We carefully planned to let accidents happen – Rohit Mittal
Rohit Mittal’s Autohead was one of the chosen few films in the ‘Film Bazaar Recommends’ category at Film Bazaar 2015. The film is a mockumentary shot completely on location, within a micro budget. In a chat with Pandolin, Rohit talks about his debut film that is “a character study of a destructive mind in a repressive society.” Read on to know more about Autohead.
What is Autohead about?
It is about a documentary crew that is making a film about an auto rickshaw driver in the suburbs of Mumbai. As they dig deeper in his life they discover angst, sexual frustration and paranoia that leads to a terrible end.
What piqued your interest in such an unusual subject matter?
I wanted to make a film that is more of a character study of a destructive mind in a repressive society. Also I wanted to question the intent of the so-called social issue based filmmakers and question filmmaking in general. And the mockumentary format is very intriguing. One can experiment with the docu-drama form and at the same time criticize and question filmmakers and filmmaking.
Was mockumentary your only choice of genre for the film?
Yes, because I don’t consider it a genre. It’s more of a form that I like. 2001: Space Odyssey can also be made in a mockumentary format.
True. I was just wondering how different is it tonally from the other famous serial killer mockumentary, Man Bites Dog?
Well, it is more existential and the characters are completely different. The character in Autohead has an existential crisis and is also somewhat confused. Whereas in Man Bites Dog, there is no confusion. There is a point of view in Autohead that is an outcome of a repressive society. It is a violent solution. It may be wrong but its true. Also the structures and stories are completely different. And the filmmakers in Autohead do not sympathize or join hands with the subject.
Great. So how did you plan your shoot? Were there several intuitive decisions involved while filming or did you strictly adhere to a plan?
There was a plan but a lot of times it was instinctive. I wanted to capture the suburbs of Mumbai. I have grown up in Mumbai and travelled in auto rickshaws almost all my life. So I wanted to capture those elements but careful planning was done to let accidents happen, so that we could capture them.
Have you worked with trained actors or did you choose to work with non-actors in the film? And what was the basis of your decision?
Most of them were professional actors and some non-actors. Sometimes you need actors so that they understand the script and intention and also the point of view. I like to work with actors who can write and also improvise and are instinctive. It becomes difficult to explain that to non-actors. Non actors help when they are exactly like the characters in the script. It is hard to find people like that. But yes the non-actors we have in the film are perfect for their roles. They come with some ignorance, which is sometimes helpful. Also they come with a lot of energy that looks great on screen.
Was budget ever a concern and how did budget constraints affect your film aesthetically?
The budget I had was perfect for the film. The format allows us to shoot things differently and so you don’t require a massive budget. I think I would not shoot the film any differently even if I had a massive budget. Like I said it was perfect for the film.
How was the response to the film at Film Bazaar 2015?
The response was great. It was in the Film Bazaar Recommends section in the Viewing Room. It was one of the most viewed and talked about films at the Bazaar. Also all the important people who are supposed to see the film, saw it and thankfully loved it. All thanks to the bazaar. It is one of the best places to take your film to.
So are you planning a theatrical release for the film or will you be travelling to film festivals?
Yes. We will be traveling to film festivals for some time and release the film post that.
What next is in the pipeline after Autohead?
I am writing a film that’s about a group. I plan to shoot it in October this year.
So would it be right to say that you were always interested in filmmaking and becoming a filmmaker?
I always loved watching films. You can say that I was/am obsessed with them. But I never really thought of making films until I was 18. But it was only after I started watching more intense films and reading intense literature that I could relate my existential/social and political questions. So I first made a short film and realized that it is possible. It was a great feeling; the idea of making a film. I did not stop after that. I went to film school in the U.S., studied direction and made lots of short films. After that I decided to come back and make Autohead. It took a year or so but I made it.
– Sharzeel Zafaryab