to anyone is to please go ahead and shoot and edit and upload whatever it is you want. You never really know what might speak to someone. Art is subjective and people will enjoy your art and they might also ridicule it, but you should primarily make it for yourself. 

1. Please tell us about your background and journey.

This is honestly the one question I always struggle to answer. Long story short, I'm a half Punjabi half Chinese kid who was brought up in Calcutta, primarily schooled in Dehradun, until I went to Delhi University (Hansraj) for my collegiate days, and finally I started working in the July of 2019 at Arré. 

I continued working there until the November of the pandemic year, when I finally quit and decided to pursue my interests as an independent/freelance filmmaker.
It's difficult to say when exactly I decided to become a filmmaker, and much like most characters in the films we so enjoy watching, I also went through several chapters of my life with conflicted opinions, until the fated day finally arrived. 

Unlike the likes of Kubrick, I never really fell in love with the camera. My first love was the text that we read in English classes. Surprisingly, I barely read books in my spare time, but I still had an affinity towards the story of things rather than the way it was projected. 

As a child, I remember my first career choice being that of a writer. I even wrote some shorts and entered them for Scholastic competitions. I was always a bit of an overachiever so when I didn't receive almost immediate reward for the same(even though my friends and family adored what I wrote), I decided to quit and move on to something where I could see the benefits more clearly. 

And then, the career of a promising young football player was born... or so I thought. That ended quicker than it started. I broke my right arm twice as a child and the Doctors told me if I broke it even once more I wouldn't be able to play another moment. And so, the world failed to see an Indian Messi come to birth. I joke, of course. I was a horribly slightly above average player.

But then, finally, my friend recommended a film called The Dark Knight to me. And as un-normie as I was, I still fell in love with Heath Ledger's portrayal of The Joker. The Joker instantaneously became my favourite character and Heath became the name of my future unborn kid. 

I decided I want to become an actor and couldn't wait to win an Oscar some day. Lupita Nyong'o's words at the 2014 Academy Awards still ring in my ears.
"No matter where you're from, your dreams are valid."

Then I went to Hansraj College with the idea that I'd do Theatre there for 3 years and use my learnings there to move into film thereafter, and my lovely journey in college helped me realise I'm a terrible actor. Or at least, not as good as I needed to be to contribute to the world of film. 

And so, I shifted to being behind the camera(and the stage) in my third year, and my batchmate and I directed 'This Ends Now', our Street Production from 2018-19 on Political Participation, which went on to break all records and win 42 awards in 1 season. 

This helped me see instantaneous reward and reaffirmed the thought in my head that I might be better helping people put on the show, rather than head it from the front. 

Fast forward a year and a half since graduation and the end of This Ends Now, and I find myself in a beautiful position wherein people have really appreciated my work online and otherwise, to the extent that EatMyNews reached out for an interview. As horrid a year 2020 may have been, I would like to see the beauty in these moments, so thank you for this.

2. How did you come up with the idea for your film “my sister and hand-me-downs”?

My ex, who I would rather call a very close friend, sent me Rega Jha's newsletter entitled 'small scenes 02'; which talked about exes and the gifts they leave behind in your life. I was watching Moonrise Kingdom at the time she sent it to me, and I was already in Wes' world. Then, late at night, I read the newsletter and I was engrossed beyond words. 

It was then that my mind started wandering from the idea of gifts and exes to my sister and her exes to my sister and the gifts I've given her and somehow the idea came together. A fairly large part of the ideation went into the fact that most of what we see on OTT platforms is rather dark and gritty, usually crime-filled worlds. 

I wanted to experiment with the short and do something we see more in Western filmography with the colourful palettes. It was always meant to be a challenge for myself more than the viral film it turned out to be, but I'm glad for all the support it has received nonetheless.

3. What roadblocks did you face when you were starting out?

My biggest roadblock when I was starting out after graduation from Hansraj was that due to familial circumstances I unfortunately had to find work that paid immediately. Film is one of the films wherein you can't expect immediate reward, because no one wants to produce your 100 Million $ blockbuster meant for people globally, unless you have a vast amount of experience to back the same. 

Simultaneously, no audience wants to watch a poorly lit 10,000 $ independent feature film either. And in a country as densely populated as India, wherein people flock to Bombay in search of work in the industry literally every day, it's not easy getting a break. So, yes, finding work almost immediately after graduating was difficult, and in a way, miraculous. 

At the same time, it didn't pay a lot so it was difficult to sustain life, especially in a city like Bombay, but if you have the determination for it, you can do anything, really.

4. Which film has inspired you the most?

Very tough to say. A lot of f
ilms inspire me daily. Every single film inspires me in some ways or the other, and I like to keep a list of things that films do that impresses me for later inspection. Most recently, I enjoyed re-watching Kill Bill a lot, especially Vol. 1. 

I just watched Hamilton today and it has got to be one of the best films I've watched in the recent past(even though technically it's a musical and less of a film). AK vs AK was an interesting watch, as well. I think my personal favourite show in recent time that has inspired me a lot has been Barry. Special Mention to Happy. 

5. Which book would you love to make a film out of one day?

Ah, the age old question. Should books even be adapted to the big screen, given you lose out on so many details in the process? I'm unsure. I'm also unsure how to answer this question given, like I said, I'm not an avid reader. 

In terms of all the books I've read I think the only book I can recall having not made a brilliant on-screen adaptation is possibly the Percy Jackson series, so, maybe that. Otherwise, I'd love to make a series on Greek Mythology on it's own. Or perhaps something set around the Akbar-Birbal times.

6. Can you tell us about the greatest moment in your film career?

The answer to this question will always differ depending on when you ask me the same. Right now, it has to be the tremendous success 'Sidling & Sibling' has seen, with emphasis on the attention 'my sister and hand-me-downs' received. 

Prior to that, even though I had directed a couple of sketches for Arré on YT, and technically 'This Ends Now' is a play, it still has to be top of my creative successes.

7. Do you have any advice for young filmmakers out there?

I think the best advice I can offer to anyone is to please go ahead and shoot and edit and upload whatever it is you want. You never really know what might speak to someone. Art is subjective and people will enjoy your art and they might also ridicule it, but you should primarily make it for yourself. 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a brilliant TED Talk on how you should not create in anticipation of fame/success but only for yourself, and those are words I live by. Of course, I find myself stumbling into the arena of greed and envy every now and then, so what I like to do is revisit the TED Talk and it just helps me recalibrate my views on the art form. 

I can not emphasise this enough, though, please continue to shoot and make whatever it is you want to. Your idea of stories will always be different to my idea of stories and that is what makes film so wonderful. 

And of course, if any one wants any custom-tailored feedback/advice, please do feel free to contact me on my email or Instagram for the same.

- Interviewed by - Pratika Dahal 

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