FEBRUARY 2023 - MONTHLY EDITION
Sanjeev Kuwadekar, thank you very much indeed for doing this VIP interview with us. Let’s grapple with our questions straight away if we may. Congratulations on such a compelling fly-on-the-wall depiction of a murder investigation from inside an interrogation room. We see perhaps a reminiscence of Twelve angry men, Sidney Lumet's courtroom drama starring Henry Fonda in 1957. Could it be said that you are the 21st Century resurrection of Agatha Christie?! What murder stories and what playwrights do you take inspiration from?
I used to enjoy reading murder mystery books in my school days – Erle Stanley Gardner, Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes to name a few. These stories have inspired me from the very beginning. I started writing murder mystery stories a few years ago and then progressed to theater scripts and eventually to film screenplays.
You are absolutely right about the setting. I wanted to shoot this film in one room to keep the budget under control and I thought of12 ANGRY MEN and tried to create a similar setting for this film.
Can you tell us more about how and why murder mystery became your favorite film genre? Is this both as an actor and as a director?
As I have mentioned before, reading murder mystery books was my favorite pastime during school days. I also enjoyed solving logical puzzles. Moreover, my basic training is in engineering. I believe constructing murder mystery plots is similar to engineering designs where one needs to think of all the possibilities and cover all the loose ends, and this comes naturally to me.
Woh Raat is “the first film in the series of mystery films to be released over next few years”. Would you care to unveil a bit more about your plans in this respect?
I am planning to make a sequel to Woh Raat called Woh Din (That day). This will be a courtroom drama where the real murderer will be revealed.
In addition, I am also working on a web series where mysterious events in the lives of each character in Woh Raat will be portrayed.
In Django unchained, one of the lines is "You had my curiosity. But now you have my attention." How do you craft the dialogue to grab the audience’s attention to the anticlimax? Are there any underdog characters? How important is it that the police officer leading the interrogation is a woman?
Instead of having an underdog character, I keep the audience guessing to the end, by showing that every character has a motive and could have committed the crime. In the film, the potential suspect in the mind of audience keeps changing as the story unfolds.
It was very important to have a woman as the police officer leading the interrogation. This was for 2 reasons. In India women are rising through the ranks to the top positions in many industries including the crime branch and I wanted to showcase that trend. In addition, women are naturally better in making the suspects in the room feel more comfortable so that they open up and start revealing secrets.
Alice Sebold said “Murderers are not monsters, they're men. And that's the most frightening thing about them.” about her novel The lovely bones. Care to discuss?
I agree with that statement. In Woh Raat, all the characters are professionals and family men. They truly loved their master. However, they lost their mind due to some of Shetji’s bad actions and to unfortunate circumstances. In fact, Shetji was the monster in this case and not the murderer.
India is a vast country. Are there any differences between the south and the north? Also, do you see any major differences between European cinema and cinema on the Asian subcontinent?
India is a vast country with multiple languages, food habits and cultures. There are major differences between the south and north – in terms of languages, cuisine and even fashion. The North was exposed to foreign influences from the Middle East/Europe in the past, whereas the South remains more isolated from outside influences. This is very apparent when you watch North Indian Films and South Indian Films.
Things have changed in last 10 years due to internet and the effect of globalization. But if you look at South Indian films, they are more melodramatic, fantasy oriented whereas North Indian films are more based on day-to-day life incidents.
Music and dancing are integral part of Indian cinema in contrast with European cinema. The film could belong to any genre, but it will not be complete until it has a few song and dance sequences mixed in. Music albums and videos are released in India before the films themselves are released and they play a major role in the films’ reception and performance.
Any upcoming projects in acting or directing you would like to share?
I am currently working on a feature film called “Nature” in the LGBTQ + mystery category.
Short statement describing your vision of the post-covid cinema, do you think there will be notable changes?
During the COVID Pandemic, many people got used to the remote working style, and this resulted in more leisure time for people, which increased the demand for good online media content. Even though pandemic restrictions are reduced, most people are still working from home and expecting good media content that they can watch from the convenience of their homes. Several Netflix and other OTT platforms produced films that are getting nominated and winning awards at major film industry events like the Oscars. I expect this trend to continue and demand for good online media content to increase drastically over the next few years compared to theatrical releases.
Storyteller, Scriptwriter, Director, Producer
Sanjeev Kuwadekar has been a serial entrepreneur in the technology field. He has a degree in Electrical Engineering and a Master's degree in Computer Science. Sanjeev has won awards as Technology Entrepreneur after several successful tech start-ups.
His passion, however, is theatre and films. He has written, directed and acted in over 20 theatre shows and movies over the last 10 years. Sanjeev has started a non-profit organization called Los Angeles Film, Theatre and Arts (LAFTA) to benefit the local community in Los Angeles.
He has acted in many award-winning films such as “Kumpan”, “Snakes and Ladder”, and “Passing the Parcel” and has produced the award-winning movie “Ekaant”.
“Woh Raat (That Night)” is Sanjeev’s first film as a writer and director. It has won over 26 awards in several Film Festivals worldwide and has been nominated as “Best Mystery Film” at Cannes World Film Festival.
© ITV 2023 Isabelle Rouault-Röhlich