“It is an attempt at putting up a mirror to society that is difficult to watch. We must remind ourselves of the circumstances that we live in and this film is an attempt at doing that. If some people perceive it to be problematic, that is fine with me as long as the film starts a conversation and helps us get to the root of the issue,” says debut director Tariq Vasudeva about his short film, Circus.
Delhi-born Tariq’s film, India’s only entry at the 40th Moscow International Film Festival, is set in modern-day urban India – a concrete jungle of glaring class divisions and contrasting lifestyles under the same roof. A woman working in the corporate world struggling to be included in an office filled with men and another man, employed as a domestic helper in a rich home, struggling to find his purpose. The consequences are devastating.
“In the present times, we all have strong opinions on the issue of violence against women but to truly understand why it exists, we have to look at all the possible causes, one step at a time. And it is very important to look at the effect of societal conditions on the psychology of the Indian man. It is a difficult thing to do but I think it will help us come up with some answers, and hopefully then, we can all find a solution to this national crisis,” says Tariq.
Tariq, in the past, has acted in award-winning short film, Kusum – the Flower Bud along with appearing in popular television commercials and numerous plays across India. He now wants to hit the big screen and has already started penning a feature film. “Once the script is complete, I will start raising funds to be able to shoot it. The hardest part is getting the funding for an independent film but I will give it my best shot and hope other people believe in the film and are willing to support it,” he shares expectantly.
Born and raised in New Delhi in a Punjabi family, Tariq attended The Shri Ram School and later graduated from Denison University in Ohio, USA with a Bachelor of Arts. “Though I studied history as well, my focus was mainly on studying theatre. I took many theatre classes and acted in a lot of plays in college. After college, I worked as a professional actor in Chicago in critically acclaimed plays at the Silk Road Theatre and Vitalist Theatre before moving back to India. Once back, I moved to Mumbai and continued acting on stage under the direction of well-known theatre directors. Sometime ago, I started my own film production company, Open Sky Productions. Since then, I have directed many corporate training videos for leading companies in India,” he says.
Was it easy convincing his parents that he wanted to move to Mumbai and enter the film industry? “My parents are quite liberal and open-minded but we don’t have any connections there and obviously, there is a fear of the unknown. They have supported me but the financial and emotional struggle is a big cause of worry, more so because the industry does not provide equal opportunities for talented people to get ahead. A little bit of success does not change anything – the struggle continues because you constantly need to prove your worth. And being an independent filmmaker in India is a battle of David vs Goliath and I do not think any parent wants their kids to go through it!,” explains Tariq who has been inspired by actors like Charlie Chaplin and Jim Carrey – both of whom use comedy to say something strong.
“Film directors like Satyajit Ray, Guru Dutt, Stanley Kubrick and Michael Haneke, who made path-breaking films, have inspired me too. I am deeply inspired by the amazing work ethics of my father and the limitless energy and drive of my mother. And how can I not get inspired by the contagious passion and encouragement of Mohan Madgulkar, the country head of Steps Drama Learning Development – a company that specialises in using drama to conduct corporate training. He is someone I have worked with closely and have learnt a lot,” he discloses.
On his plans for the future, Tariq says, “I want to continue making some form of art – whether it is a film, a play, a piece of music, painting or dancing. I love all forms of art and hope to explore them all at some point in life because I feel all of them are interrelated. And of course, I hope to create work that has some substance and can add to the conversation around making changes in society.”