India Today - - LEISURE - —Sukant Deepak

“I wasn’t too sure yet of my abil­ity as a di­rec­tor since I had just be­gun my learn­ing, but it was im­por­tant to make the film for my heal­ing,” says the 35-year-old, who en­rolled for a screen­writ­ing and film di­rec­tion course at the San Fran­cisco Film So­ci­ety, Cal­i­for­nia, after an elec­tri­cal en­gi­neer­ing pro­fes­sor com­pli­mented his writ­ing.

The short film, Lost and Found (2014), didn’t come out ex­actly as he had ex­pected. “But there was a joy in mak­ing the jour­ney from con­ceiv­ing an idea to ex­press­ing it ar­tis­ti­cally us­ing a craft that stayed with me,” says Ayr, who is soon mov­ing back per­ma­nently to In­dia.

Ac­tu­ally, he never re­cov­ered his stolen cy­cle, but he did find his voice. His se­cond short, Quest for a Dif­fer­ent Out­come, won the Best Film award at the San Jose In­ter­na­tional Short Film Fes­ti­val in 2015. And this year his de­but Hindi fea­ture Soni was the only In­dian film to have been se­lected for the pres­ti­gious 75th Venice In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val (Au­gust 29 to Septem­ber 8) in the Oriz­zonti Com­pe­ti­tion cat­e­gory.

Cen­tring on the ris­ing num­ber of crimes against women in Delhi, the movie, which won the Prasad DI Award for the Best Film in Film Bazaar Rec­om­men­da­tions sec­tion at the NFDC Film Bazaar 2017 and the Face­book Award for Best Workin-Progress Pro­ject, ex­plores how the city’s po­lice­women re­act to the ris­ing tide of bru­tal sex­ual vi­o­lence. “I am sure the thought crosses their minds that even they, de­spite their po­si­tion of power, are sus­cep­ti­ble to the same atroc­i­ties, both on and off duty,” he says. “This tus­sle of emo­tions was worth ex­plor­ing. More­over, the van­tage point of the po­lice, I thought, af­forded a broader view of the sit­u­a­tion on the ground.”

Ayr spent a month in­ter­view­ing and ob­serv­ing Delhi Po­lice per­son­nel of dif­fer­ent ranks across the cap­i­tal. They hon­oured his re­quest grace­fully, he says. “[Yet] I could not help but no­tice the very sen­si­tive dy­nam­ics of the of­fi­cers’ re­la­tion­ship with their peers and su­pe­ri­ors, and how hi­er­ar­chy dic­tates it all. Though I took cre­ative lib­er­ties in writ­ing my char­ac­ters, I was amazed how much I was draw­ing from this knowl­edge dur­ing the course of my se­cond draft. It not only brought to the page el­e­ments of re­al­ism and ac­cu­racy around po­lice pro­to­col, but pro­foundly trans­formed the story.”

He ex­plains his choice of debu­tants Geetika Vidya Ohlyan and Saloni Ba­tra for the lead roles by say­ing that “the words ‘new­comer’ and ‘es­tab­lished’ hold no mean­ing for me”—only the ac­tor’s abil­ity to cap­ture the essence of the char­ac­ter.

An ad­mirer of Ira­nian film­maker Ja­far Panahi’s blend­ing of fact and fic­tion to get at a larger truth, Ayr says he hopes he never falls into the trap of for­mu­laic sto­ries. “This idea (of gen­res) has come to rep­re­sent the Hol­ly­wood fac­tory of film­mak­ing, which I am fiercely crit­i­cal of. My duty is to ex­press my take on life, our so­ci­etal weak­nesses and the hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence. That’s where my loy­alty lies,” he said.

“My duty is to ex­press my take on life, so­ci­etal weak­nesses and hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence”

Hav­ing ac­tor-par­ents didn’t make Ab­hi­manyu Das­sani’s de­but any eas­ier

A still from Soni

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