'Bloom will work even better when it ages'
...says director Richard Anthony, whose debut short film Bloom, which released on YouTube, has been making the right noises for its technical finesse and strong core
It's been more than a year since the world first began to face a pandemic together. It is expected that the art of this time reflects this phenomenon. Director Richard Anthony, whose debut short film, Bloom, was released on Mani Ratnam's Madras Talkies Youtube channel, too wanted to make a film that would document this period. "I wanted to make something that I would want to remember 2020 by. I wanted the smaller joys like sharing music, getting cooking recipes, seeking companionship, to be documented. It is my memory of how I wanted to remember the lockdown period. It will work even better with time," says Richard, an erstwhile assistant of Mani Ratnam.
While it might seem quite the pragmatic approach, it does run the risk of alienating sections of the audience. In fact, a constant criticism about the lockdown films is how it caters to an urban, upmarket audience. Bloom, a blossoming love story between two career-driven yet wandering souls, too has all the trappings of being such a film. "To be honest, Bloom is a window into the kind of universe that I'd like to use in my feature films. I have been working in Tamil cinema, and I know my work has to cater to the mainstream Tamil audience. With Bloom, I had a choice, and I went instinctively with what was right. I was looking for the genuineness of the emotions of the lead characters played by Mitra and Ashwin. I know it might not appeal to a lot of people but what I tried to do with Bloom was to find my audience. That was my test," shares Richard, adding, "Having the backing of Madras Talkies helped me find this audience organically."
Richard is quick to add that the film, which was shot over a period of six days, was not produced by Madras Talkies, and it was just released on their channel. "Madras Talkies is home for me, and branding wise, there are both advantages and disadvantages of being associated with the banner. We shot the film in my house, with a lot of DIY equipment, crowdsourced costumes (Shruthi Manjari), and it would have been appreciated more if it was released on my personal channel. With Madras Talkies, the expectations are more. But more than anything, it is a matter of pride that the Madras Talkies logo is there in my debut film." So what did Mani Ratnam, a man of few words, say after watching the film, "Mani Ratnam was most happy and welcome to allow me to use teh platform. This wasn't something they have done before."
One of the striking features of Bloom is its technical finesse, and Richard admits that people pointing it out as a positive was something he didn't expect to happen. "Niketh Bommi (cinematographer) and I were specific that our film doesn't look claustrophobic like many other lockdown films. We used the anamorphic Kowa lenses to make sure even the closeups are wide. Since the film had a lot of montages, we were particular about not repeating even a single shot in the film despite shooting in just two or three spaces. I just wanted to make the film palatable, and the appreciation is a bonus," says Richard, adding how the music of Hari Madras Rengarajan, who reluctantly agreed to score for a film, fit organically into Bloom. "The music was composed while I was doing the writing of the film. I used to send the finished scenes for him to score the music, and then at times, I even tweaked the writing to fit in the score. Even if it isn't the conventional way of doing things, there was a comfort and luxury that I know I might not get in films."
With overwhelmingly positive responses, and 56k views and counting, what's next for Richard Anthony? "I am very aware of the pandemic and the way cinema is right now, so I am writing something that can easily be mounted and not a big scale film," signs off Richard.