Do you feel like you need to go to an over-priced film school (with one less kidney) to make a great film? “Everything is film school,” says Pranav Bhasin, two-time MAMI Award winner and director & co-writer of TVF’s The Insiders.
Recap: April of 2019 I came across this trailer on The Viral Fever’s YouTube channel for a tongue in cheek, coming of age web show called The Insiders. Like all shows by TVF, this was one I had to binge-watch. And on the night of its release, I sat down to watch the show and I ended up watching it opening credits to end credits…twice. This was unprecedented. Never had I ever liked a show so much that I watched the show twice in succession, that too after trading on dear sleep.
Since that fateful night, I’ve watched the show at least 20 times. And I still manage to find something after every single screening. It is hands down my favourite show of all time.
After watching it for the 21st time, I reckoned I should do my bit of research. My research led me to the director, a young man in his twenties, named Pranav Bhasin. Pranav has made short films for the International circuit including ‘Wolf of Chawl Street’ and ‘New Year’s Eve’ that also won the shorts competition at MAMI. In 2018, he directed the short film ‘Kanika’ for Girlyapa. He has also been directing narrative music videos for Indie Bands since 2017. And to top it all off, he played the iconic character of Dungeon Master in TVF’s cult classic web series called ‘Pitchers’ (Correction: Dungeon_Master; don’t forget the underscore).
I just had to talk to the man behind my favourite web series. I did my bit of snooping around and managed to get in touch with Pranav. And boy was I fanboying.
The Man Behind the Movies
Pranav introduced himself, “I’m Pranav, I was born in Delhi, I moved to Mumbai with my parents and brother when I was three. I enjoy making films more than I enjoy watching them. I’m picky and have been very fortunate. My filmography is a little all over the place, I tried putting it on my website and had a headache.”
On being asked about his story, the quirky young film-maker said, “It’s not a story yet, it doesn’t have a second and third act, but- I started making short films with friends back in 2012.” He continued, “We made a 7-episode web show with colony friends right after my boards were done. Everyone was in school. I learned to edit, use the camera, make something out of nothing. Found great collaborators. We named the YouTube channel ‘DLP’ which had no meaning, I was 15 I didn’t think we’d need meaning to life.”
Narrating his journey to becoming a film-maker, he said, “I tried college, dropped out twice because the people who taught me didn’t interest me or themselves in education. Instead, I made short films, commissioned and non-commissioned sketches, music videos, and then began directing commercials. Everything is film school.”
“Honest and kind people have the toughest time. They inspire me. My friends and family are everything. I watch more short films than features, none of them Indian unfortunately. I try to catch up on Indian content but the scene has been uninspiring for the past few years after the Digital boom. That’ll change for good,” said Bhasin about what inspires him.
Pranav’s Advice for Aspiring Film-Makers
Instead of searching for advice outside, try listening to the people you’re ignoring, and possibly to yourself. Nobody cares about you till you do. Don’t be an asshole
An Insider’s View/ The First Act
Like everyone else on the outside, I wanted to know more about how any web show comes to life. How is a showed picked up and how it is made. Pranav explained, “In 2014, we (DLP) met with TVF at their office out of mutual admiration. They mentioned they were beginning to work on web-shows and explained the ideas they had. Mentioned that they’d possibly like us to act in something. In 2015, they shot Pitchers and a bunch of us acted in the hostel sequences.”
He continued the story, “They said they’d like us to do a web show, we went home and tried to come up with concepts. Bisso (Biswapati Sarkar) and Golu (Amit Golani) guided us on how to think about shows, what to watch, what screenplay format was.”
After a few rejections, the final had an idea that was approved. It was a simple idea of kids being put into a room to get along, while their parents have their weekly gathering outside. Hence, the name ‘The Insiders’. Which incidentally used to happen to Pranav when he was younger.
“We wrote the show in 2015, and shot it in 2016. Edited for a year. The show got canned in 2017 or so after TVF had issues finding a brand, which was tough for all of us. It eventually released in 2019.”
