Ursula Manvatkar has made many award-winning short films.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
UAE-based filmmaker Ursula Manvatkar — she is not just producer, but writer, director and actor as well — and blessed with an expertise in casting and production, has created numerous award winning short films.
She recently shifted her focus to directing too. Her latest offering is psycho-horror flick ‘The Last Chance’. Born in India and brought up in the UAE, a social worker by passion and a filmmaker by choice, she left a lucrative corporate career to pursue filmmaking. She now owns a production company that offers budget-friendly film making services to clients. Manvatkar in “Action!” as Gulf Today rolls the questions
Why did you name the film ‘The Last Chance’?
The film ending sums up the reason for the title. Sometimes we have to act in life after thinking carefully. What if this is the last chance we have, we could be asking ourselves. I have a social message in the story line of this film (though I cannot divulge the ending). You’ll have to watch it to understand the message.
How different is ‘The Last Chance’ from your other movies?
‘The Last Chance’ is my first unplanned guerilla film. I did not have the full story when I started filming - I worked backwards and the film developed along the way. It is my longest project till date. My other projects have been pre-planned and were mostly of a much shorter duration, with less gruelling shooting schedules.
You shoot films in the UAE. Tell us something about the approval process.
The approval process is very straightforward for films. Depending on which emirate one needs to film in, the script has to be submitted online to either the National Media Council or Dubai Film and TV Commission.
Once it is approved, you may proceed with applying for the permits after specifying dates and locations. The whole process could take anywhere between two weeks to 45 days, depending on the project. The filming permits can only be applied via a registered production company in the UAE, while the script can be submitted for approval even by individuals.
Do you write your own scripts? Doesn’t a good scriptwriter need to be a good litterateur too?
I tend to write my own concepts and screenplays. But I would say I have yet a lot to learn in the art of screenwriting! In my opinion, one has to have a genuine interest in as well as some foundation in literature, if not being a good litterateur themselves. The ability to communicate one’s thoughts in creative writing is indeed an art - and that can only come with enough exposure to literary works.
You look for fresh faces in your movies. What are the qualities one must have to be part of your cast?
The first quality I look for is the cast should match the character as much as possible - either in real life or the ease he or she has in getting into the role of the specific character. This saves me a lot of time on the sets.
I personally prefer capturing spontaneous performances and the actor’s version of the character, rather than heavy rehearsals and practicing lines. The next quality I like is genuine curiosity - when actors ask me questions about the film and the characters they play. This shows a lot about their dedication to the project. And lastly, I like cast who is always ready to take ownership and promote the project as much as possible themselves, and not just leave it to the producer to do so.
What is the storyline of ‘Pichkari’, your Indian language film? What does the word mean?
‘Pichkari’ is a romantic comedy film in the Marathi language of India. It is the story of six friends - Gullu, Rakya, Arya, Mahya, Manya and Gafur - narrated from Gullu’s perspective. The film shows how these financially struggling, single boys, get into pursuing romantic relationships with much older women just to get rid of their poverty. They strongly believe that these older women are financially stable and can give them some relief from the day to day struggles of their lives. However, they soon realise that these kind of arrangements may land them in a soup - possibly many of them! ‘Pichkari’ simply means ‘spray or shower’. It is also a plastic device used by people to play with coloured water during the Hindu festival of Holi. The term in this film refers to the colour and joy the characters seek from their romantic ventures with much older women.
Do you work on many projects at the same time or do you take them one by one?
I work on many projects at the same time. Screenplay development takes a long time; hence it is wiser to work on many of them together and then see which ones fetch better interest and investment to be turned into films at the earliest.
Don’t movies lose their zing if they are shown on OTT platforms than in a multiplex?
I do not believe so. For me, the zing factor is in the sound and visual quality. In fact, I clearly recall watching a popular movie recently in cinemas as well as on OTT. I felt the OTT quality was way better and provided a better viewing experience. A lot of people have big screen TVs and watching films on OTT is definitely comparable, if not greater, than watching it in a cinema house.
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