Filmmaker, actor and television personality, Teeshay Shah has ventured into writing and directing with his short film ‘Hiraeth’, which has been picked up by various film festivals. The film not only deals with an immigration backdrop, it also has a human connect that many will be able to warm to. As well as ‘Hiraeth’, Shah has tasted much success in other parts of the entertainment industry, despite being based in Los Angeles. Editor, Raj Baddhan caught up with Shah about his work so far and beyond! 

Firstly tell us about your short film ‘Hiraeth’?
‘Hiraeth’ is a short film whose story revolves around a refugee of war. The story briefly reveals some of the inner complexities of living outside one’s home country and highlights the struggle many refugees face when trying to make decisions in the best interest of their family. ‘Hiraeth’, true to its definition, is about more than mere homesickness; it’s about a deep connection one feels to their homeland and a longing to return to a place which is impossible to return to.

The film deals with immigration, with references to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, what made you write about such a subject?
Well, LA (Hollywood) is big on creating your own content as far as actors are concerned. I was sold on that idea. But the question was what could i do with the limited resources i had. I wrote a eight episode show intended for Netflix or Amazon. But the scale for that was too huge and would take up a lot of time with me as a show runner or creator. Then an idea of a YouTube show came along but that never took wings because my co-writer got busy with another project. In the mean i stumbled upon an incredible story of a war refugee which had the perfect ingredients of making into something like a short or feature. So i took baby steps and decided to make it into a short film and see how it goes. I wrote the story and started narrating it to people from the industry who were blown away because of the originality and relevance. That’s when i went ahead and made it with all my effort and conviction.

Teeshay Shah

As well as writing the film, you also directed it, did the final product shape up as you had envisaged at the start?
In fact, I think it shaped up exactly how i envisioned it. I was lucky to get a passionate and talented crew who understood the gravity of the subject and put all their time and effort in creating a film which had the capacity to resonate with the audience.

The film premiered in Chicago in October and has also been selected at various film festivals, how do you feel about the response the film has garnered thusfar?
I feel ecstatic to start with. The press has given us some amazing support. We got official selections at 8 festivals in 40 days. But that’s only a great start that we have got. The film still has a long way to go. The film needs to grow with the momentum and i hope it travels globally eventually.

With digital technology making contact with each other a lot more accessible, do you feel its a good place to be for filmmakers like yourself to showcase different subjects?
Absolutely. Digital platforms have been a blessing. Today’s audience wants to see fresh subjects. They are ruthless too. It assures indie filmmakers to go out there, take risks, tell brave stories and still have a career. You never know who is watching. Your content might just be picked up by Netflix or Amazon. Boom! You might be the next big thing by just making an effort and telling a unique story or making a path breaking indie with no stars and no budget.

What challenges did you face in making ‘Hiraeth’?
The biggest challenge was to make a quality product with limited resources that i had. It was also my first time writing, directing and producing a project. That was a huge challenge. I kept asking myself if it was even possible to do all and act too. But everything worked out and the amount of experience i have got in 3 departments is incredible. I still can’t believe how much this project has helped me learn.

…I share that passion with Mr Ashutosh Gowariker with whom i did a show called Everest. I remember him telling me the same thing and i asked him how did he know about foreign films which were hidden gems. It was good to have that conversation with him.

Looking back at the project, is there anything different you would have done to make the film?
Of course, I would have done things differently if I had a bigger budget. Bigger budget gives you a big team. I would have loved to have some more assistance in the production and direction department. For example, I even made contracts on my own among a huge list of other things.

What’s next for Teeshay Shah?
Well treating my baby ‘Hiraeth’ right is the first thing. Secondly, I have a very important pilot season here in front of me. Pilot season in LA is a different beast. You have to be incredible at auditions and for that you need training. So the idea is to better my craft and keep the self belief high.

Teeshay Shah

Away from ‘Hiraeth’, what kind of person are you? Are you a fan of hard-hitting cinema or do you prefer watching light commercial films?
I am a fan of cinema period. I watch all kinds of cinema, in fact I have been doing that since quiet a few years. Even before the digital boom began. I watch films in all languages. In fact, I share that passion with Mr Ashutosh Gowariker with whom i did a show called ‘Everest’. I remember him telling me the same thing and i asked him how did he know about foreign films which were hidden gems. It was good to have that conversation with him.

You’ve done a vast range of media work including hosting, producing and acting, will you be returning to any of these in the near future?
I am open to working on quality stuff. It can be anything, hosting, acting or directing. Good content really excites me.

What’s the biggest obstacles you have faced since you went public with ‘Hiraeth’?
We went public only a month ago and so far its been pretty smooth. I have received incredible support from the press from India, USA and UK. That generally doesn’t happen when you make a short film. We managed to even get a couple of outstanding reviews.

What are your social media contacts?
Instagram: _teeshay
Twitter: @teeshays
Facebook: Teeshay D Shah

Final word?
I hope our film connects with you on a human level. It’s a heartfelt story and I wish it reaches every part of the globe. Here’s to making more movies and bringing great stories to life.

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