An ode to the bittersweet memories and conflicting emotions that graced our childhood, comes in form of a fresh film for Shashwat Bulusu’s 2019 single, ‘Sunset By The Vembanad’. Directed by Hucko founder, Boyer Debbarma, the film showcases a young skateboarder in his element, shredding and kick-flipping every setting from city-streets to hilly slopes. Shot against the picturesque backdrop of Tripura forests, Shillong hills, and Guwahati city, the film is an aesthetic conjunction of music, skateboarding, adventure and art.
About Shashwat Bulusu
A guitar-centric singer-songwriter based out of Baroda, Gujarat, Shashwat Bulusu has been redefining the conventional perception of folk-pop and lo-fi music with his raspy vocals and rugged melodies. Undaunted when it comes to experimenting with chords, melody, or lyrical composition, Shashwat’s music carries a unique sonic signature which distinguishes his sounds from that of other artists. The sensational voice behind soulful singles like ‘Playground’ , ‘Under The Sun’ and ‘Raani’ , the depth in Shashwat’s lyrics and music makes his potential evident.
His single ‘Sunset by the Vembanad’ brought to life by layering his classic busker-style vocals over frequently alternating guitar chords, paints a mellow picture in the mind of listeners.
Shashwat’s sombre vocals are complimented beautifully by Boyer’s scenic arrangement of shots and new-gen skater, Kunal Chhetri’s finesse with Skateboarding. Using a mix of video angles, including one from an aerial drone, the Tripura-based filmmaker manages to capture the very essence of the north-east’s misty hills and lush forests. Juxtaposed with this refreshing scenery is an adventurous spirit, who’s hunger to explore leads him to brave the wilderness.
A film that blends Art, nature and skateboarding
The film’s first frame opens with a young protagonist sketching a sunset he perhaps longs to witness. The wanderlust within, ushers him to hop past his homestead walls and venture in search of one such sunset. The scene where he leaps out of the comfort of his home can be interpreted as a metaphor that refers to how we often need to break past our fear, insecurities and anything holding us back. The scene hints at how in order to get somewhere we haven’t been before in life, we may need to take the road less traveled.
The subsequent shots follow the young skater’s odyssey as he cruises across empty highways, kick-flips curbs and bombs (skates) down lush slopes; a depiction of the exciting ups and downs and diverse hurdles life throws our way. The video gradually pans to aerial footage of endless green meadows, dense enchanting forests and a vivid close-up of sunlit streams parting the jungle floor. All these cinematic shots play out as the protagonist navigates past the heart of nature, only to chance upon a beautiful lake.
Without a second thought, a young Kunal dives into the warm water to rejuvenate himself. This mid-forest loch (lake) represents our relationship to the rewards life sends our way. It signifies the importance of taking life as it comes and making the most out of every moment on our way to the top. It’s natural for many to be so fixated on the summit that we often fail to enjoy the process and little things on our journey. Having cooled himself after the long hike, the wild child wastes no time loading his board onto a raft, and rows across the lake.
With the hard part of the climb behind him, the route beyond the shore is a pleasant descent. With his hoodie, bag and kicks strapped back on, the protagonist mounts his skateboard and glides down the steep hill to where the green ends and rays of gold mark the setting sun. The last leg of the young explorer’s quest begins as he skates his way past hillside cabins to the edge of the city that sits down below. His journey ends with him finally catching a glimpse of the crimson sun, slowly setting behind the hills. After stopping for only a brief moment to glance at the surreal sunset that he’d imagined, the protagonist turns back and elopes into the forest green.
The film’s end portrays the bittersweet feeling we experience at the end of every fulfilling journey; be it an actual travel or a journey of personal growth. It also reinforces the truth that the real reward in life is our arduous journey; the end destination is just a view.
In conversation with Boyer Debbarma
We reached out to the creator of the music video for ‘Sunset by the vembanad’ to know more about his process.
HG: Where and how did your journey as a skateboarding filmmaker start? Tell us about the impact it’s had on your life.
Boyer: I came across skateboarding as a teenager. Video-parts by skateboard veterans fascinated me. The precision and style, with which pro-skaters would land tricks, inspired me to eventually learn skateboarding myself. As I grew older, and began recording myself skating, I realized that my true passion lay in filming the process. I gradually got better at filming and what had come to me as a hobby, was now my full-time endeavour.
For many skateboarding is a competitive sport, but I perceive it more as an art and my talent lies in documenting this art-form’s beauty through film. Skateboarding and filming collectively gave my life a purpose, a reason to wake up and create every single day. Over the past decade, I’ve had the opportunity to link up with top skateboarders from across the country. My travels and filming projects have helped me hone my skills and grow as an individual.
HG: It’s common knowledge that the skateboarding scene is still at a nascent stage in India. What were the main hurdles you faced on your way to the top? What motivated you to keep pushing past these difficulties?
Boyer : According to me skateboarding culture in India is still an infant that needs to be encouraged, nurtured, and represented effectively via short films and mainstream media. My tryst with skateboarding began at a time when skateboarding was still alien to a majority of the country. My own family never supported my decision to take up Skate-filming as a profession; they simply didn’t recognize the viability. If I’m being honest I couldn’t disagree with their views either, because I faced many financial hurdles while on my skateboarding journey.
Just two years ago, my crew and I set out on a country-wide hunt for the best skateboarders we could film and later represent in a magazine, but our funds ran out and we had to wrap our plans mid-way. While the abruptness of the project among other financial obstacles disappointed me, what kept me going was the country’s desperate need of a filmmaker who could give its budding skate communities the reach and representation they deserved.
Being able to document and display the skills of my fellow skaters from Tripura has both been an honour and one of my main driving forces. ‘Hucko Skate’ is a skate/media company I founded to give better representation to skaters in the north-east including those from Assam, Guwahati and Shillong. The end goal for me is to create awareness around skateboarding in India.
HG: Shashwat is a singer based out of Gujarat while you are a filmmaker from Tripura. How did this unique collaboration come to be?
Boyer : Good music and skateboarding have always gone hand in hand for me. I’ve always enjoyed exploring new music I can listen to while cruising or incorporate as the background score for my skate-films. I stumbled upon one of Shashwat’s singles ‘Playground’ some time ago, which led me to discover his single ‘Sunset By The Vembanad’.
I reached out to Shashwat over Instagram to appreciate his music and the song I’d instantly fallen in love with. To my surprise, he’d been an admirer of my work as well. He asked if I’d like to give his music a face in form of a Skate-inspired adventure film, with nature as a key backdrop. Knowing it would be an interesting collaboration, I agreed instantly and a year later, this video was born.
HG: What was your creative inspiration behind this nature-infused music video? What was the process that went behind it and what can we expect from you in the near future.
Boyer: Having grown up in the hilly, forest-clad neighborhoods of Tripura, I’ve always been close to nature. A large part of my heart throbs for the lush hills and greenery in the north-east. I’ve always wanted to be able to capture the natural beauty in this side of the country through my work. This song gave me an opportunity to do just that.
Another issue I wanted to cast light upon using this video was that of climate change. People should be able to witness the brilliance of nature and significance behind conserving it. I hope that my portrayal of Tripura, Shillong and Guwahati’s scenery, makes people mindful about how they perceive the calming presence of nature around them.
My passion lies in filmmaking and even though I started off filming skateboarding, I plan on venturing into indie films soon; wherein I’ll be shooting on analog equipment, namely 16mm and 8mm film. After all, for me films are a medium with which I can document and translate the beauty behind art forms like skateboarding and the magnificence of the world around us.
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