Two brothers, who grew up in Dubai and have no formal degree in filmmaking, directing or acting, has rustled up a compelling short thriller film that has become the toast of film festivals around the globe.
This is not a script of a Bollywood potboiler, but the tale of two siblings who studied in Delhi Private School in Dubai – with one even heading to the United States to study engineering – who chose to take a plunge into the world of films – without a safety net. But former Engineer Shihan and Ishan Shoukath’s gamble seems to have paid off.
‘Deadline’, their ten-minute thriller and their labour of love, is making all the right noises among discerning festival jury members and will premiere at the inaugural Metafilm festival on October 27 at the Vox Cinemas at noon.
Their movie has also been chosen to screen at the Cannes World Film Festival in June 2023. Their film is also one of the eleven films nominated at the UNOFEX Swiss Film Festival out of 254 entries.
“We are just so thrilled! ‘Deadline’ is a short film that we shot in Dubai in just one night at a little studio … We didn’t really expect anything much out of it when we made it, but it got picked up at various film festivals in London, Paris, Milan, India, and the UAE,” said Shihan, who directed the film, in an interview with Gulf News.
Both brothers are in their early twenties and are learning the ropes of filmmaking as they go along. They dipped their toes into acting and directing first by uploading short videos on their Instagram accounts and its popularity emboldened them to make a full-fledged short film and submit to various film festivals.
“I did my Engineering in the US and my brother Ishan on finishing college wanted to be an actor … So we saw this great opportunity to actually make something great together. The film is centred around Ishan’s character and explores some very interesting themes like stress at work place, grief, and trauma,” said Shihan.
‘Deadline’ revolves around a young man (Ishan) who works at an 811 grief counselling call centre. Ishaan plays this tired and disillusioned young man who loves and hates the nature of his job that has distressed callers seeking closure. On a daily basis, he’s confronted with a sobering reminder of death and all those loved ones who struggle to make sense of the tragedy that has struck their lives. They call his helpline and he's tasked with fielding calls from callers who are depressed, sad, or confused.
“I had to bring alive the stress and the PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] attached to such jobs in a convincing manner … He constantly hears bad news … It’s similar to a call centre work in a hospital or police helpline,” said Ishan.
In the screener, accessed by Gulf News, actor Ishan does a neat job of playing a young man who’s triggered by the troubled calls. Like most employees working in a call centre, he’s frustrated but powers on. There’s an unexpected twist towards the end that makes Shihan’s directorial intriguing.
“We are still submitting our film to a number of film festivals, so we can’t publish it online yet, but we intend to … Getting the Best Director for short film and best acting debut at various festivals have really boosted our confidence ... And tomorrow, to know that our short film will be screened at Vox Cinemas, a theatre that we had earlier seen other films on the big screen is very exciting,” said Shihan.
Shihan, the director, is older than his brother. So were there any sibling squabbles as they worked together for the short film?
“Shihan is five years older than me and he was always the bigger brother since childhood. We had our fair share of exhausting fights and comprises back then … But as adults, we both love films and enjoyed every bit of bringing ‘Deadline’ to life … We didn’t step on each other’s toes either. Our roles were defined,” said Ishan.
And both believe that this is just the beginning for them.
“Filmmaking is something we picked up on our own … In fact our parents, who run a production company, had no clue that we were doing this film together … This is just the beginning. Our dream is to launch a production company where we bring all creators of all fields together. We hope to create a world where there’s no set hierarchy,” said Shihan.
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‘Deadline’ screens at Vox Cinemas, Nakheel Mall, at noon on October 27, as a part of Metafilm Festival line-up