Breaking the gender barrier

Breaking the gender barrier

From being a production designer to dabbling with direction as an assistant, Vandana Kataria has come a long way as she directs her first feature film, ‘Noblemen’

A graduate from the National Institute of Design, Vandana Kataria was the Production Designer on 'Detective Byomkesh Bakshy' (2015), 'Shanghai' (2012), and 'Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye' in (2008), for which she also won her first Filmfare award.

She has directed multiple commercials, music videos, and corporate films in the past. She was the 2nd unit director on 'Gully Boy' and directed the music video 'Jungli Sher' for rap sensation Divine.

More recently she has made her foray into writing and directing, and her first feature film as writer/ director 'Noblemen' produced by Saregama India under the banner of Yoodlee Films, awaits its commercial release at end of this month.

She is presently prepping for her next feature film with RSVP, and during an interview speaks about her inspiration behind the big leap.

How do you feel about your directing debut?

I've always directed commercials, music videos in the past. Never written or filmed a feature length, but I always eventually wanted to. Just that I chose this route in, through production design.

But I am feeling much more nervous now than I ever did as a production designer.

Are there any particular events or experiences that influenced you to write the film?

It's inspired from 'Merchant of Venice', set in an all-boys boarding school. I've studied at a boarding school all my life.

Bullying/revenge/monsters creating more monsters are the central themes of this story, and all of this deeply interested me.

Tell us more.

It is the story of 15-year-old Shay who is cast in the Founders' Day production of Merchant of Venice.

But Baadal; a senior to Shay, the son of a feigning Bollywood star, and the quintessential entitled millennial, believes the part should be his.

Thus he recruits his best friend and Sports Captain; Arjun, to help him overthrow Shay from the part. Therein begins a series of events, that lead to the loss of innocence, and life itself.

Does the film draw parallels to the current environment in our society, specifically the bullying on social media websites like Twitter?

Yes absolutely. The school is the microcosm, representing society at large. And schools along with homes is where our children slowly grow into adults.

Thus this is where we need to address bullying the most, where it shapes kids for life.

Tell us about Kunal Kapoor's role in the movie?

Kunal plays a drama teacher. He's new to the school compared to the rest of the characters. There is a mystery to him, nobody knows anything about his past.

He's a rebellious teacher, doesn't necessarily follow the norms of the school, he questions things. But the kids love him. most. The others are probably a tad jealous/threatened/or in awe of him

Tell us about Ali Haji's role in the movie?

Ali Haji is the central character Shay through whose eyes the plot unfolds. He plays Bassanio in the production of Merchant of Venice but there's of course much more to what happens to him in the film.

Any special character you want to talk about?

All of them are special Arjun played by Ali Mir, Baaadal played by Shaan Groverr, Pia by Muskkaan Jafferi, Ganzu played by Hardik Thakkar, the headmaster by MK Raina, the deputy headmaster by Ivan Rodriguez, and last but certainly not the least, Wing Commander Sharma played by Soni Razdan.

Can you shed some light on what your next project(s) will be?

My next is signed with RSVP. A dysfunctional family drama, set in a matriarchal home, among three generations of women, over a wedding, in Kerala.

I'm in talks to direct a show later this year, not signed yet. Got two new scripts, and hope to develop a series of my own sometime soon

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