The Second Act
India as an audience is often criticized for not being very mature. There are not a lot of takers for shows as meta and nuanced as The Insiders. I wanted to know if Pranav felt angst putting the show out. He said, “We loved what we were doing, took feedback. So we weren’t worried. I think we did get worried eventually after the show was complete. I realised most people wouldn’t enjoy a show like The Insiders, it’s made for a specific bunch. I constantly hope the show is finding them.”
The other writers on the show Ibad, Seloni and Saarth preferred the earlier episodes over the latter. Pranav prefers the latter ones. Talking about his favourite episode, the award-winning director said, “I love the whole crowd sequence in episode four. No spoilers.” He goofily, added to that, saying, “Yes, spoilers—it’s a crowd from the village that has taken over the living room- and the Insiders need to make sure the villagers don’t slip into the bedroom. They may need to let some of the new people join their club. Interviews are to be held.”
As a fan of the first season of the show, I wanted to know if there’s another one in the pipeline. To my dismay, as of now, there isn’t. He responded exclaiming, “Oh, I wish.” He furthered the same saying, “We’d need numbers to get investment. Saarth, Seloni, Ibad, the cast and all the DLP crew is game, but I don’t think this kind of show would really interest TVF much anymore.”
Pranav On Easter Eggs in The Show
The show has more Easter eggs than plot. The MTV—Bakra joke is a dense absurd joke that plays out in the fourth episode. It’s cool if anyone picks up on it.
Changing the World
Another impressive moving picture by Pranav is one called Kanika, which is on a YouTube channel called Girlyapa and features Nidhi Bisht. It retains his signature layered writing style. It’s one of those movies that makes you think. It makes you think about the movie, yourself, everything around you.
This is what Pranav had to say about the ideation process of Kanika, “I wrote an idea on my phone-notes and read it out a few times- my friends didn’t get it initially- which is a good sign, so I kept refining it for a few months. The surprise was the first thing that came, the words forming the illusion kept changing. Eventually, I started loving it.”
“Ayush, the cinematographer got it. Saarth got it. Nidhi Bisht got it. Girlyapa was looking for something to produce. And so we did it,” he said, explaining how the project came to life.
MAMI & More
Another feather to Pranav’s filmography is that he’s already won two MAMI Awards. One for a tongue-in-cheek mockumentary called ‘Wolf of Chawl Street’ (his friends were also caught by the police whilst shooting) and another one which is a light-hearted take on the tribulations of a teenager on New Year’s Eve, called ‘New Year’s Eve’.
“It was surprising! I’ve won at MAMI twice- both the times I didn’t anticipate the win, so I wore a lousy t-shirt and jeans to the event. I was underdressed AF on stage- everyone wears suits at these things,” said the young MAMI winner about his experience with winning at the prestigious award.
What he found really enjoyable was the closing ceremony where he got to meet Darren Aronofsky, Jim Sarbh and Amit Masurkar. He added hopefully, that he aims to take a feature film to the festival soon.
Pranav’s Mockumentary Pick
Exit Through the Gift Shop
The Third Act?
As a fan, I’m saddened to learn that there might not be another season of The Insiders. But the silver lining is that it leaves a genius film-maker like Pranav with a world full of opportunities. And so I’m sure there’s a lot more to come. Some mind-bending movies like Kanika, some more mockumentaries like The Wolf of Chawl Street, hopefully a MAMI winning feature film soon and maybe, more shows that inspire admirers like me to reach out to him wanting to learn more about the man behind the movies.
Pranav said it best, his movie doesn’t have a third act yet. It’s in the making. And I know it’s going to be one worth remembering. Cueing screening number 22 in 3, 2, 1…
About the 21 series:
On the 24th of March 2020, the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi announced a nation-wide lock-down for 21 days to fight the pandemic that is the Coronavirus. Citizens mustn’t leave their homes unless absolutely essential. This series aims to bring to the readers 21 positive stories through this lock-down. Something to inspire them to keep at it and come back out of this horrific tragedy stronger.
If you have an inspiring story or know someone whose story the world must know, get in touch with me at email@example.com