The team of short-film Poonam is overcome with joy as their film bags award for the ‘Best Short Film’ at the 7th Art Independent International Film Festival. The protagonists essayed by Meeta Vashishta and Rajit Kapur were conferred with the awards for ‘Best Actress’ and ‘Best Actor’ in the short film category respectively. Directed by Sanjay Sanwal, this is a social short film in English.
Children spread across the globe and senior parents at a loss… A common sight in urban cities, this issue was observed by voice coach and voice artiste Shilpi Das Chohan during her visits to old-age homes and retirement communities. This eventually translated into a film, titled Poonam, produced by the Bengalurean.
Poonam, produced by Shilpi’s Voice & Visuals and Epicreel (PTPL), has won the prestigious international ‘Award of Recognition – Film Short’, from The Accolade Global Film Competition, La Jolla, CA.
The award was given for Poonam’s addressal of the social cause, which propounds elder companionship. Poonam features an exceptional lost love story, starring Meeta Vasisht and Rajit Kapur shot in Nainital, Uttarakhand, India.
Poonam is a simple and short story of two elders, who drifted away in the past, to fulfil social responsibilities. At an age when they were expected to be taken care of, they find themselves at a catch-22 crossroads, abandoned and alone. Quite relevant and prevalent in today’s world when grown up children look to greener pastures and abandon their parents due to circumstances or pure neglect.
Elder loneliness is a never-ending story. The passion that we have for the cause of elderly-care gave us great insights into their suffering due to loneliness. We wanted to tell their story to the world and we chose the medium of films to do so.
Three years after conceiving the idea and the story, the 16 minute film ‘Poonam’ was created as a fruit of love, labour, patience and perseverance. Making a film is a complicated affair, however, if made well, films are a strong medium to tell impactful stories leaving a mark on the viewer’s heart and mind.
One of the most critical aspects of film-making is to decide on the artists who can do justice to the characters of the story and carry it on their shoulders by transforming themselves into those characters. Poonam’s lead characters Poonam and Suraj demanded to be played by artists who could seamlessly personify them on screen.
We started our search from the select few we shortlisted. Most of them showed little or no interest, firstly because we weren’t a production house that had a repertoire of such projects, secondly ‘Elderly Care’ is a cause that is ignored and not given the due attention it deserves, and thirdly our director wasn’t well-known yet.
We continued our search despite a strong temptation to give up. We were strongly driven by a belief that there is a reason to everything. The delays and refusals led us to widen our choices, because the film’s story had to be told by an apt cast and we were not interested to compromise. It was essential that our audiences connected with the artists playing Poonam and Suraj. Only then the story would reach far and wide and evoke a wave of introspection.
Finding Meeta Vasisht
Yes there were refusals, but we found the right fit!
Meeta Vasisht left a lasting impression on our Producer Shilpi’s mind with her role in the highly acclaimed, Droh Kaal, a 1994 film by Govind Nihalani.
Shilpi intuitively knew that Meeta Vasisht was to be ‘Poonam’. Poonam personifies a strong, contented woman who is warm, passionate, forgiving and forthright who decides to live life on her own terms. She emerges stronger through life’s experiences. We knew that her experience and demeanour was well-suited to portray these attributes.
It was decided that Poonam’s title role had to be played by none other than Meeta Vasisht. We were on-spot in having her onboard as Poonam, who lived her part not just as a protagonist, but also as a great supporter of the elderly cause.
Shilpi fondly reminisces how she found her phone number and got in touch with her for a conversation. She was in a conference, when Meeta Ji had returned her call. Shilpi left the conference and had got on to that 2-hour call. The perfectionist that Meeta Ji is, she was full of questions. She wanted to know what the character, Poonam is made of and how she could bring her alive with her acting prowess. All Shilpi could keep harping about was Meeta Ji’s ability to emote with her eyes without saying a word.
Yes, Meeta Vasisht is our Poonam – full of life and inspiration. She neither gives up nor holds grudges. She feels sadness like anyone would, but she moves on and performs all her duties, diligently. While most of us consider life to be meaningless at the fag end, she lives it to the fullest, with a purpose and gusto that can challenge the younger generation. She personifies the strong woman with a progressive outlook, and courageous enough to break social barriers.
Meeta Ji understands the need for creating awareness about Elderly Care because of her ageing mother she looks after, by shuttling between Mumbai and Delhi. Despite our limitations and budgeted resources, she decided to support the purpose of our film all the way, not just as an artist but also a philanthropist. That is why when we reached out to her, even after two years of signing her up, she was delighted and assured us of her role beyond the commercial aspect.
Signing Up Rajit Kapur
Refusals are for a reason, and they carve a unique path, leading us to the right destination.
It led us to Rajit Kapur. We were touched by his concern for the cause more than his interest in the film. He instantly knew what he had to do to portray ‘Suraj’, the other protagonist of our film. Rajit Ji is forever cherished as our very own Byomeksh Bakshi, and we knew the audience would connect with him. He connected with the cause, the character and the film compassionately.
‘Suraj’ represents a parent who has performed all his duties as a father and husband within the social norms. Yet, when it is time for him to be cared for, he finds himself abandoned and lonely. Suraj our metaphor, ends up feeling lonely and dejected, finding himself at the brink of giving up on life. He cherishes the effervescent Poonam, his long-lost love who he bumps into after four decades.
Rajit Ji has brought this character alive with his personality and performance. We are fortunate that he became an integral part of our project and purpose since the time he was signed up. Despite the gap of almost two years from signing, he remained supportive with the assurance of being there for ‘Poonam’. When the time came, he showcased his commitment towards the cause by going out of his way despite many challenges that we faced, being new to film production.
We shall be forever indebted to Meeta Ji and Rajit Ji for their selfless contribution to ‘Poonam’, that went beyond the call of their duties.
Whether it’s the small screen or big screen, what you watch is not always about entertainment. Films and TV soaps are a reflection of our environment and lifestyles, hence they are also created to sensitise the society. The film ‘Poonam’ has been shot in Nainital keeping in mind the young generation of today to convey a message and inspire them to not abandon their parents or leave them alone to fend for themselves.
Apart from the entertainment factor, films are a strong medium to convey messages of social importance. The paper mentions that the film Poonam is about the loneliness in the elderly with a fresh perspective of finding love and companionship in one’s senior years.
A humorous take that love seemed to blossoming between Rajit Kapur and Mita Vasisht in the picturesque lake city Nainital. They said that the film is about prodding the society at large regarding the loneliness in elderly and questioning the disapproval towards the seniors finding solace in companionship. They also mentioned that the production of the film had an auspicious beginning after receiving the blessings from Nainital native, Shri Bhagat Singh Koshiary, Governor of Maharashtra who launched the first poster of the film (in Mumbai on 23rd September 2019 in Raj Bhavan).