Films | Artist Interviews | ASHES – NOT ABOUT SELF PITY


Posted by barkha on December 1, 2010 | No Comments

The subject of mental illness is a complex one to live with and perhaps as complex to weave a story around, without getting into doses of self pity or being instantaneously judgmental, about the affected and also the people they live with. In the real world of mental illness, there is no escape 24/7, just denial, perhaps by the sufferer, but definitely by the co habitant of the household. Merely because the person suffers something beyond their control does not make them better or worse than the person who needs to escape the everlasting cloud of gloom, brought about by the sufferer. Actually who is the sufferer in such a situation? And is denial the panacea?

ASHES attempts to meet this complex reality head on.

Here we talk to the Director, Ajay Naidu and the Producer, Nina Spensley, on their upcoming film.

The synopsis does talk about what the film is all about, but how come the complex subject of mental illness?
Ajay – Mental illness is the subject matter. I chose to tell this story specifically because of that subject. I lost my sister to manic depressive schizoid disorder and I wanted to share that story with others who have suffered similar losses and not had their story told.

On your choice of actors and how is ASHES planning to treat the subject matter?
Ajay – The lead character in this film is in denial…just like the community he represents…the character, that is suffering, never shows self pity…the character who is suffering the most, is the strongest. The actors were cast because they were my friends and thought the subject matter was important to them. Their roles were tailored to them specifically. Actors often come to work with the ease of knowing there is another actor in the director’s chair.

What made you come on board to produce this film?
Nina- When I first read the script I was struck by the inherent lyricism of the story. Here was a narrative that lends itself to all the quiet moments that occur to us when we’re busy living our lives. The fact that you could not immediately type-cast any of the characters, I felt, was a good indication that the film would have difficulty getting pigeon-holed as an ‘immigrant’ film,’ or a ‘gangsta’ film, or a ‘docu-drama’ about mental illness. It felt bigger than those terms, and yet, I envisioned from the start a very real and intimate film.

The challenges faced in the making and releasing of the film?
– With the exception of a couple of investors and a non-traditional donation model, the film was self-financed by Ajay and the circle of friends who put in a tremendous amount of effort and time into the project. That said, when one relies on funding and resources that are not fixed by an amount for services rendered — the timing of the finished product is not always under your control.  The time it took us to complete ASHES proved very frustrating. We worked very hard not to compromise the vision and execution of the film for lack of money and time.

I take it that you are going the festival route with the movie.
Ajay – With the American Independent cinema that is a very good way to build momentum towards creating an audience for the film

Why is that, as opposed to releasing it Theatrically?
Ajay – Theatrical releases are not just given out like grants. It actually costs the filmmakers money to release theatrically. Theatrical release is the goal to be reached with this kind of film.

Is there a plan to release this in India?
Ajay – We are hoping very much to release the film in India.

Would the US, Canada, UK be the choices for releasing the film?
Ajay – The world would be the choice. There is no reason to limit a story of this nature to specific regional choices.

Ajay is generally know for his comic roles so this is a challenge for him -, along with wearing the directors mantle for the first time, what was his experience like in both these scenarios?
Ajay – Firstly I grew up in the classical theatre and have played many dramatic roles so the challenge that you speak of is put on me by others – not from my own mind.    Actually the first time I ever got any accolade of any kind — it was for my work in the film “Suburbia.”  That was a very serious role. In reference to your question about the directors “mantle”… in the Renaissance there were no directors – actors just came together and told stories – that’s how it worked here. I do not feel that acting and directing simultaneously was the difficulty in making this film. The difficult part was constantly pitting quality and ideas against time and resources. That is the part that actors rarely see, which the director somehow has to bridge.

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