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Meet Shivashish Ahuja

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shivashish Ahuja.

Shivashish, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I was born and raised in a small city in Kota (Rajasthan, India) which is a production house known for making some of the finest Engineers and Doctors in India. Moving beyond the pool of these most athletic minds, and choosing a career in filmmaking was a risky choice. I will always be thankful to my family specially my brother, who strongly believed in my abilities despite being an engineer himself. I still remember the day when my father told me that you should only do what your heart tells you too. I think that was the time when I decided to walk the whole nine yards to make my family proud.

When I look back today, my journey actually started as a dancer back in my school days. Not that I was not serious about my studies but bunking the classes to take two hours of dancing sessions was a thrill in itself. I still miss how I use to choreograph several shows and won a couple of competitions back then. After school, I moved to Mumbai (Bollywood capital of India) to pursue my undergrad and learn more about filmmaking. Like many, I came alone to this city of Dreams but have made some of the most meaningful relationships there.

Amidst all the healthy competition, I started my journey as a photographer, to get my foot in the industry. But soon I realized capturing static frames was not something that I wanted to be defined by. So, I started working as a BTS videographer. I used to capture behind the scenes videos, edit them and hand them back in one piece.

I believe moving images (videos) is one of the best ways to reach out to people from all walks of life. A filmmaker has to wear multiple hats at a time, for example, an intense reader would gather most of his/her information from reading books, a stalk broker will do so from studying stocks, the marketing agency will get his hands dirty and study the market whereas a doctor will study and practice. But when it comes to a filmmaker, he has to do it all, along with adding the elements of emotion, drama, conflict, thrill, intrigue, suspense, etc. while maintaining the authenticity of the source.

I always feel that books, newspapers and other sources of knowledge are limited to people considering their access and abilities. But movies, short film or a simple video has a larger reach along with the convenience of understanding. Now would you rather invest all your time doing research or just be with me for a couple of minutes to get all the information and get entertained at the same time?

Once I finished my Undergrad, it was time to get global exposure and polish my skills to nurture into a confident professional. I couldn’t wait any longer and flew to the United States and joined the New York Film Academy where I am currently exploring the fields of Direction and Cinematography.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
India is culturally rich but conservative with regards to a few things like career choices. The socio-economic landscape considers engineering and medical as more reliable options from a career perspective and anything beyond this seeks validation!

It takes time to make a good image for any creative profession because the horizon of a safe and secure life is very limited. People usually tend to choose socially validated routes than experimental journeys. I might not be the only one but I aim to set a good example for all those willing to break a leg in different domains.

Another challenge that most of us face is financial assistance. I still can picture my family in the loan company’s office negotiating the terms and conditions for my student loan two years back. It challenges you but a bigger return needs a big investment! And that’s was how I started my journey for the United States.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
For the most part, I have worked and explored Freelancing. So far, I have directed two short films (“Let me finish” and “FaceOff” – Not available online because currently in the festival circuit) and have been the Director of Photography of two full-length documentaries along with a bunch of short narratives. I have worked with companies like Nike, Indiabulls, Aniruddh Photo Company and Supari Studios to name a few.

My journey in Los Angeles has me conversant in the fields of Direction and Cinematography.

The Direction keeps me in the story world where I start to live and feel like the characters. Whereas Cinematography allows me to induce the technical aspects to elevate the storytelling process. One of the crucial aspects of Direction to me is to keep asking why for every decision I make. Why would an actor behave like this in these circumstances? Why is it a wide shot and not a close-up? Why do we have this prop in the background, how does it contribute to the situation? Why is editing so crisp and not allowing the moment to breathe a little longer? And the list never ends.

A lot of my why’s are solved with my knowledge of Cinematography and colour. When I work with any Director, I try my best to get into their head to understand the depth and reason behind every aspect of the story. Why is it written this way? What is the larger meaning behind this scene and how can I do justice with the camera.

Filmmaking is a collaborative effort and I try to coalesce learning from both the worlds to tell my stories my way. But it’s dangerous to wear both the hats together for the same project!

As far as the proud factor is concerned, I would say that the cake is still baking. I am yet to explore a lot more while keeping my feet on the ground, especially in this field where learning is endless. All I can say is that I am ready to juggle with my first love of Cinematography and newly discovered love of Direction. One thing which I don’t want to miss is to talk about my recent project O2 which I have been developing for half a year now.

It is a futuristic Sci-fi drama where society has fallen victim to extreme climate changes and oxygen has become the world’s dominant currency. It narrates the journey of a couple Orco and Somy who have decided to give birth to their unborn child in a world where giving birth has been outlawed. I am extremely excited to execute this short film with all my precision towards making it into a feature film. I even have my crowdfunding campaign launching soon for the same.

Instagram link – https://www.instagram.com/o2_shortfilm/

As far as my personality is concerned, I am a weird combination of fun and discipline. You will see me giggling and dancing but when it comes to my work, I am a different human being altogether. Ambition requires discipline to thrive but at the same time, you should not miss out on the naive little child within you.

What’s your favourite memory from childhood?
This is going to be a tough choice. As a teenager, I was known for two things dance and studies. So one of the best memories which I distinctly remember is the Inter-house dance competition. Back in my school days, students were divided into four groups, Ruby, Diamond, Emerald and Pearl and I was the vice-captain of Diamond then. This dance competition was my first chance to showcase something new, without any specific creative restraints.

I choreographed a dance fusion of popping and robotics for the competition and to my amazement, our house secured the highest audience votes hands-down.

Among one of the recent memories, I got a chance to shoot the Cabinet Minister for my documentary. It was an extremely proud moment to sit in his office and interview him. So far, that has been one of the most efficient and tireless crew, I have been part of.

I look forward to creating more memories like these.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Faceoff Stills – Cinematography by Mayur Patankar
Black and White stills – Cinematography by Shivashish Ahuja
Behind the scene portrait photograph – Leeni Linna

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1 Comment

  1. Shubham Gosalia

    April 25, 2020 at 05:17

    It’s amazing to see one of us get such amazing recognition!!

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