Tag Archives: Indian filmmaker

Paras Borgohain: Khul Ja Sesame

Stories of plight, of unrequited love, of untold history are the threads that stitch the seams of our ever-expanding world. These are the narratives that empower us to learn and to empathize with small tales of astronomical weight.

This has become Paras Borgohain’s mission: storytelling of impact. As a filmmaker straddling industry in both America and India, his unconventional life path has given him the power to bring these narratives to the screen. He aims to bridge the gap between everyday people and important stories from around the world. 

Borgohain began his academic career at the University of Delhi, where he studied English Language and Literature. Early in his life, he began to see the importance of telling stories and bringing many of these narratives out of the shadows for public consumption.

“I needed to find a point of entry into the industry,” he said, speaking of the time of tumult towards the end of his education. Following Delhi University and a graduate diploma in Communication from Mumbai, Paras found himself at a production company that exclusively worked on daily Indian soap series.

“It was not something I wanted to work with because I hated watching them as a kid,” he said. While it was a grind for him, he knew that it would be the best way to network into the industry. It taught him about working under pressure. He recounted staying up late into the night, coming up with storylines that would be filmed at 7am the next morning. But still, the industry was stagnant, the plotlines of mothers-in-law and revenge were often hard to identify with as a young person. 

Borgohain’s thirst for mission driven work brought him to Galli Galli Sim Sim, India’s Sesame Street. Collaborating with in-house educational researchers breathed life into his career. He was finally doing something that mattered to him: shaping the development of the next generation of Indian children. 

Galli Galli Sim Sim was a safe space for the production group. People on the team got married – that’s the kind of family the show was. 

“Writing for children isn’t what I thought I’d be doing in terms of my artistic goals,” he said. He wanted to write about things that mattered to him, metafictional narratives and stories about minority groups, topics too heavy for a children’s television show. Due to this, Borgohain took up several freelance projects over the next few years. He worked on community radio shows for UNICEF, for pockets of the world that didn’t have access to television. He assisted with the screenplay writing for Turner Broadcasting. He helped contribute to a National Geographic documentary about how the 1980s changed India. Through these projects, he learned about the issue spaces he cared deeply for, but he realized he needed to stop doing commission work. 

“I was afraid that I would lose my individual voice,” he said. 

This was the tipping point for him. He decided he needed to write his own feature film, “Deepest, Darkest or How Not to Lie.”  

The story begins with a gay man who dies mysteriously. He writes a letter to his friend, a PR professional, and she is tasked with figuring out what happened to him. She explores his life and must come to terms with their mirrored experiences with unrequited love and suppression. She must find out what lead him to believe that life was hopeless. 

Paras Borgohain, winner of the BlueCat Roshan Award (Image taken from BlueCat)

The story, about loss, acceptance, and identity, had huge success, winning the Bluecat Roshan Award for best Indian screenplay in 2016. Paras finally had a way into the industry, telling stories close to his heart of the struggles of LGBTQ+ communities in India. This was the type of storytelling he always dreamed he would be known for.

Soon after, Borgohain enrolled in UCLA’s professional program at their film school. Here, he sharpened the core of what he wanted to write about. 

“Do your words on the page do your thoughts justice?” He always found himself asking himself about the authenticity of his words. 

Today, he is working on fleshing out projects that he began at UCLA. He’s working on a project about Assam from the 70s to 90s, taking a historical lens that has rarely come to the mainstream media. He is in pre-production for a film about the decriminalization of homosexuality in India, called “The Crash of ’14,” which was his final project during his professional education. 

The project closest to his heart is one about an LGTBQ+ activist and author from the 90’s named Stan Leventhal. Back in 2013, Borgohain had written a blog post about how much Leventhal’s writing had moved him, with its lucid and unique voice about the AIDS epidemic. With serendipitous help from the internet, he managed to get in touch with the late Leventhal’s family, who gave him permission to turn his book into a movie. 

Paras looks back at his career with gratitude. 

“It’s taken me 14 years to get from working on soaps to something I give a damn about.”

His advice for aspiring Indian American filmmakers is simple: be open and resilient. 

“If you want to break into a tough industry like entertainment, you have to be thick skinned,” he said. It took him several failures and jobs to get to where he is today. 

But above everything, he says to trust your internal creative compass. 

“What’s going on inside you as an artist, what your personal experiences are, that’s your next creative masterpiece.”

