Victoria Film Festival Interview: BRAHMIN BULLS director Mahesh Pailoor
By Jason Whyte
Posted 02/09/15 04:28:46
"BRAHMIN BULLS is a heartfelt and humorous exploration of the ever-evolvoing relationship between a father and son, the women in their lives, and the powerful seeks they keep. When Ashok makes a surprise trip to Los Angeles to visit his estranged son, the two begin a journey to mend their relationship until Sid discovers this his father has actually come in search of an old flame." Director Mahesh Pailoor on his film BRAHMIN BULLS which screens at the 2015 Victoria Film Festival.
Is this your first movie in the Victoria Film Festival, and are you coming to Victoria for the screening?
Yes, this is my first film at VFF. As much as I would love to attend, unfortunately I will not be able to make it to the festival.
Tell me a bit about your background and what led you into movies and film festivals.
I have been making movies since I was twelve years old, so this really has been a lifelong passion. I went to NYU for undergrad and then made my way out to Los Angeles where I went to AFI for grad school. I have done quite a bit of film school and various other labs and programs. I have made numerous short films, documentaries, and commercials but BRAHMIN BULLS is my first feature film.
How did this whole project come together from your perspective?
BRAHMIN BULLS was really a labor of love for everyone involved. It was a few years out of film school and I had been trying to get a few other projects off the ground without much success when Anu, co-writer/co-producer, convinced me to start working on something that was more personal and something I could really get behind. I wanted to stop waiting for people to say yes, so instead we set out to make a smaller film on our own where we could work with our talented friends and take advantage of the resources we had around us. Sendhil (lead actor) and I had been friends for a long time so the role was specifically written for him and Yoshi Tsuji (producer) is a close friend and collaborator from AFI. Along with Cary Lin (Editor), Ben Kutchins (DP) and Maya Sigel (Production Designer), we had a great team to start out with.
The lead in the movie, Roshan Seth, I have seen in many pictures before and I admired his performance and general presence in the movie. Please tell me about your experiences in working with him on this film and his interactions with lead Sendhil Ramamurthy.
Roshan Seth was a dream to work with. I have been wanting to work with Roshan for many years, and he was always who I envisioned to play Ashok. Roshan has been in some of my favorite movies and has worked with directors like David Lean, Richard Attenborogh, Stephen Frears, and Mira Nair, to name few. He was extremely wonderful and generous with me and always worked hard to address any notes that I would have. There were many times on set when I would keep the camera rolling after the scene had finished and not call cut, just to see what else he would come up with in character. As for Sendhil, he really appreciated Roshan's experience and I think learned quite a lot from him.
I was pleased to see great actors Justin Bartha and Mary Steenburgen in the film. How did they become involved with this project and what were your experiences like with them on set?
We were so lucky and honored to have the cast that we did. Justin is actually a friend of mine from NYU, so it was great to work with him in the film. He brought so much to his role, even though it was a secondary character in the film. As for Mary, she came in through our wonderful casting directors, Danielle Aufiero and Amber Horn. Mary really responded to the script and the character of Helen. She was extremely collaborative and engaged, helping to shape scenes. Before shooting, she wanted me to know that she loved having direction. Even though she has won an Academy Award, Mary was still willing and eager to listen to a first time director.
What was the biggest challenge in making the film? And the most rewarding moment?
Like most independent films, we had the usual challenges of raising money and having less time than you would like to shoot scenes. But I think the biggest challenge has actually come in the end as we try and get the film out to audiences. There are so many movies that get made each year, that it becomes difficult to stand out. Festival like VFF help smaller films like ours find an audience. If people like the movie, we hope that they can help spread the word.
What keeps you going while making a movie? How much coffee?
I do not drink much coffee, but at the end of the day making movies is so much fun. You are surrounded by a family of friends and supporters all trying to tell a story, It is both inspiring and gratifying and it is what keeps you going.
I would love to know about the technical side of the film, your relationship to the director of photography, what the movie was shot on and why it was decided to be filmed this way.
Ben Kutchins was our incredible cinematographer. He and I are close friends, having gone to NYU together many years ago. Ben actually shot my student film at NYU, which BRAHMIN BULLS is partly based. So it was great to work with him again on this. He brought so much inspiration and experience to the film. We shot on the Arri Alexa, which is a great camera. It reproduces colors like flesh tones really well and has a large dynamic range. Ben also used small nets between the lens and sensor to add texture to the image, since we were trying to get as organic an image and feel as possible.
[i[I would love to hear about the journey this movie has had on the fest circuit, and the plans you have for the movie after it plays in Victoria.
We have had a great experience playing the film at festivals all over the world and winning some awards along the way. It has been especially gratifying to be able to interact with audiences and get immediate reactions. The film was released theatrically in the US in November and continues to play in select theatres nationwide leading up to our VOD release in late spring. We are also planning on releasing in the UK and eventually India.
What would you say or do to someone who is talking or texting during a screening of your film in a cinema?
To each his/her own. But to anyone who is not interested in the film, I would ask them to at least respect the other people in the theatre.
There are a lot filmmakers, especially up-and-comers, reading our site. I was curious if you had any advice to aspiring filmmakers?
The barriers to making films have dropped so much in the last few years, that really anyone who wants to make a movie can. The most important advice I can give to an aspiring filmmaker is to set your shooting dates and then go for it, no matter what. It gives the process real momentum and proves to those involved that you are going to make something. You will be amazed what starts to happen.
And finally, what would you say is your favorite movie (or film festival movie)?
This is tough. There are way too many movies that I love for different reasons. But if I really had to choose, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA would be somewhere at the top.
For additional information on the Victoria Film Festival including screening times, ticketing information and other events happening around the city in the next ten days, point your browser to www.victoriafilmfestival.com.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @jasonwhyte for live updates throughout the fest including Instagram updates, commentary and links to upcoming interviews and coverage. If you see me in line, please say hi!
Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com