June 22, 2017

Naveen Padmanabha's 'Amateurs' was one of 50 selections at the 63rd International Short Film Festival at Oberhausen, Germany, International Competition Section.

'Amateurs', a short film by Bengaluru-based filmmakerNaveen Padmanabha, explores the subject of amateur radio. One would assume that in a hyper-connected world, amateur radio would be an outdated technology. Yet, over a million people around the world remain active Ham Radio operators. Indians have been amateur radio operators as far back as 1920. Currently, there are more than 20,000 HAMs (as amateur radio operators are known) in the country. From Sonia Gandhi,Amitabh Bachchan and Kamal Haasan, hams span all sections of society.

Perhaps it's this very anomaly that caught the attention of the selection committee of the 63rd International Short Film Festival at Oberhausen, Germany, which chose 'Amateurs' for the international competition section, included in the top 50 of over 7000 entries.

 A still from 'Amateurs', a short film about Ham Radio.

"I was working on the idea of entropy in communication and information theory. It's the concept of loss of communication when we transfer, translate or transmit, through languages, conversation, and simple devices like ham radio, and how we quantify this loss," says Padmanabha. He adapted these ideas into an 11-minute film in English, upon an invitation from Film and Television Institute of IndiaGoethe-Institut Max Mueller Bhavan, Bengaluru, sponsored his travel to the festival, where 'Amateurs' had the  honour of being introduced by eminent film critic Olaf Moller

In a still from 'Amateurs' a young man in an urban Pune 'chawl' tunes in to connect with other ham radio operators.

Padmanabha's selection is a good sign for independent filmmakers in Bengaluru, who have often been overshadowed by Bollywood and mainstream Kannada cinema. The recent successes of Bengaluru based independent auteurs Pawan Kumar ( 'lucia' and 'U-Turn') and Raam Reddy ('Thithi') have opened up some doors for filmmakers in Karnataka to look at independent cinema as a viable option. 'lucia' was on the shortlist for India's submission to the Academy Awards in 2013. 'Thithi' premiered at the 68th locarno International Film Festival in 2015 and won the prestigious Golden leopard in the 'Filmmakers of the Present' category as well as the First Feature award. These are full length feature films in Kannada with English subtitles.

Pawan Kumar's lucia from 2013 paved the way for independent filmmaking in Bengaluru. Image Source

Padmanabha acknowledges that these films have pushed other filmmakers, including himself, into action. One way to take independent films forward is to plunge into making films, without worrying about getting a budget together, he says. "Now, we can make films on our phones. They need not be just narrative films. People should make all sorts of films from where they are - short or experimental. It should become a habit and then a new kind of film will emerge," he says.

Padmanabha has two projects in the pipeline; one explores the concept of time, and the other, the idea of family names and its role in shaping lives.