The Betrayal – a short film directed by Ashna Sharan – was this year’s official entry to the BraveMaker Film Fest, which ends on the evening of July 10. The 8-minute feature can be viewed online during the festival: https://bravemaker.in.live/show/details/zUCQnjIWO9.
Based on the much-debated issues of fidelity and faith, The Betrayal is a story of uncomfortable truths and shocking revelations. Shot on the actors’ phones, the film is a commentary on patriarchy, class and caste conflict, gender bias, moral dilemmas and, most importantly, the facade of marital bliss.
The story of The treason takes place through a Zoom call between two sisters – Ashima (played by Aishveryaa Nidhi) and Reena (tried by Rashmi Rustagi). Ashima is seen playing with her dupatta, obviously hiding something from Reena, while the latter is busy with last-minute Diwali preparations. The juxtaposition in the sisters’ expressions is brought out with great precision.
Eventually, Ashima fails to keep the secret she’s been keeping for years and turns a page from the past. This is Reena’s husband. He has a son by another woman and that other woman happens to be a maid, who is no longer alive to tell her story. What follows is an explosion of denial and resentment. The future of the son of a housekeeper is uncertain. Who will the audience choose to castigate – the woman from the marginalized strata of society, or that man in a higher social position who abandoned her?
In an exclusive interview with India Currents, director Ashna Sharan and the main cast shared their experience of making The Betrayal with a pandemic brewing in the backyard and humans struggling to come to terms with a locked down existence. .
New wave of short films
Sharan, whose award-winning virtual web series That Quarantine Life received critical acclaim, said: “The pandemic has given people in the film industry more time to be creative. Those who weren’t filmmakers before have become filmmakers. The actors used their phones to record their own movies or stories while in quarantine. As the film industry was on hold, people around the world were waiting for new content, and it didn’t matter if it wasn’t shot in Hollywood or Bollywood.
So, is it safe to conclude that short films could be the mainstay in the age of streaming platforms? Sharan says yes. “Totally! When you only have a few minutes to tell a story, it’s more difficult because you don’t have the luxury of page length like in a feature film. Also, short films can be used as proof of concept or as a way for producers and studios to find new talent.
The revealing Zoom call
Sharan was making a short film in Hindi for the first time, and needless to say, there were a few hurdles. “The fact that the two actors were not in the same room was a challenge. The whole movie happened on a Zoom call. When I was approached by Rashmi to make this (movie) virtually, I jumped at the chance. We did everything online – from finding work on the script to rehearsals and filming. Rashmi and Aishveryaa used their iPhones to record their home scenes from different angles.
Asked about the genesis of The Betrayal, Rashmi Rustagi (also the producer) reveals, “As a storyteller, I had written and produced a short film called Unborn in November 2019. Encouraged by its success, I continued to write. The idea for The Betrayal came to me one day while talking to a friend whose cousin had a similar experience to my character Reena in the film. It was a challenge to write a short film since I was going to shoot it at home.
Can betrayal be forgiven?
When asked if the scenario would have changed significantly if the tables had been turned and if the husband had been the victim of a secret kept by his wife for years, Rustagi replied: “The husband would have felt also betrayed. In short, we don’t know what Reena does after she hangs up. However, in my full script, I know what Reena is doing. I think the husband would probably leave the wife.
Can the act of betrayal be forgiven? Aishveryaa Nidhi, who plays Ashima and is also the film’s co-producer, says, “Being betrayed is corrosive to trust. It is difficult to forgive this kind of offense because it changes the perspective of seeing things. But in certain circumstances where the intentions are noble, betrayal can save relationships. In this film, Ashima did not betray his sister; the purpose of hiding the secret was to save his sister’s marriage and the family bond.
BraveMaker Film Festival
Due to the coronavirus epidemic, has the traditional way of making and experiencing cinema changed for the better? Nidhi replies, “Everything comes with its pros and cons. Filmmaking is the result of teamwork and extensive processes. However, during the pandemic, we had to shoot from the confines of our homes, taking every precaution while the director gave instructions over Zoom. I was excited when Rashmi sent the script and asked me if I wanted to co-produce the film. I immediately said ‘Yes’. It was a different experience that our team will cherish for a long time.
The BraveMaker Film Fest took place July 7-10 in Redwood City, CA. True to its name, the aim of this film festival is to encourage conversations and discussions around these films considered to be bold, quirky, courageous and experimental. The four days of the cultural festival took place in a variety of film screenings of all genres, interesting seminars and workshops. Diversity and intersectionality are the foundation of any cinematic experience. In that spirit, filmmakers from all over showcased their impactful creations.
Title: The treason
Director: Ashna Sharan
Producer(s): Mahadevi Productions and Dream Merchants Movies
Writer: Rashmi Rustagi
Cast: Aishveryaa Nidhi, Rashmi Rustagi, Rajeev Khattar
Editor: Heather Hillstrom
Language: Hindi (with English subtitles)