A green cinematic effort

A green cinematic effort

Director's cut

Being a parent, Amitabha Singh observed how the perception of children towards nature has altered in today’s hi-tech age. He feels that the “world we are living in at present, and the world we are leaving behind for our offspring is really disturbing” and as modern life progresses, people will increasingly move further away from their natural environs.

Perturbed, he decided to take a cinematic approach to sensitise children about nature and its importance, and hence conceptualised Shortcut Safaari, a light-hearted, informative film on the subject.

“I have always felt that we need to give back to nature, and the movie is a medium to do so. It is an attempt to influence and touch base with as many hearts as possible. I think children have not been close to nature for a while now and live in a virtual world.

The film raises the question of the real and the virtual,” says the acclaimed cinematographer and producer who makes his directorial debut with the film.

Slated for released on April 29, Shortcut Safaari revolves around a group of seven urban, school going children (between ages 10 to 14 years) who get lost in a jungle, far away from their homes. Shot in the forests of south Gujarat, the film also stars Jimmy Shergill.
Singh, who has won National Awards for Khosla ka Ghosla and Chillar Party and an Academy Award entry from India for The Good Road, tells Metrolife that he decided to make a movie because he feels that despite being one of the strongest mediums of influencing and sensitising children about issues, “cinema is also the most underutilised”.

“I feel I intuitively understand the world of children and belong in there. So my attempt in Shortcut Safaari is to articulate a feeble voice originating from within the space of children’s world which they do not share with the outside world readily. Cinema offers us a powerful medium of expression and exchange of ideas and definitely empowers any voice, how so ever feeble. It is a democratic platform for dialogue, and I feel children of today and the future need that power,” he says.

The “new-age” film, which highlights the spirit of exploration, mystery and adventure features students from Sant Kabir School in Gujarat, none of whom are trained actors. Singh shares the idea was to not bring in any known face, and each student was
auditioned for the role to find out the reel life closeness in the real life kids.

“A major theme of the film is how kids from different settings – social, environmental, regional, financial and mental, come together and befriend each other when they go close to nature. We just conducted a 40-day workshop with them before we began shooting. That is why their honesty and innocence is what you see on screen as well,” he adds.

Explaining the title of the film, which also features a clouded leopard named
Jimmy (whose character is inspired from a real leopard, Jimmy, who was inducted into Gandhinagar’s Indroda Nature Park in 1998), Singh says the word ‘shortcut’ refers to the way people try to take shortcuts in life.

“Adults are fixated with the idea of ‘shortcuts’, and when kids become part of their ideas and ways they land up in the wild. But there is no shortcut when it comes to understanding nature or making an effort to save it.
The film is just a genuine attempt to reconnect kids and adults alike with the sanctity of nature,” he says.

However, there were a few things which Singh was particular about on the sets while the movie was being made. He says the biggest challenge was to make sure the kids don’t “act” and are not camera conscious.

“There were rules on my set — no parents allowed, and omission of the word ‘action’. So, during the shoot it was ‘lights, camera, behave’, which was enough to get them to be themselves. Other than that, shooting in the jungle had its own charm and difficulties. Nature has its own way to welcome you. The more you spend time with it, the more you get accustomed to it,” he says.

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