Your new movie A
'Pitch-Dark' Diorama - in a few words, what is it about?
deals with the way we approach closure in a
work of fiction.
To simplify it further, the film is about writing and reading and the subconscious
mind that influences the process.
Basic question of course, why did you choose to tell your story as
a diorama, and was that intended since day one or did that just develop
during the writing process?
story was intended to be told as a Diorama right from day one but the
arrived only as the script was nearing completion. The first title was “Perpetrator”.
The second was an extremely stupid “Hard-Boiled Closure”. A digression
here. I wanted to title my first live action short as “Fate Plays” and
to confirm if I hadn’t lifted it off the OST of “Heat”, I went
through the track
listing of that film. I hadn’t. But I saw another track called
and that name stayed in my head for a really long time. Long enough for
me to want to use the word ‘Diorama’. I vaguely knew what a diorama meant
but checked it nonetheless. The meaning fit in with the theme of my feature
and I just had to find an appropriate title for the novel inside the film that
could lend both literal and thematic resonance. That novel became Pitch-Dark,
and the film became A
(Other) sources of
inspiration when writing A
McCloud’s line about the reader being an accomplice in an act of closure
through an explicit act of murder) was the primary trigger. Inception
made me realise that people here were open to this idea at a mainstream
level. Neil Gaiman’s A Black and White World was the inspiration behind
the plot mechanics. The rest was filled out by my mind constantly consuming
David Lynch, Haruki Murakami, Alan Resnais, and John Cassavetes.
There was some Carl Jung psychology study too.
Of all the lead characters
in A 'Pitch-Dark'
Diorama, who can you identify with the most, who the least?
think I can identify with the two writers. Indranil Deashi, because he
starts off writing
about things that matter to him but owing to a sustained poor reception
of his books, is forced to enter a genre that he’s clueless about. Rajiv
Dey, because there’s a certain amount of bluff involved in creating and later,
promoting a piece, and the artistic ego that’s involved in it. The
character I could least identify with, on a personal level, is the
because that character arrived only from my fascination with detectives through
reading novels and watching films. Thankfully, I was dealing with an existential
detective. So I could imbibe many eccentric traits and personal observations
into that role without sticking to procedural authenticity.
'Pitch-Dark' Diorama is a thriller that leaves large chunks open
to interpretation - could you at all elaborate on that choice of yours for
first draft of the script had a pretty clear cut answer from my end as to who
the killer was. But a casting decision and the reason Indranil Deashi
life made me realise that life’s a bit more complicated than what I’d envisaged.
Closure is more complicated than we realize. It depends on so many
variables. So for a film tackling closure, it was only natural that the
resists conventional closure.
course, a decision like that opens up a host of problems because the audience
starts to aggressively look for answers and might not accept an open-ended
conclusion. However, ‘open to interpretation’ was the only way to have
the thought experiment that the film is.
What can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story
write a script with a conceit in mind and during the rehearsal,
production, and post-production,
I keep stripping away that conceit so that the final film, at least
from my own perspective, feels more organic than engineered. I’m trying
to get rid of my left-brained approach to right-brained ideas.
Do talk about your cast, and why exactly those people?
like working with a mix of professionals and non-professionals. People whose faces
are unfamiliar enough to lend authenticity to the material. I
feel, as filmmakers, we miss out on a lot of personality tics because we probably
gravitate towards acting in a literal sense. If I have a character who behaves
a certain way on the page and if I meet an actor who could act that way
but has a far more interesting personality otherwise, warts and all, I’d move
towards a new interpretation of that character. Also, my scripts tend to have
people ranging from grey to downright nasty. So the character should attract
real hostility. Also, the film itself is a learning process for me. Part of that
learning comes from the cast members’ perspectives. So given a choice between
a person who’s a teacher and knows a lot more about the world but hasn’t
had acting experience and a person who can pull the role off easily but might
only give life to my lines without giving any additional insight, I might prefer
the former and just ask that person to be himself or herself. Most
actors in my film come from theatre backgrounds. And we were going in for
long takes, lasting close to five or six minutes on celluloid. So the actors needed
to have their lines off pat. Their theatre experience served them well there.
What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set
shoot was hectic. Obviously so as it was an indie film and shot on film.
cast and crew had an amazing time. There was an atmosphere of trust on set
and key members felt comfortable enough to offer suggestions and brainstorm
ideas. The team continues to meet whenever the opportunity arises.
shoot itself was a bit of a drudge for me when longer setup times were needed
and the acting itself didn’t require elaborate direction. However,
interesting when the cinematographer, ADs, and actors chimed in with
some spur of the moment fine tuning and it helped me unlearn that scene in
question and look at it from a new angle. An idea was debated, its impact
entire storyline considered, and then retained or removed. I
start with a detailed rehearsal/scene interpretation process way before
begins. During this stage, I ask the actors to feel free to improvise and brainstorm
as the luxury of time won’t be available during production. This is also
the stage where different languages comes into the picture and I see if the
textures of the dialogues are fine. The actors get the lines to a point
feel like they are having a conversation and the lines are embedded in them
like muscle memory.
shooting, it was intimidating, at first, to see so many people between me and
the actors but I slowly got used to it and ensured that I’d my chat with
before the blocking process began. The prior homework also helped.
