“I loved the experience, and I now know why MAMI is truly special,” says writer-director-producer Dibakar Das Roy whose film Dill Dark premiered at the recently concluded Jio MAMI Film Festival held in Mumbai. In an exclusive interview with Cine Blitz, the filmmaker opens up about the film’s making, response at MAMI, racial discrimination and more.
How has the journey of Dilli Dark been so far?
Dibakar Das Roy: The journey has been extremely exciting, right from the time when Dilli Dark was selected for the prestigious NFDC Film Bazaar Work in Progress Lab, right up to premiering in the Main Competition section at MAMI for the World Premiere, and being selected for the First Features Section at the PÖFF Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, one of the top FIAPF accredited A Listed film festivals in the world.
How did the selection for Film Bazar’s lab happen? Was it of any help?
Dibakar Das Roy: I handed in a rough cut through the application process which receives hundreds of films from all over the country and subcontinent, and it was an extremely pleasant surprise to be selected as the Lab has mentored some of the most acclaimed Indian independent films in the past. The NFDC WIP Lab opened up doors for me to understand the independent filmmaking circuit, and introduced me to many senior filmmakers, festival programmers and distributors. I also found my sales agents here, who have an extremely impressive catalogue of world cinema.
MAMI premiered Dilli Dark. Were you overwhelmed by the experience, the screening?
Dibakar Das Roy: I loved the experience, and I now know why MAMI is truly special – because the audiences who come here are genuine cinema lovers and they give you all the love and support that a debutant independent filmmaker like myself could hope for. Moreover, they really enjoyed my film, laughing at all the right parts and asking the most interesting questions in the Q and A. I felt they really ‘got’ it.
How much time did you take to film Dilli Dark?
Dibakar Das Roy: It has taken me one year to write, and about 1 and a half years to shoot and edit.
What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers? Which pitfalls would you warn them about?
Dibakar Das Roy: I would advise them to spend as much time on the script as possible, as that is where they can really add value to a film. I feel a good script will always atleast give you an average film whereas a bad script well executed will never be able to give you a good film. Moreover, when you are starting off and resources are limited, you can really control the production at the script level and make sure you have a grip on it from the beginning. If you start with a script which you feel has not been completed yet it can lead to severe problems at the production stage.
How was the experience of working with Samuel Abiola Robinson? Were the cultural differences problematic during the making of the film?
Dibakar Das Roy: It was great working with him as he is a talented actor. The film is about cultural differences, so I don’t think they were a problem as we had many detailed discussions about such issues as we were making the film.
Racial discrimination is omnipresent across our country. Why do you think it is hardly ever addressed? (Is the caste system also apartheid in another structured form?)
Dibakar Das Roy: I think it is hardly ever addressed because we are in denial about these issues, – we tend to take them lightly – often coated in the form of casual humour, and this is why we need to recognize these issues for what they are. And yes, I do think that the caste system is apartheid in another form.
Any interesting incidents during the making of Dilli Dark that stayed with you?
Dibakar Das Roy: There is a scene where Michael Okeke goes around Delhi asking people about where to get a job – that sequence is filmed with real people whom we told later we were shooting. This was to get the most authentic reactions.
The village in the outskirts of Noida we were shooting at for one location thought the shoot and the catering was an open invitation for a feast and the many villagers landed up to eat and watch the shoots – of course our limited budgets went way over but it was a heartwarming experience.
There is a scene where a dog comes to sniff at some meat lying on the road – we wanted to get a shot of the dogs possibly taking a bite or carrying it away – but we were amazed that none of the dogs did! [Someone said later that the area was a primarily vegetarian locality where the dogs were probably never given any non-vegetarian food!]