A 15-year-old Ahmedabad-based filmmaker, who loves Anurag Kashyap and dislikes maths, won the first prize in the Young Filmmaker category at the Film4Climate competition.
In many ways, Rameshwar Bhatt, 15, is an ordinary teenager. He attends tuition, hangs out with friends, loves films and does not like (he explicitly denied hating) maths.
What makes him extraordinary is not just his own life story but the stories he manages to capture on camera.
Ram, as he is known to family and friends, is an award-winning video maker. The latest feather in his cap is the first prize for his short film, A Sun at Night, in the Young Filmmaker category at the Film4Climate Global Video Competition that was announced at the Morocco climate summit.
His 2:48-min long entry was a poignant depiction of a woman who goes from being a vegetable vendor to selling solar lamps, lighting up her whole neighbourhood in the process.
The film was shot in Ahmedabad, where Ram is based. The short film has a home video feel, but his ability to frame moments and tell a story shine through.
Ram’s career as a filmmaker was officially launched in 2014 with a film he directed and starred in, titled Kindness The Hero. “The short film is inspired by my own experience,” he says of the film. “My height is short so everyone used to tease me and bully me. I got angry and decided to do something about it.” Ram says the film was his way of responding to the taunts he received for being short.
Standing at about 5-feet, he is not an imposing figure but his frame fits well with his boyish face. The 15-year-old has learnt five languages to varying degrees of proficiency: Japanese, Urdu, Bihari, Sanskrit, and Gujarati. His favourite filmmaker is Anurag Kashyap. He has never owned a professional camera or mike. All his films are shot on an iPhone he says, and currently, he is the proud owner of an iPhone 6s.
Ram stopped making films in Class 10 because he had to study for his Board exams. He went on to study humanities and is enrolled at the Shreyas Foundation School, a special experimental Montessori school, which focuses on holistic development of its students. “I skipped my tuition and went there,” he recalls of a film he made on Muharram. When he returned he had tonnes of raw footage. He remembers staying awake till 1am to finish editing it. “When I start, I just try and finish it,” he says of his style of editing.
This kind of single-minded pursuit helped him when he was making the film that won him the recent accolade. Ram only heard about the competition in September, almost a month after it was announced. It was only 10 days before the deadline for submission that he decided to participate. His mother works at SEWA and she suggested he follow the vegetable vendor.
“She was very interesting,” Ram says of the lady, and he decided to make a film on her, combining with the story some non-fiction elements. The film was shot in the Shahpur neighbourhood of Ahmedabad, which is bustling with activity during the daytime. “I asked if I could come to her home, and she could do whatever she was doing,” he says. “I sat there quietly, observing and filming.”
Ram had help from an older friend during the shoot. For some of the shots, he stayed back late in the area so he could get the perfect scene of a quiet street.
“I did not expect to win,” he laughs shyly when asked about his latest award. Ram does not say if he wants to be a professional filmmaker when he grows older. But it is clear that he is passionate about filmmaking. “I want to express my thoughts visually,” he says.