Short film ‘Adivaanam’ captures the aloneness of the pandemic


Director Sharada Ramanathan on capturing the crippling sense of loneliness in light of a raging pandemic, in her short film Adivaanam

Sharada Ramanathan says she wanted to capture the residual effect of the pandemic: aloneness and its various kinds, be it psychological, romantic or social-economic. Her quest to document the times we live in resulted in a five-minute short, Adivaanam, which was uploaded on YouTube last month. “We all ride different boats but forget the fact that we are riding the same storm,” says Sharada over phone, “There was a multi-layered aloneness that was created during the pandemic.”

Starring Aishwarya Rajessh and Ashwin Kakumanu as two individuals tiding through lockdown, Adivaanam is about the benefits the privileged classes enjoy without being considerate of the labour class: farmers, construction and sanitation workers. The film, says Sharada, was a reaction to what the country was, and probably still is, grappling with, in face of a pandemic. In a lighter vein, she calls the virus “the most secular disease for cutting across all classes”.

Says Sharada, “Even before mentioning the cast, we have given credits to farmers and sanitation workers. I feel bad that I don’t have their names and it is very important to not treat them as anonymous. We did our little. And yes, the short film was a reaction to environment, people, inequality and the fact that everybody becomes the victim.”

In the absence of dialogues, the short film lets the visuals speak for themselves and is juxtaposed with a poem by Swati VAR, a lyricist who has worked with Sharada in her first film, Sringaram. “What prose can’t say, poems can. What words can’t say, visuals can,” she laughs, “I thought: ‘why don’t we try a poem?’ and that’s how we conceptualised it. It might sound simple but trust me, there was thought behind it.”

The short was shot by cinematographer Ravi K Chandran, edited by Sreekar Prasad and has music by Santhosh Narayanan. The filming took place in Chennai in August last year amidst the pandemic. “All of them were very busy throughout. Sreekar was editing two films; Santhosh had composed for three films and Ravi was flying between Mumbai and Chennai. I wanted the best and they came on board for the concept,” she adds.

The biggest compliment Sharada has received so far for her film was a text from veteran writer-lyricist Javed Akhtar, “He sent me a message saying it is ‘exquisite’,” says Sharada, adding that she has a web series coming out for a digital platform and a feature film announcement sometime in February-March.

Adivaanam is available in Thaniththirai’s YouTube channel

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