A Few Good Men… Cyrus F. Dastur

A statistical data presented by Google states that the increase in the consumption of short films among the masses, is in tandem with the growth of ‘Shamiana’ – the leading short-film club in Asia. This week as ‘Shamiana’ celebrates its 8th anniversary, Parsi Times Special Correspondent, Delaveen Tarapore chats with its versatile founder, Cyrus F. Dastur who highlights his love for short films and shares his inspiring and dynamic journey comprising his travels, academic stints at various world-renowned campuses and his new venture.

“According to the Indian Censor Board, any film which is below 72 minutes is classified as a short film”, says Cyrus while

A still from Cyrus’ Bollywood debut as producer, ‘Sweetie Desai Weds NRI’, from his Production House, Grand Motion Pictures, starring Zoya Afroz and Himansh Kohli.
A still from Cyrus’ Bollywood debut as producer, ‘Sweetie Desai Weds NRI’, from his Production House, Grand Motion Pictures, starring Zoya Afroz and Himansh Kohli.

sipping his cup of green tea, seated across the table at the PT office. Initiated on the 7th of June, 2008, Shamiana was instituted with the main aim of connecting short-film makers and short-film enthusiasts. “In 2000, we were a group of youngsters who wanted to start something different and so we thought of collaborating with various brands and started screening short films. However, in 2008, I felt the need to create my own individual identity and thus, ‘Shamiana’ came into existence”, says Cyrus adding that the name comes from a famous ‘coffee shop’ brand at the Taj Mahal Hotel in South Bombay, as he used to frequent it through his childhood.

But why ‘short’ films? Cyrus instantly responds, “Today, people’s attention span is constantly reducing. It’s impossible to hold their interest in any particular topic for long. To top it, Indians abide by a tight schedule with little or no free time. Thus, short films enable you to make the most of your ten or fifteen minutes leisure and watch a complete movie!”

An ongoing Shamiana Screening
An ongoing Shamiana Screening

Shamiana is Asia’s largest short-film club with a current presence in over 25 cities and 200 campuses, the world over! Shamiana has created a market for short-films by hosting over 3,000 screenings all over the world, including countries like Melbourne, Sydney, Singapore, Hong-Kong and London. In India, the outreach has been solid too with numerous cities under its belt, including Goa, Pune, Baroda, Guwahati, Nagaland, Ladakh, Bhopal, Pondicherry, Dui, Daman and all metro cities. The Club’s core team consists of ten people who personally curate films for screenings.

“We have received shorts from every corner of the world, including Somalia, Israel, Iceland, Antarctica, Baluchistan and even the deserts of Africa, in addition to the first world countries. We have screened films of nearly every genre – romance, sports, thrillers, action, horror, sci-fci, animation and student-based, in almost fifty different languages!” Cyrus informs.

“Short films help build brand image to a great extent. Shamiana has previously collaborated with brands like SBI, Tata Docomo, Micromax, Cleartrip.com, JSW Steel, Lennovo and is currently working with Yes Bank, Taj Group of Hotels and Truly Madly Deeply, to name a few. Our aim is to design campaigns for brands to achieve their short and medium term goals. We are also closely associated with some of the biggest campuses across the country”, he adds. Shamiana plays a key role in imparting value-based education in campuses like the prestigious IIM Ahmedabad, IIT Bombay and Delhi, Symbiosis, Amity University, MIT, St. Andrews and even Google (USA). Cyrus was recently invited to a campus in Panipat, Haryana, where he interacted with over two thousand students, speaking on the importance and making of short-films, data-mapping, and other aspects.

Cyrus addressing the Google team at the Google Campus about ‘The Rise Of Short Films in India’
Cyrus addressing the Google team at the Google Campus about ‘The Rise Of Short Films in India’

A commerce graduate with an LLB degree from Government Law College and an LLM degree in criminal law from Mumbai University, Cyrus is extremely fond of travelling. “I travelled extensively as a child which is where I get my additional insights into various places, people, cultures and dialects. I enjoy swimming and reading,” he says. So, what ignited the love for shorts and urged him to start a short film club? “Honestly, I did not get up one fine morning and decide to start ‘Shamiana’. It was a continuous process, a flow that made me think of catering something specific to the ‘movie loving janta’, who suffer from attention disorders”, he jokes, adding, “I was ordained to do this!”

Humility strikes when asked what were his greater achievements, but we are able to pull out an answer, “Numerous universities have decorated me with awards. I’m grateful to newspapers for tagging me as ‘The Godfather or Sultan of Short Films’! From the statistics that I owned, I knew that the percentage of people inclined towards audio-visual content is at an all-time high and my greatest reward is in witnessing shorts becoming more accessible to the common masses through Shamiana”.

But Cyrus had additional feathers on his cap beyond being an entrepreneur, short film producer and educationist! He has moved into main stream cinema in partnership with two friends and has launched his own production house- ‘Grand Motion Pictures’, which will make its Bollywood debut with the film, ‘Sweetie Desai Weds NRI’. “A romantic comedy, starring Zoya Afroz and Himansh Kohli, the film includes songs from top B-town singers, like Arijit Singh and Palak Muchhal and is now in its final stage of production. The film also has three Parsis: Farzil Pardiwala, Shreyas Porus Pardiwala and Adi Irani and is due to release by the year-end. I truly wish people will like it”, hopes Cyrus.

On a concluding note, Cyrus assures, “Shamiana is closest to my heart and thus, it will get all the time it demands. My short film club will always be my priority!”

4 million followers offline
3 lakh online followers
3,000 screenings all over the world
200 campuses reached globally
25 cities pan-India

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