A University of Rhode Island professor, who usually shoots his films in single takes, has screened his most recent work for the college community.
Ashish Chadha, URI film media professor from India, was present at the screening of his 2013 film, “Rati Chakravyuh” on Monday at the Thomas M. Ryan Family Auditorium in the Center of Biotechnology and Life Sciences.
Before the film began, Chadha addressed the audience about the differences between his film style and Western filmmaking.
“This is a very difficult film, and is different than what you’re used to,” Chadha said. He also said the film is “cinematically and culturally different,” and that it is important to be patient while viewing it.
“Rati Chakravyuh,” produced in 2013, takes place in a desolate temple, where six newlywed couples and a priestess gathered together after a mass wedding. The couples sat in a circle and discussed an exchange about life, death, beginning, end and stories from their past. After their conversation, which lasts for more than an hour, the 13 of them committed suicide.
“While writing the film, I thought about what a conversation would be in a group of people ready to kill themselves,” Chadha said. “I wrote for three weeks, and if I filmed everything I had written, the film would have been five hours long.”
During the process, Chadha said that he decided he did not want distinct characters in the movie, so he created a monologue that was split between 13 characters. He explained that he is very interested in time, rather than a narrative, titling himself as an experimental filmmaker in temporality.
“I think of cinema as an art form that is most elementally dealing with time through movement,” Chadha said. “I like to create my own universe where emotions are very underplayed.”
Chadha said that the entire film was filmed in a single shot, and there is no more than a three second pause between the character’s lines. He originally wrote the film in English, but the characters speak an Indian dialect with subtitles at the bottom.
Chadha used a Red camera to shoot the film, and used three ice packs on the cameras during filming to prevent overheating.
The actors in the film had one month to memorize their script. They rehearsed for one and a half months and practiced three or four times a week. The movie was filmed over the course of two days. The take ultimately used in the movie was filmed on the second day, which was their third try. Chadha said this take was probably their 71st time rehearsing, and there were finally no mistakes made. He said it was “like a trance.”
When asked why the story was not written as a novel, he said that the circularity shot is extremely important, and could not be portrayed just written down. At the end of the film, a text appears, explaining that the characters killed themselves and Chadha said that he believes “it is important to know death but not see [it].”
Liz Rogers, a URI film student, said that she enjoyed seeing a film professor who is still practicing filmmaking.
“‘Rati Chakravyuh’ is different from anything I’ve ever experienced before,” Rogers said. “It was very interesting to see a different culture although I didn’t necessarily understand everything.”
“I was really drawn into ‘Rati Chakravyuh,’ an experimental, innovative, and thought-provoking film,” French professor Leslie Kealhofer-Kemp said. “It was also a privilege to hear professor Chadha engage with members of the audience after the screening and discuss the genesis of the project, the technical aspects of the film and his philosophy as an artist.”
Chadha started making films ten years ago and has made 16 films shot in a similar fashion as “Rati Chakravyuh.” However, the majority of them were not distributed in India.
He said that “Rati Chakravyuh” will never be shown in theaters there because it would be completely censored. Even if it was, he said, the state has certain categories and they would be shocked by the text and structure of his movie. His film contains religious undertones and a lot of obvious subtexts.
An audience member asked Chadha how he would characterize his audience, but he replied that he does not make a film with an audience in mind. He said that the only audience that would 100 percent understand the film’s subtext would be an audience from Bangoli, India, where he is from.
“I think people are grabbed by the narrative because it is universal,” Chadha said. “The way each person engages in the film is different- there is no hierarchy.”
The film has been translated all over the world with various subtitles, and was shown for six weeks in gallery spaces in India. “Rati Chakravyuh” will soon be screened in China, at a single theater that seats 60 people, four times a day.