Karan Darra, having been an assistant director for a couple of movies, is making his official directorial debut with this week’s release, ‘Khamoshiyan’, produced under the Vishesh Films banner. As a supernatural thriller, the film is definitely a different genre to start off with and with two newcomers in TV star Gurmeet Choudhary and Sapna Pabbi as well as Ali Fazal featuring in the film, it must have made for some interesting experiences in the journey of making it. BizAsia caught up exclusively with the director ahead of the release of the film.
You’re literally a few days away from the release of ‘Khamoshiyan’, what are you feeling?
I’m feeling numb. There’s too much going on so numb would be an apt word to describe my feeling.
Having passed the nerves of the first day of shooting as well as completed the schedule totally, how would you describe your journey in making the film?
It’s been an incredible learning experience. From all the years up until now, this has been the year that I’ve learnt the most. I learnt about myself as well as the craft of cinema.
You’ve been familiar with the horror genre previously, but now as a director, how did it feel that it’s your ship and you’re the captain?
I wouldn’t call ‘Khamoshiyan’ an out and out horror film. It has an element of horror but that’s the icing on the cake of what is actually a supernatural thriller. It’s been interesting and feels like life has taken a full circle. I started assisting in a supernatural horror film and my first film as a director is in the same genre. It’s like a full circle and now it all begins again.
You are one of the youngest directors to make their debut in Indian cinema. Do you see that as an advantage or a drawback?
A definite advantage. Cinema will change with the youth. There are directors in my generation and also those even younger than me coming through and they have a different body language, a newer thought. In India, we are the largest youth nation; there’s nothing like it. It’s like this all over the country now. I think it’s a step forward and it’s very interesting to see the new directors coming in and the new language of cinema is beginning here.
You’ve got two debutantes in ‘Khamoshiyan’- Gurmeet and Sapna. How did you feel working with them as they are new to cinema?
Well, Gurmeet has been eight years in television so, in fact, I’d call him the most experienced of the lot in terms of coming to the mark. He’s very professional about things. I wanted my actors to have faced the camera before so they’ve all got a bit of experience. It didn’t feel like Gurmeet was a first-time actor and neither did Sapna. She’s also executed the film so perfectly that you wouldn’t call it a debut performance.
There have been reports of intimate scenes that all three main actors have shot. How did you go about that?
I didn’t need to convince them as such. Sapna was a bit apprehensive about doing things which were new to her. I mean, we’re all exposed to world cinema now and this kind of thing is really no biggie. When you’re already exposed to these things in world cinema and you’re ok with it then there’s nothing stopping us now. As long as you know what you’re doing then you’re fine with it. There is the whole angle that in India such things are hyped so much that they make it bigger than what it is. It all goes on in people’s houses and when you see it on screen it should be fine. I told them to go all out and give it your all. As long as it works with the characters… don’t do what your character wouldn’t do, that’s what I told them. If your character would go all out then you do too if the script demands it. Don’t look at it as if I’m adding sex because it sells. So they just went ahead with their gut instinct and went ahead and did it. I think we didn’t have too much patience when shooting the scene as we were short of time and I the girl had quite enough when shooting it but she also understood. All the guys are damn cool and we were always on the same page about things so it worked out.
I understand you were meant to shoot in Kashmir but that didn’t happen?
Yes. If there was one thing I would change about this film then it would be that I would shoot in Kashmir.
Does the absence of Kashmir affect the film?
Yes, of course it does affect the film. It does in a certain sense because the atmosphere would be there in Kashmir. The atmosphere is different and the camera can catch all of that in an instant. So, yes I missed out on that and on the house that I had selected. We ended up working backwards and I had to try and match that house in South Africa. It became more complicated for me to do. We travelled everyday in South Africa and the locations were not bad. We were on the coast so we had to get into the mountains took some time but we made that journey everyday back and forth. It was worth it in that sense. I tried to recreate Kashmir.
What would you say you’re going to take away personally from your journey of ‘Khamoshiyan’?
That I’m not there yet. I have a long long way to go. You realise that you’re going to arrive somewhere and when you get there you realise that you’ve just made the effort but now you’re actually in-transit. It makes me try harder.
Is there any particular genre you want to do into next as a director or are you open to trying any?
Oh, I’ve been asked this question by many people. There’s isn’t a particular genre I want to go towards. I don’t really bother with the genre unless the story works for me. If the story works like the goes gets taken away by villain or anything, as long as in that in the base level works then you can slap any genre on it, and I would do it. It doesn’t really matter. Thought horror as a genre is a very tough genre to get bang on. If you don’t get the timing bang on then even your scare could turn out to be a laugh.
Is there any film of recent times that you feel you would have wanted to direct?
‘Whiplash’. I just loved the film. That’s one film I would love to do.
What do you want the audiences to go into the cinema wanting from ‘Khamoshiyan’ and what do you want them to walk away with?
I want them to go in and see what today’s generation of Indian women are and how they do have desires, how they have the power of dealing with that and no matter the circumstances, they just do what they want to do. That’s how we’ve written the girl’s character. I want them to come back and realise how an Indian woman is and what she’s all about.
You said you would have loved to have shot in Kashmir but is there anything about ‘Khamoshiyan’ and you wouldn’t have changed for the world?
My actors. I wouldn’t have changed Ali for the world. Actually, none of them, I wouldn’t change any but if there was one thing then Ali. He’s really good in the film.
BizAsia thanks Karan Darra for the time he gave for the interview and we wish team ‘Khamoshiyan’ all the best for the release. We would also like to thank everyone on Twitter who got in touch with questions for the director.