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Adelaide artist Ashoka Chowta explores creativity through film making
Among the few offerings of films at this year’s Adelaide Fringe Festival is Fair Weather Felon – a short film by Ashoka Chowta, with a running time of 21 minutes. It took 17 months in total to make the film, even though it was only a short two months in production time.
“What I like about film is its ability to tell a big visual story on a big screen, even if it’s a short film it’s still big,” says Ashoka. The project took over his life and he was focused on the making of it every waking minute.
The Fair Weather Felon is a short film about deception, betrayal and falling in love. A young thief called Jim (Marc Bope) breaks into a house one night and is caught by a young attractive woman named Lisa (Kate Van Der Horst). Jim falls in love with Lisa but she betrays him. They have a date but is Lisa all she seems or claims to be?
The sort of films Ashoka wants to make are those that have “good storytelling, entertainment and that engage audience”.
“I’m not that concerned with genre, at least not as a priority, just as long it meets those objectives,” he says. “It should be a film that leaves a lasting impression, meaning even after it has ended I would like the movie to still be playing in the viewer’s mind.”
Born in Adelaide, Ashoka had a keen interest in the arts from childhood and would constantly draw, paint or sketch. He was one of those kids with a pencil or paint brush in his hand all the time. As he grew up, he enrolled in courses and got professional training. He has in-depth experience in the visual arts which includes painting, drawing and digital art. After studying Advertising and Graphic Design at TAFE SA, Ashoka did his training in Film and TV Production at the Adelaide School of Arts.
He also dabbled in acting, attending acting classes during his school years. But visual arts was his first love and he undertook visual arts training at the Hyde Park School of Art and at the Central School of Art. However, he feels his style was not greatly influenced by this initial art training.
While Ashoka paints and does artwork using different media, he also dabbles in the various aspects of film-making – writing, composing music, sets, visualising the ambience, camera work and editing.
“I love film as it is basically a mixed media, it’s not just a moving image, but it also has music, sound effects and ambience to enhance the story and emotion,” he says. “Behind the scenes there’s the written medium of screenplay to help hold the film together. I like how all these mediums work together in order to make a big moving artwork which is film, as opposed to having them all segregated.”
It feels like he is writing film ideas all the time. He may be reading something, even a newspaper article, and will see a film in the article and slice it up into scenes. Or he may get a music idea, and he will come up with a tune. He plays the piano and drums and is self-taught to strum a guitar. One of his compositions has been used in his current film.
He says, “A film may be only a vague visual in my head, but once I start writing, it takes shape and develops, taking over the creative process.”
So, what are his main influences on his art?
“My genes,” he says, claiming his family is mainly responsible for his love of art and his chosen career. His parents are both very creative and have given him the freedom to choose what he wants to be. They have nurtured his talents and have always been supportive. And he is very grateful for that. He says he knows his roots and feels his Indian-ness within and does not see the need to “signpost” it in his work. “India is so culturally democratic, that I feel I am a prime example of being that type of Indian,” he says.
Ashoka Chowta has exhibited works of art at the Adelaide Fringe, SALA Festival (South Australian Living Arts) and at the Nexus Multicultural Arts Centre. He won the 2nd prize for one of his artworks at the Nexus Centre some years ago. Currently he has an exhibition at the Parks Arts and Theatres Complex.
Fair Weather Felon is being screened as part of this year’s Adelaide Fringe at the Mercury Cinema (in the Iris Theatre) on Saturday 13 February from 7pm