The $64-question of course, where can your
movie be seen?
is the official site: www.vespertilio.in
can be streamed as a mini-series on Youtube here: https://goo.gl/XSiU49
can be streamed as a mini-series on Vimeo here: http://vimeo.com/channels/apdd
can be downloaded as a feature version here: https://now.bt.co/bundles/apdd
Anything you can tell us about audience
and critical reception of A
audience reaction has been circumspect so far as the film relies a lot on interpretations.
It needs sustained concentration and the patience to arrange
rearrange pieces of the jigsaw puzzle afterwards. I’ve had glowing
from the ones who have managed to do so. I’m still trying to win the hearts
of the rest over and reassure them that it is okay to not have a clearcut
for this film and that’s the whole point.
critical reception has just started to build and the reaction till now has
positive. It is not a mainstream film or a region-specific film. So I’ve
the film across the world to a lot of online critics and bloggers and getting
their responses. It has been slow going but as long as I am gradually building
word of mouth, I am reasonably happy. Online distribution is a different
beast altogether and (as Mark Duplass said) a corner of the sandbox needs
to be earmarked first.
Any future projects you'd
like to share?
two script ideas in place. One is a thriller about the power play in an
The other is a high school drama along the lines of Mario Llosa Vargas’ The Time of the Hero.
timeline for these projects will hugely depend on how A
'Pitch-Dark' Diorama is received. So fingers crossed.
What got you into filmmaking in the first
place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
am a self-taught filmmaker and the trajectory hasn’t exactly been
as I knew them as a kid, were all about Hollywood and Bollywood. So I never
gave a conscious thought to it because my mind rejected it as a pipe
I used to write and draw comics right from childhood though. I wanted to
take up Arts or Mass Communication but was thrust into Mechanical Engineering.
Animation was suddenly hot in India in the mid-2000s and post engineering,
I promptly moved to study animation for a year and started off as a
storyboard artist in a studio. But my sketching itself wasn’t great and
I was trying
to make my animated shorts look like live action films.
was also advised that if I wanted to retain control over my scripts
then), I ought to be able to start and end a film by myself. I taught
and worked as an audio, video editor (from Bangalore, India) for a UK radio
station called Radio Scilly for two years from 2010 till 2012. This was
that kickstarted my live action filmmaking.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to A
mentioned earlier, I was a junior storyboard artist and worked on some episodes
and a feature film based on Lord Krishna. Looking back, the studio stint
helped me immensely as an editor. Post studio life, I made a couple of short
films using Flash. Moved to live action in 2010 and made my first live action
short called Fate Plays which was followed by a documentary short called
One Life at a Time. A
How would you describe
yourself as a director?
venture into a personal story only if it intimidates me and I am in a
position to explore
the idea thoroughly. I’d really not get into a space where direction for
becomes a job and I need to compromise on certain principles just to get
a lowest common denominator. The aim is to have a dialogue and engage with
my own ideas as thoroughly as possible and make a film that I’d want to watch.
Go deep takes precedence over going wide.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
a difficult question. My story influences (till now) have ranged from Christopher
Nolan to David Lynch to Shane Carruth. But if you asked me the people
I absolutely look up to as directors, they might be John Cassavates, John
Sayles, and Werner Herzog.
a difficult one. If a filmmaker has something interesting to say and is pulling
all stops to get there even at the risk of looking like a fool, I’ll dig
It can be raw and financially compromised but it can’t be emotionally, intellectually,
or spiritually compromised.
... and of course, films you really
Over the years, I’ve really
started to hate glossy studio films that look so
pretty and polished but are
absolutely vapid! Add green screen to that list. I
also am disappointed with
films that mistake information for insight.
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
This is the official site:
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Anything else you're dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
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The links below
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There’s one character in all
my scripts called Pratap. That’s the name of my roommate when I was in
engineering. He continues to be a huge support alongwith three or four others.
The city we lived in was
pretty small and I doubt if there was even a single English film that was released
in those four years. However, there was a digital auditorium close to our hostel
that would play bootlegged copies of Hollywood films. Priced extremely cheap
at 20 rupees (30 cents), that auditorium became my film school and Pratap
became the guy with whom long film-centric debates would ensue. The
storyteller (me) versus the audience (him). My taste developed pretty rapidly in
that time period and ended up being pretty influential for my later life.
So when reading my scripts, if
you chance upon that name, this is the trivia behind it!
Thanks for the interview!