Inspired by the 70s glam rock era coupled with her own childhood experiences, independent filmmaker Priyanka Juanita Sarkar recently wrote, directed and produced an 11-minute-long short film named Ashanti, under ‘Laidback Productions’. Based out of New Delhi, Sarkar has previously worked on various commercial as well as individual projects.
This psychological thriller, starring Sreyashi Roy and Eklavya Singh, was shot between February and September and was released on September 11, 2020. The film’s music was handled by Delhi-based musician Rijul Victor. It also included a single, ‘I’d Be Home’, by Eklavya Singh. The art direction was managed by Pallavi Sen, the make-up and styling by Kanika Paul and the principal photography was managed by Ankit Aggarwal with his team under his production house Chitra Saga. The experimental short is available on Vimeo as well as YouTube.
This non-narrative, experimental short film has a visual extension in the form of a graphic novel by Pallavi Sen.
“It [the film] is basically inspired by the glam rock era, visualising the rebellious nature that they [rockstars] had in the 1970s. I further weaved in my own story,” said Sarkar.
“One angle to the film was ‘anxiety’, which a lot of people have but are not aware of. My protagonist, Luna Starr, has anxiety issues, where she is also seen abusing some substances. Moreover, she finds herself incapable of differentiating between reality and fantasy, doubled with multiple disturbing thoughts going on in her subconscious. This film is primarily based on the struggle of the subconscious,” Sarkar added.
Explaining why she opted for a non-narrative format, she said, “It’s an art film. I don’t have any intention to restrict the audience’s interpretations. There’s not just one story to the film, so everyone would have their own versions – everyone would relate to it differently. I wish to make more of a personal connection with the audience.”
Sarkar explains how the protagonist of the film is obsessed with the idea of an ideal man, Sky, who is actually just an illusion. She describes how in the hours of darkness, Sky, with his gleaming eyes, becomes a ray of hope to captivate Luna Starr’s subconscious, only to deceive her in the end with a false idea of romance.
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“We don’t know if Sky exists or not as she is on substances, so he can also just be a projection of her own reality, her idea of truth; a mere reflection of her thoughts. And sometimes a lot of empathetic young adults tend to get overwhelmed by the other person or thoughts, put them on a higher pedestal and fail to realise the reality – which is what the protagonist too did and projected her entire reality and her inner desires on a mere image. So, I think this is what a lot of people do when they project their expectations onto others and end up getting hurt when others don’t reflect their feelings,” said Sarkar.
“The film is basically a love story, to which a lot of people, especially young adults, will relate to as a lot of them have gone through something similar,” she said.
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“Besides, when we are between 0-7 years of age, we have a lot in our subconscious that shapes us as an individual and becomes a part of our personality. Similarly, in this movie, Luna’s subconscious mind (represented by three faces in the movie) constantly confused her with conflicting opinions of her inner voice, which, in my belief is very relatable for a lot of people out there, especially young adults, who are still struggling to accept themselves and their good and bad parts,” added Sarkar.
The filmmaker indicates that her next film might be a feature on the theme of disco, individuality and self-expression in the form of fashion and dance, “My theme is going to be individuality no matter whatever I make, that has been a constant through all the projects I’ve worked on.”
All images provided by Priyanka Sarkar