Gitanjali Rao’ Short ‘True Love Story’ in Competition at Cannes Critics Week’14 (Interview)

Filmmaker Gitanjali Rao’ True Love Story is officially selected for Cannes Critics Week, an official event of the Cannes Film Festival which runs from May 15-23.Picked from 1750 films submitted from around the globe for consideration, this 19 minute animated short, is one of the 10 films competing in Short and mid-length films category for Cannes Critics Week Award. Gitanjali has had a memorable connection with Cannes as she was a member of the Critics’ Week Jury for Short and Mid-Length films in 2011 and also her first animation film PRINTED RAINBOW premiered at Cannes 2006 Critic’s Week in its Competition programme and picked up three awards. On this occasion, got an opportunity to converse with the Gitanjali and know about her approaches followed for ‘True Love Story’ and road ahead. Hi Gitanjali, it is wonderful to hear that True Love Story has made it to Cannes Critics Week, how did this happen? After Printed Rainbow, having completed this film at around the same time of the year, it seemed to follow the similar route after winning the Golden Conch at MIFF. Therefore it was natural for me to submit my film to Cannes. I did follow the usual procedure of applying to Critic’s week as well as Director’s Fortnight at Cannes and it happened to get selected at Critic’s Week once again! What inspired to make ‘True Love Story’? I had been toying with the idea of first love for a while. And being a Bombayite I spent a lot of time in traffic jams watching at life unfolding on the street sides. I began to get interested in the lives of street boys who work hard selling flowers and books at traffic signals but are looking for love by impressing girls all the time.  I loved observing the small flirtations that happen between these flower sellers. I wished to tell the story of these young boys and girls who have complicated migration stories yet their spirit survives in the chaos of the big city, and then, emerged a first love story between two people living on the streets of Bombay.

As a Director and a Viewer, how would you define the film? It is a coming of age film, a romance as well as a critique on the obsession with Bollywood in Bombay. Are the characters picked from any real life experiences? They are an amalgamation of many people I have seen and met so no one in particular but many people in reality. What are the emotions that you would like to instill in the audiences while they watch the movie? I have tried to take the audience through all the emotions people feel when they fall in love, Bollywood style, be it the attraction, the fear of approaching the other, the suspense of how the other will react, the relief of being accepted, the joy of the first smiles, the shock when they discover each others secrets, the passion to change, and finally the grief of loss. I think it is like a rollercoaster of emotions packed into a 19 minute experience. How has this film evolved you as a Creator? After a long time I worked with a team of animators, background designers and sound designers who understood my vision and contributed to making the film richer. I finally found a dream team at the end of the project! I feel more capable and encouraged to work now. “I think it was an honest sincere film with no compromise on quality” was a statement you made in my first interaction with you for MIFF win news piece, tell us about what are the approaches you followed to bring out quality animation? I have always done frame by frame painted animation although it is one of the most time consuming processes. I kept to the same process. I had a small team of three amazing animators, Sangita Khatu, Vishruta Churi and Rekha Thorat, who adapted to my pain staking style and animated some of the best scenes in the film. My background artist Rupali Gattila laboured on each set for weeks till we had the look as authentic to the streets and bars of Bombay as possible. My sound designers PM Satheesh of National Award fame and Manoj Goswami, are still working on the last mix and all this with very little or no money, purely because they have believed in the film. It cannot get more honest than that! Before concluding this conversation, can you share the expectation that you have from the audience for this film? This time I think the audience has more expectation from me than I have from them. That is scary! I hope they are not disappointed, that’s all.