Shreela Chakrabartty describes her thriller, Rock Paper Dice Enter, as a quest for freedom and accountability in the age of Information
Shreela Chakrabartty says she looks at Rock Paper Dice Enter as a phenomenon. The Canada-based director describes her feature film debut as “an original story formatted as a thriller that breaks out Canadian talent with an Indian, non-stereotyped face. Having a woman as its director also breaks open the genre to tell a story through something beyond action and romance.” In this email interview the 44-year-old director shares her thoughts on film making, shooting action sequences and Bollywood among other things. Excerpts.
Did you always want to be a filmmaker?
Initially I thought I would be a creative writer but an oracle at the Alberta Book Fair guided me to film. He was an old man with a white afro who told me to not stop at screenplays. He told me, ‘sweep floors, do whatever you have to, you will become a director.’
Can you comment about the title of the film — does it have anything to do with the game rock paper scissors?
The film begins on a random incident, so the title of the film was taken in a way that scissors is replaced in the modern day with keyboard technology combined with a hand of divine chance.
How did the film come to be?
While shopping for a feature length thriller script, Kash Gauni, who lived on the other side of the country, pitched me his story. I was hooked on the premise of a thriller around the Tibetan freedom movement.
How would you describe Rock, Paper… in a sentence?
The film is a personal quest for freedom and accountability in the Age of Information.
How did it become part of PVR Director’s Rare?
The film is our gift to Indian diaspora around the world. With a subversive Indian character in the lead role of an English film, we thought the Indian IT crowd would be rife for this techy jargony thriller. PVR Director’s rare scooped it and offered a release date after watching the first 10 minutes.
Could you talk about the casting process?
Canadian talent has fed Hollywood for decades so I had access to an excellent pool. South Asians are rare. Ojas Joshi, who plays Kamran the tech, is someone I knew from music circles who I just knew would be perfect for the part. This movie was his first time on screen. The lead role was a tough choice. I had not met Kash in person up to his point, we only spoke on chat and by phone but I knew he did TV commercials. It was by chance one day that I turned on the TV and saw a grocery store ad and said to myself that was his screen test. The movie revolves around a charismatic guy who makes six phone calls. Kash was perfect.
How difficult or easy were the action sequences?
Admittedly, it was my biggest challenge. I used to video mountain bike racers and used to run and gun shoots so I had an idea of what to expect but the constraints made it impossible to go the route of an action thriller. The time and coverage was simply not possible. We were creative with whatever we had to work with - including safety, health conditions, injuries and flash storms.
What was your most memorable moment on the shoot?
On Day Eight, the grip truck broke down overnight on the side of the highway. Next day morning I had to rent an 18 feet truck and drive it to the location myself, smashing into a brand new white BMW-X5. I had to file my report at the police station where I ended up chatting them up about the film. It so happens that one of their colleagues is a real life cop who plays the role of the Negotiator in the film. The officer filing my report told me he came from LA and works as an extra in case I need someone. Every single incident contributed to the momentum and energy of the film.
Who do you count as your inspiration?
Among my first ever influences was the absurd illustrations and stories of Sukumar Ray, then I became heavily influenced by Terry Gilliam, David Lynch, and Jim Jarmusch for mood, style and use of art direction and sound. In the 90s, I discovered Jane Campion for her emotive expression. But after meeting Kash and reading his original stories, I am feeling more inspired than ever to interpret stories of our modern times.
What are your thoughts on Bollywood films?
Bollywood films are generated from the film capital of the universe. They come like storms that spin off current world trends with their special masalas. The world has become so small now that lots of possibilities are there to have a lot of fun with this genre. I would love the opportunity to direct one. In fact, the Rock Paper Dice Enter script had provisions to be adapted into a Bollywood style. A Hindi version would work very well I think.
Rock Paper Dice Enter will be released as part of PVR Director’s Rare today.