An alumnus of Nasr School, Rucha Humnabadkar got her first exposure to theatre with the Nasr Dramatic Society which staged an annual play.. Later, while doing her Bachelor’s in Commerce from St. Francis college, she started a theatre group ‘Confetti’. As her maiden directorial film For Here Or To Go? is out in theatres, she talks about her growth in theatre and making movies:
How did you get initiated into filmmaking?
Nagesh Kukunoor had just returned from the U.S and was looking for the cast and crew for Hyderabad Blues . A few actors including me, from my theatre group ‘Confetti’ acted in it, but I was involved all through the filmmaking process, which I thoroughly enjoyed. After that, I moved to Pune and attended a journalism school at the University of Pune. While in Pune, I wrote and directed three English plays.
I did a Masters of Design Programme in Carnegie Mellon University; the programme was for writers to be more visual and the degree helped me land a job at eBay in Silicon Valley California.
Despite having a full time job, my interest in film and writing continued. While at eBay I wrote my debut novel Dance of the Fireflies , based on street kids in India. I also signed up for classes at the San Francisco Digital Filmmaking School and wrote and directed a short film titled Arranged Marriage , which screened at the San Francisco 3rd i Asian Film Festival and White Sands Film Festival in 2012. It is also part of the Smithsonian ‘Beyond Bollywood’ travelling exhibit 2015 to 2020 in the U.S.
How did the idea and concept of this film germinate?
Rishi Bhilawadikar had written a blog that captured the idiosyncrasies of Indians living in the US. The blog was well received, insightful and funny. He decided to extend this into a screenplay. His own situation of waiting for a visa and green card, further fuelled his interest in telling a very important story of our times. During the script reading, I saw a reflection of many of my personal experiences and those of my friends and family in the story, and decided to direct the film. We decided to finance the film through friends, family and individuals in the Bay Area, California. We also did a crowdfunding campaign.
How did you pool the cast and crew?
We set our expectations high of who we wanted and directly contacted the actors through our networks in Mumbai. We thought Omi Vaidya would be great for our film. It took little to convince him to take the role. Watch out for Omi speaking in Telugu in the film. I have a great crew to help make this film possible. One of our producers had gone to film school at USC in Los Angeles. Through him we were able to recruit our core crew, which were of a very high calibre.
How did you decide on this title?
During our research for the film, we talked to over 50 Bay Area Indian families and a constant theme emerged — even those who had lived here for over 20 years were still contemplating if they should return to India. We are only second generation Indians here and the first generation is till ambivalent about living in the U.S. We haven’t fully assimilated like the Chinese communities and others who have been here longer. Hence, in my view this is an apt title for the film.
Is the response to the film inspiring you to make yet another film?
Yes, we had great response and feedback from audiences here. Also, the Bay Area Indian community came together to make this film. Indian businesses supported us by giving us locations to shoot at, an Indian restaurant catered all our meals on set. Indian individuals and families helped by housing cast and crew, and lending transport to drive them to different locations.
How did you make the film suitable for the contemporary audience?
It took me 14 years to get US citizenship and made me passionate to share my story. For Here Or To Go? has enabled me to show the world first hand what an immigrant experiences at an emotional and intellectual level while assimilating in a new culture and building a home away from home. Many of the scenes in the film reflect my own personal experiences.
The film is enjoyable as the story is a humorous and sensitive take on humanising a highly complex issue. People’s lives are thrown into a vortex of uncertainty and big life decisions hang in the balance. We kept the focus of the film on the character arcs. This project was run like a start-up, given both Rishi and I are Silicon Valley professionals; we didresearch by testing the viability of the idea, tested a concept video to get over 100 anonymous responses and once we got a clear signal, we went ahead with the project.