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A reel step into the future

Published : Sep 3, 2016, 9:43 pm IST
Updated : Sep 3, 2016, 9:43 pm IST

A VR film screening in the city opens up possibilities that can change the film medium in days to come

Pranav Ashar
 Pranav Ashar

A VR film screening in the city opens up possibilities that can change the film medium in days to come

On Monday, when the city will be shuffling between Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations and negotiating traffic jams, a bunch of cinephiles will come under the same roof to celebrate a VR film screening — the first of its kind in Mumbai.

The Unnamed Guide, a VR project (where cameras shoot all 360 degrees) initiated by Pranav Ashar, will have eight short virtual reality films made by him. “Virtual reality and augmented reality are still at a nascent stage and we are yet to find elegance in them,” says Pranav, talking about the impetus behind choosing the form. “In a way, I took my inspiration from Raja Harishchandra. Phalke was also experimenting with a new form,” he continues. “The project,” he says, “is to make great stories available for the audience which are shot using a combination of cameras that can shoot 360 degree, using the best technology and equipment, resulting in first hand, unmatched experience of virtual reality and immersive visual content. VR changes the entire canvas of filmmaking. It is no more a rectangle,” he points out.

The eight films have been shot in eight different cities — Pushkar, Bundi, Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Ranthambore, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Kumbhalgarh. In all these cities, he has filmed eight different guides and each tells stories from the city. “The idea came to me in a flash when I was travelling to Nalanda University, where I met a guide, who I found profoundly interesting. It occurred to me that this is a dying art — they are essentially story-tellers as well as performers,” he adds.

Alongside, Pranav is also planning to release separate audio versions of the extended sessions with the guides, parts he couldn’t incorporate in the films.

“More than facts, I was interested in the mythology that they created,” he says about the stories that the guides shared with him. In The Golden Ray, which he shot in Jaisalmer, he was told how Satyajit Ray’s Sonar Kella (The Golden Fortress) put Jaisalmer on the map of tourism. “When I was in the city, I was curious how everyone I met knew about Satyajit Ray and the film that he had shot there. Then a guide told me that before the film, nobody would ever come to Jaisalmer, but after the film, tourists — especially Bengalis — swarmed in to quench their curiosity. The international tourists followed suit,” he says.

Although how much of that story holds water is questionable, another guide from Bundi shares a similar, far-fetched tale. “In The Complete Sword, the guide shared the story of the markets of the old time and how they tested perfect swords. They would put jaggery on the blade and would wait for a fly to sit on it. If it got sliced in halves, only then was it tested okay and deemed fit for warfare,” adds the 28-year-old.

Pranav had dropped out of his philosophy course at Mumbai University to pursue his love for cinema. Eventually he founded his own art-media company, Enlighten, which boasts of one of the best functioning film societies in the country. He has also produced Sonchidi, a film by coveted filmmaker, Amit Dutta.

Shedding light on his approach to films, he says, “My journey is from ethics to aesthetics, and Werner Herzog has been a major influence, especially his later films,” he concludes.

On September 5, from 11 am to 7 pm, At Bombay Art Society, Bandra. Entry: Free