Interview by Taryll Baker
Congrats on your debut with The Glint of Darkness: Revolution! How does it feel to have your first feature project out there for the world to see?
Thank you so much! It feels surreal. I started writing for this film back in January 2018, roughly three years ago. We shot this film for over a year. That’s because I had a full-time job at Google. Almost all the cast and crew had jobs during the week so we had to come together on weekends to shoot for this film. Post-production work took another year or so. We were ready for the film's release back in February 2020 but COVID-19 had different plans. The film was released worldwide on Vimeo on Demand back in December 2020. It was produced under Mad’ouk Motion Pictures, a film production company owned by my wife Chandana Shaarath and myself.
You took on quite the workload with this film, as the writer, director, cinematographer, editor and star. How was that experience?
As a film director, you should be aware of almost every craft of filmmaking - be it cinematography, editing, music, sound etc. This helps a great deal in working with your team to communicate exactly what you’re looking to achieve. The fact that I had to put on multiple hats helped me to learn a lot about each of these crafts a bit more. It was nerve wracking at times. But I enjoyed every bit of it (except for the acting part).
I was particularly nervous portraying this incredible part, Noah Black. Since the story revolves around some high concepts like cloning and mind control, I had to play 2 clones in addition to Noah Black’s character in this film. I was terrified as an actor to satisfy the director's side of me. I knew I cannot go easy on myself and I had to give everything I’ve got. Thanks to my wife for all her support during my struggle.
You have some action sequences in this film — including fight choreography and some motorbike shots — were there any challenges you faced when capturing these?
Action sequences are without a doubt, the most challenging part of the film for me. I was ruthlessly aiming to go for realism and wanted the audiences to feel every punch and kick along with the characters. I had to get the short composition just right to achieve a certain effect or an emotion which is crucial for the audiences to be involved in the fight scene for a good 2-3 minutes without getting deviated. Although I was the action choreographer for all the fight scenes, I couldn’t completely do it all by myself. I had help from Saikumar Guttikonda (who played Nick in the film) and Solomon Samuel (DOP) and the actors Sardar Jaswanth Singh Goldy & Clinton Charles.
We have two full-length action sequences in the movie. I love both of them in a unique way. The one with ‘Noah Black Vs Two Henchman’ in the parking garage is one that I fancy a bit more than the other. However, ‘The Clone Fight’ which comes towards the end of the film was incredibly tough to shoot. As the name suggests, I had to fight myself. We did not have enough money to use Visual Effects or CGI. So we had to go practical.
Also, at one point I had to hang on to a balcony railing which is on the 4th floor all without using a wire. For one of the motorbike scenes, we had to shoot about 50 takes to get a shot just the way I intended. I fell off the bike numerous times. In hindsight it sounds foolish but we did it anyway. We were lucky nobody got injured during this time.
You’re already working on a sequel for The Glint of Darkness, what are some things you’ve learned from the making of the first film that you can keep in mind going forward?
Stick to my gut!
Out of all the creative roles you took on with this film, which is your favourite? Do you feel particularly strong in one area over another?
It always starts with a great story. I love telling stories that were never told before. I enjoy the writing process, creating something original from scratch. As I always say - I’m a writer first and director next.
In my humble opinion, if filmmaking is Magic, the director is the Masterful Magician. The director needs to know which levers to pull and which one’s to avoid. He/she is the most important person in most rooms and has the power to either make a masterpiece or a complete train-wreck. That can be stressful for a lot of people but I think I’m born for it.
As a big film nerd, I have to ask: What made you want to become a filmmaker? Any key directors that had an impact on you?
I’m a huge film nerd myself. If I have to attribute it to one thing that made me want to become a filmmaker, I’ll have to give it to Titanic. I was 7 years old when I first witnessed the epic. While I had a great time watching Jack and Rose fall for each other, I was completely blown away by the way James Cameron used such large scale sets and also miniatures to showcase the disaster in the deep sea, creating a lasting emotional experience on a 7 year old kid. I knew right then that I’d be a part of that process when I grow up.
There are great many directors who have inspired me through their films - Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Sidney Lumet, Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Satyajit Ray, Denis Villeneuve and of course Charlie Chaplin to name a few.
2020 was a tough year for many, but some great films were released; did you get a chance to watch any? If so, what was your favourite?
Absolutely. I had a great time watching The Invisible Man, The Gentlemen & Bad Boys for Life in theatres before lockdown. 2020 is a very peculiar year for cinema. We didn’t have too many blockbuster films that come out every two weeks. Tenet was the first film I watched on the big screen after a long long time. It was a memorable experience. All in all, it has been a great year for Indie films. Spontaneous, Hunter Hunter, Run, The Vast of Night, Bad Education are some of my favourites that came out last year.
Cinemas around the world are facing troubling and worrying times, do you think the cinema experience will live on post-COVID?
I’m confident that cinemas will return to their glory at some point. But I doubt that’s going to happen this year. People are worried about health more than anything. Once vaccines become more prevalent, people will be more comfortable to get out. Let’s be honest. We will get tired of watching films at home all day. We would want to get out and hit theatres, grab popcorn and watch our favourite films on the big screen. I feel strongly that that’s the end of the tunnel for cinemas.
But that’s not to say that everything’s going to be smooth on the other side. Peoples’ behaviours are changing. We as filmmakers will not only be competing with each other whether it’s indie films vs studio films vs streaming services - we’ll be also competing with other entertainment platforms like Instagram Reels & TikTok. So we need to really really work harder to get people’s attention and get them to watch your film. We cannot make mediocre films and expect audiences to pour into theatres anymore.
What can we expect from you in the future? Are there any other projects you have in the works, apart from the sequel?
I was stuck in the world of The Glint of Darkness: Revolution for quite some time. I want to explore other things for a while before I revisit this. I’m developing a new psychological drama, set in a high school. It’s a story that takes place somewhere in the late 2000s in the United States.
Lastly, are there any tips or words of wisdom you could share for other aspiring filmmakers who might be reading this?
Pick a story that’s worth telling. Not every idea that pops in your head for the first time can turn out to be a great one in the end. If the story does not keep you excited for at least a month after you start writing, then don’t waste your time on it. Because, oftentimes, we end up spending months and sometimes years on a story to make it a fully formed film. You’ve got to be excited to tell this story each and every day until it's released. If you get bored of it easily, there’s a danger in losing motivation and might end up doing shoddy work which might ultimately lead to a bad film.
The Glint of Darkness: Revolution is available on Vimeo on Demand now: