Blab with Sandy: Richa Rudola

Blab With Sandy: Richa Rudola

Hello Folks! Hope goodness and bliss is prevailing at your end during these testing times. Year 2020 hasn’t been a great one for almost all of us. But, it’s our duty to come up with something peppy to keep ourselves energized. In order to do so, I got to watch this film called “The Seal” starring Shahana Goswami and it intrigued me. I did have Shahana as my celebrity guest in 2018, but I never knew our interview would still be fresh in one person’s mind, and it’s none other than ‘The Seal’ movie director Richa Rudola.

Richa describes herself as a statistician turned filmmaker, but I would like to state she is a film lover turned filmmaker. 🙂 She directed a short film named ‘Fresh Blood’ (Taaza Khoon) which brought her a good name, and she followed it up with ‘The Seal’, which brought her more name along with fame. Let’s wait no further and dive into the insightful blab I had with her:

Sandy: Hello Richa! Hope ‘the seal’ to your happiness is opening up well.

Richa: (laughs)Hello, Sandy. It’s great to be talking to you. 

Sandy: Indeed! Could you let us know a little bit about your background?

Richa: I was born in Baroda and grew up in Delhi. My father is from the Railways and he used to get posted at different places – Banaras, Rourkela, Khragapur, etc. When I was a 9-year old kid, we moved to Delhi and were situated at the Railway colony.

My papa and mama are not from the same community, and it was a love marriage. My papa is from Uttaranchal while my mama is a Marathi from Madhya Pradesh.  I stayed in different cities, thus I would call myself a mixed breed. ☺

I completed my UG from Lady Sriram College (Bachelors in Statistics). I moved to the USA when I was 20, and completed my Masters Program. Even though I studied Statistics for undergraduate and at the gradient level, growing up I like Mathematics and humanities subjects the most.

But, in the Indian education system you have to stick to one track, so I picked the science/math route. Films were never expected to be my domain, but I watched them occasionally as it was not a big part of my upbringing. Also, I did not have so much money to splurge on movies at a multiplex.

Sandy: Interesting journey. So, when and how did films enthrall you?

Richa: The root to my filmmaking journey can be drifted back to the year 2005, when I was doing my graduation program. My university had a weekly movie club where faculty members and students would gather to watch and discuss films. That’s when I first got introduced to foreign language and independent films which created an impact on me. Before that, I didn’t care about films at all, ha-ha.

I remember seeing this Bollywood film called Chal Mere Bhai and I somehow did not enjoy it at all. People were raving about such films back then but I used to feel unsatisfied with such films. In 2009, I got myself enrolled in a screenwriting course at the NY Film Academy. My film journey began from there!

Sandy: I think I should start writing a script based on your life, it will turn out to be an engaging watch. 🙂

Richa: (laughs) Is that so? Go ahead and let’s make it!

Sandy: Let’s talk about your recent release ‘The Seal’, which is winning minds and hearts all over. 🙂

Richa: ‘The Seal’ was written in 2018. One fine day in May that year, Shahana said yes to the film. We were hoping to shoot in summer but she lived in Paris at that time, and she had other plans and we adjusted the shoot dates. Pre-production was solid and we did a lot of rehearsals. The film has received and is still receiving good appreciation from all corners. It makes me happy to know the fact that ‘The Seal’ is being understood and loved by the viewers.

The film’s protagonist is Sheetal whose name is an anagram of the film’s title. Unaware of her PTSD, Sheetal has spent her life being unkind to herself and running away from painful memories. With the arrival of the sealed package, the seal in Sheetal’s mind gives way to reveal what lay hidden underneath. Her imaginary childhood friend and a haunting homeless woman seem to point her to the truth Sheetal doesn’t want to acknowledge. 

‘The Seal’ is currently on the film festival circuit but should be available to watch online later this year. The film recently had a special Facebook Watch Party in collaboration with Tasveer for Mental Health Awareness Month wherein 4300+ people watched the film over 5 days. The post-screening Q&A with Richa and Shahana can be viewed here. The film’s website is here where you can watch the trailer and learn more about the team and accolades.

Sandy: How was it working with Shahana Goswami? I remember having a good time whilst my interview with her, but you worked with her personally during the making of ‘The Seal’.

