Filmmaker Gitanjali Sinha's debut film, Yeh Khula Aasman deals with students' frustrations and is making waves at international film festivals
Yeh Khula Aasmaan, a feature film which deals with extreme academic stress and its effects on children, has been making waves at film festivals in Ireland, South Africa and Los Angeles, among others. We got in touch with the debutant director, 28 year-old Gitanjali Sinha, to find out more about her, the film, and commercial release plans.
Tell us about yourself and where you come from.
I am from Bihar and did my schooling from Notre Dame, Patna. I later graduated from Patna Women's College and topped the college. I was always interested in media and did several related courses such as radio broadcasting, photography, etc and later enrolled for the New York Film Academy Course in Kings College, London. I then met Meghna Ghai and enrolled myself in the first batch of the course in film direction in Whistling Woods to expose myself to Indian cinema. However, I left that course midway and started working on films.
Tell us more about the film's plot.
It's about the journey of a Mumbai-based, boy (Avinash) who is under extreme pressure because of his academic failures. He also feels an immense vacuum which his busy parents (settled in London) are unable to fill. In desperation, he decides to visit his grandfather (Dadu) in Bihar after several years. Dadu realises his fragile mental condition and since he is one of the best kite runners around, he uses the kite to subtly impart life lessons and instill confidence in Avinash.
Did personal experiences compel you to make a film on academic stress?
In school, I saw a lot of seniors attempting and committing suicide after their Class 10 results. I was very young, but those incidents disturbed me. Also, I've always wanted to make meaningful cinema filled with entertainment that involves the youth and their relationship with people from other generations.
Why didn't you cast someone famous in the lead role?
Yashpal Sharma plays the father, Raghubir Yadav plays the grandfather and the lead character is played by 19 year-old Raj Tandon. I auditioned around 300 people for the role in Mumbai and was extremely disappointed. I was going to audition for people in Delhi but I spotted Raj in a bus and convinced him to do the role. It would have easier to work with an accomplished actor but Raj was exactly how I had visualised my lead character. He has done a fantastic job.
The film marks the return of music director duo Anand-Milind after a brief hiatus. Why did you chose to get them on board?
I was convinced about getting Anandji and Milindji on board because they have the experience, they can deliver melodies and because of the sheer passion they showed to work on this project.
When will the film be ready for commercial release?
We plan to release it at the end of May but it may get postponed.