Shefali Shah, 48
With the lockdown putting her shoots on halt, she developed the scripts of Someday and Happy Birthday Mummyji, each reflecting post-pandemic isolation
Though happy facing the camera, Shefali Shah often wondered if she had it in her to go behind it as well. But a steady stream of projects meant that the actor had little time to explore the possibility. The desire to turn director could have remained a ‘What-if?’ thought in her head, had it not been for the pandemic.
“During the lockdown, we were all trying to fill our time. I usually write, so I wrote Someday, and I realised I want to direct it. The story was also pertinent to the situation,” says Shah, who also helmed the two short films — Someday and Happy Birthday Mummyji — during the 2020 lockdown.
For the actor-turned-director, the urge to develop Someday came from a thought that haunted her in the early days of the stay-at-home period. “The storyline of my film is that if the disease doesn’t kill you, the distance will. Not being able to meet your family is disturbing. My films are based in today’s times, and came from the thought of isolation.” Someday revolves around a frontline worker Vidhi, essayed by Shah, who returns home after a 15-day duty and practises seven-day quarantine. Over the week, Vidhi and her mother, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, share memories from the past and plan for the future, as the present keeps them separated.
Having begun writing in June 2020, Shah took the film on floors in September, as soon as the restrictions were lifted, with a five-member crew. “Making a film from scratch was a lot of work. I wanted to be thorough and knew every single shot before the movie went on floors. I didn’t want to be on sets and wonder, ‘Ab kya karna hai?’ The editing, sound design and a few other post-production elements were done over Zoom calls. I haven’t even met Antara Lahiri yet who has edited the film, or Prasad Sashte who did the background score. It’s strange to work with them without having met them.” Confident after pulling off the first film, she shot Happy Birthday Mummyji in October at a Madh Island bungalow with a larger crew of 10.
The past 16 months have been hard on all of us. But Shah is proud to have utilised the time to pursue what might be her calling. “If my projects were on floors, I would not have been able to pull this off. It took two months of prep to shoot a short film of 20 minutes. Imagine how much time I will take to direct a feature film! I was ready to gamble with a short film because I wanted to see whether I have it in me to be a director. I wanted to take that chance. At worst, I would fail, but one needs to make an attempt.”