Richa: Yes, I do remember reading your interview with Shahana, and it was during the shoot of the film. ☺ It was an absolute joy working with Shahana. She is a committed actress, very talented and focused. She gives herself completely to the role and throws her full weight behind the film. Working with her was a blast, as she brought a lot of depth. In fact, it was hard to edit her scenes as she’d given one killer take after another!

Sandy: Your first film ‘Taaza Khoon’ (Fresh Blood) was a different film. I should say, the title reminds me of the famous Ramsay Brothers films which used to create ripples at the box office, ha-ha.

Richa: 🙂 You are funny, Sandy! I had already written a few short scripts but I wasn’t planning to make them into films. The decision to make ‘Taaza Khoon’ came later.  I love horror films and had recently watched a beautiful vampire film “Only Lovers Left Alive” which made me realize I’d never seen brown vampires on film. I wrote the script and saw the film in my head, and that’s when I decided to move ahead in making it come out like a film. I also found a lot of support from Independent Film School in making ‘Taaza Khoon’ which I’m very grateful for.

When a young South Asian girl is forced into the sex trade, she must choose her path to freedom even if it involves a vampire. That’s what ‘Taaza Khoon’ is about. Forced illegal immigration for sex-trade is a big problem in various parts of the world, especially in South Asia and the US. This is the message I wanted to highlight through the film. “Fresh Blood (Taaza Khoon)” can be watched online at Future Of Film Is Female Streaming and is also available in the US on Amazon Prime US.

Sandy: What’s your take on the Women filmmakers of the current times? 

Richa: I feel there is a lot of scope to see changes and those changes are much required. There still exist sections in the society which face systematic barriers. Even with luck and talent, there are people who are still not able to move forward in their careers. There is gender bias, there is discrimination pertaining to color of skin. If we cannot acknowledge the problems, we cannot move forward. Women filmmakers can gauge the stories, they can normality films on their own merit.

Women should be allowed to make more films and it’s okay if some of them are bad films. For me ‘Chal Mere Bhai’ kind of films do not work but those directors have had multiple chances to make films. Everyone should be allowed to tell their stories, there is enough room for all of us.  

Quick Shot Round:

  • Love: All about acceptance
  • Favorite Genre: Dark/horror 
  • What do you do when Idle? Sandy, my husband will laugh at this, haha! I’ve invented my own language and we try to converse in it. Crazy it sounds but it’s kind of cool crazy, Lol!
  • Good and bad about the film industry: Good is that the current chunk of films and TV shows are amazing, really fantastic storytelling especially in television. Bad thing is that it’s harder than ever to raise financing for an independent film these days.
  • If not a director, Richa would be? A writer. Maybe, I would love to open a kids center and work with children. Open a care home for animals
  • A film that you watched recently and liked it immensely:  Thappad
  • Your worst habit: I am very hard on myself and I am aware of it 🙂
  • New York: Wow!
  • Favorite place(s) in India: Rajasthan, Kerala, Kashmir. I love the North-Eastern parts of India
  • If you had to barter your career for a day with someone, who would it be? Michel Gondry, director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Sandy: What is in the pipeline for you in the coming months?

Richa: I have been writing a new screenplay for the last few months. I did not expect to be writing a TV show but stories have a way of finding you. The show has been accepted into the 2020 Stowe Narrative Lab and I’m looking forward to that experience.  I directed a poetry film in February and we’ve begun editing it. I’m also writing a couple short stories alongside some South Asian filmmakers  that we hope to shoot in social-distancing mode later this summer.

Sandy: Any advice that you’d like to give to the Women filmmakers?

Richa: You do not require permission from anyone to make a film. Start doing it yourself and give some time for your growth. Try to surround yourself with people having similar dreams, who can get inspired and also give you inspiration. Certain things shall happen on their own and we need to give our best. Accept your instincts, accept your stories, and go ahead in making the film.

Editor’s note: During the course of our interaction, I kind of got glued to Richa’s way of thinking and her slice of cinema. Wishing Richa a fantastic cinematic journey ahead, filled with bouquets and whistles.

Interview by Sandy (Sandeep Rao)

Follow Richa @richarudola

Follow Sandy @blabwithsandy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *