‘Still a student of cinema,’ says Aarti Chabria


The 33-year-old actress has turned producer-director with her short film Mumbai Varanasi Express which is the toast of international film festivals. Chabria talks to Sangeeta Yadav about her film and love for directing

  • Tell us about your short film Mumbai Varanasi Express?

The story is about millionaire Krishnakant Jhunjhunwala, played by Darshan Jariwala. Suffering from cancer, he decides to spend the rest of his life at the mukti dham ashram in Varanasi. People go there to get moksha. What happens at the ashram is what Mumbai Varanasi Express is all about.

  • What’s the message of the film?

The message is, enjoy every moment and live it to the fullest instead of running after things. It is a relatable contemporary story as we see people stressing out for achieving material things but don’t have the time to enjoy the fame that they earn. Instead, they find themselves spending money on ailments they get afflicted by.

  • Where did you get the story from?

My friend Prakhar and I were searching for ideas for our short film and placed an ad at mandy.com. Everyday, we were meeting 25-30 people till we found our writer Vipul K Rawal, who wrote Iqbal and Rustom. He narrated the script to us and it clicked for our short film. I also came across a newspaper article about mukti dham which called it the final halt. I read about how people go to mukti dham when they are ailing and know that they have very little time left.

  • How did get to directing?

After winning Khatron Ke Khiladi Season 4 in 2011, I was not getting any good acting projects. Instead of doing shows, which were not intellectually stimulating or creative, I went to the US to study filmmaking at the New York Film Academy. It was a new world for me. Living a student’s life, travelling in trains and metros, carrying camera equipment and attending classes, I met a lot of international students and understood their thoughts on cinema. I learnt about short films too. It is a well-known concept abroad but it was new to me as I came from a background where two-three hour films are made. Short films fascinated me, so I here I am.

  • How’s your learning experience been?

It involved learning about directing from the scratch starting from shooting on film-reel format to graduating to digital and using advance camera. There were a lot of challenging projects. We made short films, music videos, one-minute scenes and much more.

  • How did all this help?

After returning to Mumbai, I did Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa and a few ads, TV shows as also a web series. I realised there was a huge difference between what I was doing before studying films and after that. I have grown as a professional but there are still miles to go. I still feel like a student director. Learning never stops.

  • You have taken up many challenges…

Be it getting trapped in a coffin with 101 rats or falling off a helicopter into the sea in Khatron Ke Khiladi, or  taking a break at the high point of my career, I am always up with challenges. I need to keep finding my happiness by achieving new heights and challenging myself. I have gone against the tide. The good part is that I compete with myself and always want to better myself from what I was yesterday. I have made sure that I enjoy myself.

(The article also got published in Sunday Pioneer Newspaper – http://www.dailypioneer.com/sunday-edition/sunday-pioneer/backpack/still-a-student-of-cinema.html).


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