Edmonton filmmaker Shreela Chakrabartty is a longtime member of FAVA and has recorded location sound for dozens of projects worldwide, as well as directing a few shorts herself.
Like many other independent artists, finding a foothold in the business of world cinema takes collaborative effort. Shreela joined forces with Toronto based Writer/Actor/Filmmaker Kash Gauni to produce the feature-length thriller, Rock Paper Dice Enter. In a story full of twists and turns, after much creative scheduling, financing and marketing, the film will be opening in worldwide distribution in India on February 7, 2014.
Her road to Indian distribution was a matter of good luck and timing. A few years ago, she was between projects and considering her options. The answer came from an unlikely source: Toronto-based actor/writer Kash Gauni. Although she has known him for nearly a decade, at the time she had never met him in person.
Shreela and Kash’s first venture as duo filmmakers is a complex thriller directed by Shreela with Kash in the lead role. Kash felt a woman director would do justice to the interpretation of his story involving world peace, diamond trades and big data.
In 2011, Shreela had a prospective offer to direct an international co-production with Gerard Depardieu, but she didn’t feel that she had enough legal and financial experience to be part of a project of that scale, but she felt ready to take on RPDE.
Kash wrote the story Once Upon a Lama, featuring an Indian lead character as an Edward Snowden-type of hacktivst. He delivered the screenplay version within 20 days and their fate was sealed. They revised the script, changed the title and copyrighted it in February 2011. Shooting started shortly after.
With half of the film shot, Shreela cut a teaser to begin the sales process. A real estate company donated water for the shoot. Another friend, actor/director Gilbert Allan, had coordinated the audition process and found a way to secure one of the key locations: King’s College, where he teaches drama. They found allies in strange places. At the restaurant at the Palace Casino in West Edmonton Mall, she met Robert Bailey, concept artist for George Lucas with his circle of friends, one of whom owns the surplus and collectible store Supply Sergeant. For a high-tech thriller, this was strangely serendipitous.
One of the goals of the film was to depict the South Asian diaspora as a larger-than-life reflection of themselves, moving away from Hollywood stereotypes of Indians. Banking on the fact that they have an Indian leading man in an English language commercial film, they took a chance and shopped it in India.
“We started with mediocre offers by gatekeepers until one company in Delhi gave us an hour meeting with this guy who talked on the phone the entire time and didn’t watch the screener. A week later, we got a call and they said that they were going to release the film on February 7. WOW.”
That company turned out to be PVR Cinemas, the largest cinema chain in India. PVR will open Rock Paper Dice Enter in 38 theatres in 7 cities across India. They are optimistic about its success, having test screened it in Canada and India — “They watched in pin-drop silence to catch every word. They were riveted.” Although Shreela and Kash have yet to lock the dates of their North American release, they are excited to have showcased their debut to one of the biggest and devoted moviegoing public in the world.
“This whole thing has an aura of suspense. I don’t know how people will react.”
In other words, after this long journey, she is thrilled.