When I heard Ashish Choudhary was a 29-year old model-turned director, I expected a wide-eyed novice full of wonder. After a half-hour chat about his upcoming film, ‘Kathi Pe Ghoda’, along with the wonder, I also found depth and an artist’s thirst for wisdom.
Crowdfunded on Wishberry, ‘Kathi Pe Ghoda’ is about an ordinary old man, who is faced with the idea of traveling back in time and righting his wrongs. To explore his unconventional idea, this independent filmmaker even built a unique rig, which the actor wears on his body with a harness.
Choudhary says that the message of the 16-minute movie is universal. “Everybody would take something different from the movie according to their own consciousness and perception,” he says.
The idea came to him when he was on a set, which had three rooms in a row, built in a way that you could get to the third room only by going through the first and second room. “It struck me that these rooms are connected just like life. And that became one of the themes in the film. You can only get to a point in life by going through something else first,” he recalls.
Even though the film’s story involves time travel, Choudhary says it is more metaphysical than science fiction. In a world where human beings tend to rationalise everything, he likes to live in a world of possibilities.
When asked what drove him to build his own equipment for the film, he says that for a particular shot, he wanted to show complete turmoil going through the actor’s mind. He wanted the camera to capture a 360-degree motion, but he didn’t want to do it the usual way with different angles.
“I had to capture the madness, which was going on in his mind, and I wanted to take the audience as close as possible to the experience. I wanted cacophony and disorder on the screen, something you couldn’t bear to see. To create that effect, we thought we needed something body-mounted,” he explains.
After some search, the team found that nothing had been created in the industry that was body-mountable and rotated in a 360-degree motion. The only one available was a static mount, which had a rental cost of around INR 10-15,000, which was too costly.
Forgoing the option of letting go of the shot, Choudhary put his mechanical engineering skills to practice and discussed using a child’s walker for the job. He sat and explained with a local welder about how to mount a camera on the child walker.
“I bought a baby walker and explained it to the welder, and walked him through the entire design. I kept telling him, and he kept welding. It took two days, but it was done. It was full jugad,” he chuckles.
With the resources, the equipment could have been better, the material might have been lighter, like carbon fibre, but they had to use only iron. The young director recalls that it was difficult for the actor, because of the weight, but completely feasible for the requirement of the shot.
On asking the meaning of the name ‘Kathi Pe Ghoda’, which means ‘a rocking horse’, Choudhary says he got the idea when he was looking at a rocking horse while sampling props. The rocking horse inspired in him a powerful metaphorical meaning.
“The rocking horse is an interesting toy, a symbol of innocence. The horse is such a powerful being, but it is stuck in a frame. I found that sad. I thought, isn’t this what life is? Human beings are stuck within birth and death, the frame of life. And you live within it, whether you realise it or not. Every choice that you make may be within that frame of life.”
Choudhary, who holds a mechanical engineering degree, comes from a normal middle-class family. During his modeling career, Choudhary realised that he wasn’t completely satisfied.
Consequently, he started doing theatre in 2013, but still had questions that weren’t satisfactorily answered. It was only after he came across a book by Sanford Meisner, called ‘Sanford Meisner on Acting’, that he finally started getting some answers. With help from family and friends, he left for New York, where he spent two and half years learning acting in the renowned Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre in Manhattan, under the guidance of Richard Pinter.
After returning to Mumbai, he has been doing a little bit of theatre, while pursuing filmmaking. ‘Kathi Pe Ghoda’ is his third movie after ‘Shoebox’, which entered the Mumbai Metro festival and won the second place grand prize and ‘Turtle Boy’, which won the first prize for Sadhguru’s Isha Foundation, Rally for Rivers contest 2017.
His past work has helped him convince people to take him seriously. While winning the competition gave his work more credibility, his second movie also brought in money, which he has used on ‘Kathi Pe Ghoda’.
Mostly, Choudhary’s movies are without any spoken language. They only have emotion and music. Diverging from that trend, ‘Kathi Pe Ghoda’ has a small conversation about cleaning three rooms, which metaphorically represent the past, the present, and the future.
He believes in a universal force, which is beyond judgement. “If you have the courage to listen to your inner voice, that force helps you,” he says with conviction.
He would like to keep making films and for future projects, would need proper backup and resources. He also plans to launch his own songs with his compositions.
“I don’t want to make movies just for the sake of making. I realise that my concepts are a little evolved, I am trying to introduce something that has not been seen before,” he says.