Autohead, a mockumentary film about a crew following a psychotic rickshaw driver has been the subject of much adulation. From being compared to classics such as Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and Belvaux and Bonzel’s Man Bites Dog to travelling to festivals such as the Hong Kong International Film Festival (where it was the only Indian selection), the BiFan Film Festival in South Korea (where its lead Deepak Sampat won the Best Actor award) and the 49th Sitges International Film Festival in Spain, it finally plays to home audiences at MAMI. Its director Rohit Mittal, a law graduate from Fergusson College, Pune, who studied direction at the Los Angeles campus of New York Film Academy talks the idea behind the story, why people should watch it, his advice to newbie filmmakers, and more.
Excerpts from a quick chat:
His cinematic journey
I’ve been watching films all my life but they were mostly Indian films or Hollwood films. At the age of 16, I started watching films from all over the world. I studied law but all I did in law school was watch movies, write scripts and make short films.
I was also into literature. I wanted to do something with poetry and cinema. I made my first short film when I was 18-19. It was called White Nights and it was shot on a handycam. It had this horror-mystery element to it.
The story behind Autohead
I wanted to do a character study of a criminal mind. At the same time, I wanted to question the people capturing him. I also like to make my statement. For me, maybe the guy going around doing these bad things is right. To other people, maybe he comes off as a sick person. Taxi Driver is inspired by Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky which is one of my favourite novels. It’s the conflict that these works talk about that I really relate to.
Why the film holds universal appeal
To me, it’s funny. To other people, it might be intense and dark. There’s exploration. It’s also a comparatively new format as far as Indian films are concerned. And for the amazing performances.
There’s no message and no social issues. It’s anti-message and anti-social issues. (laughs)
There’s never one person. Shinya Tsukamoto, Jean-Luc Godard, Martin Scorsese, Gaspar Noé, Nicolas Winding Refn.
Freshman tip for aspiring filmmakers
First, go ahead and make a film. Second, if you can afford to get a producer, please do. Producers don’t just get the money, there’s a lot of other work as well. 50 per cent of your film depends on the producer. Shooting and all is not too difficult honestly. This holds true especially for independent filmmakers. It’s the producer’s job to take your film to the right festivals and the right markets.
And lastly, don’t think of what festivals you’re going to get into. It corrupts your project. Make whatever it is that you want to make. Eventually if it’s good, it will travel.