'I might be more neurotic than most people'

How did a film made on a shoe-string budget, with a two-person crew, make it to the longest-running competitive film festival in North America?

I saw Kshay (meaning decay, corrosion) in an oh-so-obvious bachelor pad off Carter Road, thick with the smell of cigarette smoke, pop culture posters and gizmos of all sorts, accompanied by co-producer Shaan Vyas. But even on a humble 15-inch iMac, the stark tragedy of the lead character Chhaya's gradual obsession with a Lakshmi statue as a replacement for her life's unfulfilled desires, hit hard. As Karan Gour, director, writer, editor, composer and producer of the film says, its selection at the Chicago International Film Festival is just the first step to getting this baby on its feet.

 A aposter of the film

Why was obsession chosen as the film's theme?
I think it came from how I've always dealt with things. Everyone's a bit neurotic, although I might be a lot more than most. The magnitude of destruction comes from the environment it thrives in. While writing, I could see Chhaya obsessing about anything that made the slightest hint towards her condition. Our budget somewhat constrained the object of her obsession too because if she got infatuated by a Bentley, we couldn't possibly have pulled it off.

The film was made on a shoestring budget.
The use of practical lighting happened in pre-production. When I thought of using lights to get everything looking pretty, I couldn't think of how to pull that off. But when I thought about using whatever lights are already a part of the environment, I got the answer almost immediately. We had to exercise restraint even in our film's aesthetics, because that's really what Chhaya's going through. It made perfect narrative sense. As for the budget, I had actually got two lights, just in case the house got too dark during the evenings.

Why was it made in black and white? What were the challenges you faced?
Black and white was first, a narrative decision. Then we realised how much cheaper it would be. In the early drafts of the script, I had written various colour settings for different scenes. But a friend said he saw the film entirely in black and white. And I realised it made perfect sense. It took four years to make this film, but the light at the end of this tunnel became visible only three months ago. We had location and money problems. It was really tough, frustrating and downright depressing at times. And now that it's done, I am bored.

The film reminded me of Darren Aronofsky's cinema. A lot of the inspiration doesn't go into the aesthetics or narrative as much as sharing the madness these guys have for making films. I read this fantastic book called 'Lynch on Lynch' by Chris Rodley. Reading about how David Lynch made 'Eraserhead', his first feature, was inspiring. He spent five years making it, and that for some reason made our four years seem comforting. That's what's great about making your first film. You can jump into this world you've thought of, build it with your own hands, and live in it for however long your want. There are no deadlines or people with money standing over your shoulder. But then again, making movies with truckloads of money has its charms too.

What are you hoping for from the CIFF screening?
Kshay is like a little baby that has a lot of parents, all of whom don't keep the company of friends that will give it the exposure it needs. CIFF is giving us just that and I am grateful for that. We want this film to be shown to as many people, and let this little guy live the life it wants to.

What's next?
I am in the process of writing my next one along with my day-job, which pretty much means that I am still in the same place where I was four years ago.

And what is your day job?
I have a degree in Information Technology and Sound Engineering. Since then, I've been writing for a technology magazine called AV MAX, whose editor, Swapnil Raje, is the greatest boss a guy who wants to make films while keeping a day-job could ever ask for.
Kshay premieres at the CIFF on October 8. For details, log on to kshay-the

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