Posted on 5 August, 2015 by Team Wishberry
Leeches is a film set in the chaotic old city of Hyderabad, where a 16 year old girl is in search of an old wives' remedy that would make her a virgin again. Director, producer and writer of the film, Payal Sethi brings us a film that's raw, hard-hitting and has a story that just needs to be told. We talk to her about all that went into making this film and what she's been up to since her crowdfunding success for Leeches. View her campaign page HERE!
What have you been up to since the crowdfunding success? Payal: After completing the crowdfunding in August 2014 we took our time finding the right cast for the film. I was floored the moment Sayani Gupta walked through the door for the audition, dressed as my main character, Raisa, black head-scarf and all. Her commitment since that point has been incredible. The other actors were carefully handpicked later. I spent several weeks in Hyderabad meeting theatre and film actors, I’m very pleased with the authenticity we brought into the film through the supporting characters. Pre-production began in October and now we are currently at the tail end of post-production. We are aiming for a complete film by September 1st.
Does being a female independent filmmaker pose a challenge while making a film on such a subject? Payal: The process of filmmaking in itself is difficult. What I’m trying to say is, the challenge of dealing with tricky subject prevails, no matter what your gender is. That said, being female does add a different layer to interactions, but I have never found it to be a disadvantage. Our film’s subject is sensitive and had to be handled at every step of the way by the entire cast and crew. It was great filming at various locations in Hyderabad (we shot entirely on location), albeit extremely challenging at times. However, the challenges had more to do with shooting on location in sensitive areas. I was advised to go to Ramoji Film City several times, but I didn’t want to compromise on the authenticity and character of every element of the film.
How did you get the right people on board for this project? Payal: The right people rose to every task and excelled at what they had to do, whether it was acting, cinematography, art direction, music or sound design. I simply shared my vision for the film honestly, and I did not compromise even a bit on what I wanted.
What were the biggest challenges you faced while making Leeches? Payal: Locations were the toughest. Navigating around the Charminar for a shot, with 4 huge cars full of equipment in waning daylight, getting stuck in the middle of a union strike, a location disappearing into thin air, keeping the real story of the film under wraps from Hyderabadi officials- shooting for this film has been no cakewalk! I so wish I could say I made some of it up, but it all really happened. (More on this, here.) We shot a 60 minute film in under Rs. 15 Lakhs, and worked throughout the shoot under inspired madness. The film has currently been edited down to less than 30 minutes, as festivals tend to have a sweet spot about duration. Of course, there were many other compromises and adjustments, but I’m proud of the final result.
What drew you to the subject of One Day Brides? Payal: What drew me to this subject was the fact that I was living in Hyderabad when I came across the practice of contract marriages. The old city of Hyderabad has charm and character, and absorbs you in. I imagined what it must be like for a young girl living in an environment like that when I started writing the script. And once I started, everything just followed and there was just no stopping after that. Since I wanted to maintain a degree of realism, I kept all the details specific to the world in which this story takes place. There are countless other stories about similar issues from all over our country, and this is just one of them. However, we decided to take a different approach with ‘Leeches’ and not make it an out and out ‘issue’ film. My co-writer encouraged me to think outside the box and find a different perspective from that of most films about similar subjects. As a result, what we’ve created is something totally unexpected.
How do you plan to distribute this film beyond major festivals? Payal: We have a digital distribution strategy that will kick in once the festival premieres are complete. We hope to announce our world premiere very soon.
What's next on your plate? Payal: A big fat feature! Although, I am always up for directing shorts if the opportunity presents itself.
Any advice for independent filmmakers? Payal: If you’ve decided to go indie you’re already going against the grain. So there is no point in half measures! Push boundaries and expectations as much as you can, and the rest will follow. Curious to know how you can raise funds for your film just like Payal did? Just submit your details below and we will teach you how you can raise funds successfully!
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