Swathi is a junior at Duke University studying Public Policy and Computer Science. She hopes to continue to learn through the lens of her Indian-American heritage.

Cannes Festival welcomes Young Indian Filmmaker’s film

Seven Rounds (2018), a short film scripted by young Indian filmmaker Akshun Abhimanyu from Los Angeles has been selected to premier at the Festival De Cannes in France in May 2018.

Inspired from true incidents, the movie brings into focus major issues faced by immigrants related to the travel ban, racism and the 2017 Kansas shooting.


“Racial discrimination is a major issue which is very much prevalent in our society. Even I have faced many such instances in the past two years and the Kansas shooting was really an eye-opener. Having a beard myself, I could resonate with the angst and pain faced by many. It made me realize that subliminal racism has slowly become a grave concern that needs to be addressed,” opined Akshun. “Being an actor, I was always on a hunt to play a role that has a strong motive and this storyline helped me in creating such a character to which I could relate to,” he adds.

“It’s really overwhelming to receive such an honor. I got very lucky to get acquainted with such great filmmakers and like-minded friends, who made the journey really special,” said Akshun Abhi, who is at Cannes from May 8 -19, 2018.  Akshun Abhimanyu is the writer and lead actor of the film, along with co-actors Abhay Walia, Kevin Mukherjea, Nakia Secrest, Karl J. Morris, Dennis Getmanski, and Denis Garr. The short is directed by George Saviddis, produced by Three Flames Productions and the screenplay is by Karthik Menon.

After spreading his message of love and mutual global acceptance, Akshun aims to take the ‘seven rounds’ to a bigger platform after the festival run, either as a feature or docu-series.

 

Akshun comes from a family that has a strong background in science. His father, Dr Alok Adholeya, was a microbiologist and mother, Dr Radhika Adholeya, a gynecologist. Akshun felt drawn towards the field of science. He completed his bachelors in biotechnology and also did training as a researcher in Germany.

“My mother always used to make these statements that being known as ‘a scientist who is a dancer is really cool’ but a ‘dancer who knows science, won’t be that cool’. Hence, I always had in mind to complete my graduation in Science,” stated Akshun.

It was his strong inclination towards art that made him realize his dream and move to LA to study at the New York Film Academy. “Though I opted to study science, I was always a regular performer who could find happiness in the expression of art. Even while studying Biotechnology in Germany, I worked part time at a theater and taught dancing to students.”

Eventually, he arrived at a cross-road. “There was always this consistent attraction towards the stage and when there came a point where I could pursue only one amongst the two, and I opted for arts. I decided to take the indirect approach of creating a change in the society through strong message-driven movies rather than a direct approach through developments in science. It was then that I realized the inherent value of art as a tool that can influence society,” stated Akshun, who has worked in nearly 14 short films and 9 commercials so far. 

The actor-cum-dancer considers his family as his greatest strength, who stood by him all the time and motivated him to pursue his dreams. “I was always a hyperactive and notorious kid and it’s my family, especially my sister Ananaya Alok, who kept me grounded and helped me in realizing my passion towards art,” he added.

Focused on creating a platform for artists to collaborate, the budding filmmaker also plans to eventually produce and create his own films in the future. Currently studying Entertainment business and Management at UCLA extension, he has also scripted two stories based on sexual abuse and harassment and bullying at college for upcoming projects. Not just in Hollywood, he also aspires to make ‘new-age’ movies in India that center around social issues.

 

Seven Rounds (2018). Director: George Saviddis. Writers: Akshun Abhimanyu (Creator) and Karthik Menon (Screenplay). Lead Actor: Akshun Abhimanyu. Co Actor: Abhay Walia. Cast: Kevin Mukherjea, Nakia Secrest, Karl J. Morris, Dennis Getmanski, Denis Garr. Producers: Miranda Guzman, Trevor Doyle (Three Flames Productions).

 

 

Writing has been my passion and I love expressing my thoughts in various forms of writing including articles, stories, and poems. I come with nearly a decade’s experience in the field of journalism, exploring and writing about people, issues, and community stories for many leading media publications in India. Living in Colorado for two years gave me the opportunity to experience new culture and write about an entirely different community, art, and lifestyle for a leading publication in Denver, Colorado. Now, it’s time to explore California and would love to write more about the people and community — Suchithra Pillai.