The film has been co-written by Kochi-based Sarat, who tells TNM that it was inspired by three incidents of moral policing in the country.

Watch Banoffee Pie an award-winning short film on moral policing
Flix Cinema Monday, September 02, 2019 - 17:11

‘Live and let live’ - if you had to summarise the 14-minute short film Banoffee Pie, this proverb would describe most of it. The award winning Hindi-English short film, set in a Mumbai cafe, attempts to drive home this message and a whole lot more. At the core of the story is the decadent dessert banoffee pie - which becomes a powerful symbol for attachment. 

“Attachment in any form, be it food, religion or culture, and especially it’s imposition on other people is dangerous. I wanted to drive home this point,” says Kochi-based Sarat Prakash, who co-wrote the script that got selected at the Dadasaheb Phalke short film festival among others. The film was released on YouTube in August.

Although Banoffee Pie is essentially focused on moral policing and the so called ‘culture warriors’, the film does not invest a significant mount of time showing the violence and harassment. In fact, most of the screen time goes to the lead couple who discuss a host of issues, starting from the pie to the Bhagavad Gita, which adds to the layer of complexity seen in the story. 

“While we haven’t spoken about what is right and what is wrong, we wanted to get people to think. All those people claiming to ‘know Indian culture’, do they really know it? I believe that there is a need to re-think and revalue everything we have learnt and to act based on this understanding,” Sarat adds. A particular dialogue mouthed by the female lead - Ananya - in the film, goes "India can wait". This, the screenwriter says, is a jibe at the prime time frenzy seen today. 

“If you look at the debate culture in today’s prime time television, nobody wants to learn anything or understand what the other person is saying. Everyone is prepared to argue, fight and defend their voices. It’s like you’re debating to be the loudest and not for exchange of ideas, and this in intolerance,” he adds. 

The film was originally intended to be in English and Malayalam and set in a cafe in Kochi. However, when Sarat’s friend Karan liked the script and came on board the project, things changed a bit. 

“We decided to change to English and Hindi so there is a pan-Indian appeal to the film,” Sarat says. 

The inspiration, Sarat says, was mostly from three moral policing incidents - the 2013 attack on a Kozhikode bakery, the 2009 New Year’s eve attack in a Mangaluru pub and another in Kochi’s Marine Drive in 2017. This was placed within the context of the the cafe culture, where friends and acquaintances discuss a host of issues - from big to small. 

“The film is titled Banoffee Pie because I wanted it to be about my favourite dish from French Toast cafe in Panampilly Nagar,” says Sarat who also plays the lead actor Gaurav in the film. The 14-minute video is directed by Bollywood cinematographer Inderjit Bansal and produced by his son Karan, who co-wrote the script with Sarat, his friend. The entire film was shot in a cafe in Mumbai over 11 hours, for want of time. 

“We began by 12 midnight and wrapped up by 10:55 am, as the cafe wanted us to be done by then” Sarat says. 

Apart from Sarat, the film stars Tithi Raaj , who plays Ananya. 

While this is Sarat’s debut as a screenwriter, he says that it is an interesting process and much harder than just acting. “I first read the screenplay of the racing movie Rush which really excited me. After this, I started reading up about screenplay writing and decided to give a shot at scripting a short film,” he tells TNM. 

Sarat was a child artist who played Mammootty’s son in the 1995 film Number 1 Snehatheeram Bangalore North and he has also acted with Mohanlal in the film The Prince. Now working in advertising, he is also trying to get back into movies as an actor. 

Banoffee Pie is the debut project of both Sarat and Karan and much to their surprise, the film has gone on to win 13 awards at a lot of short film festivals, including the ones in Miami and San Francisco. The awards range from Best Short Film to Best Director, Best Cinematographer, Best Actor and Best Drama. 

Watch the film here: 

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