The Ukrainian born filmmaker Daria Gaikalova, who prefers to go by her stage name Dar Gai, has never been one to shy away from difficult projects.
In fact, Dar Gai decides to add a gender-neutral perspective to her filmmaking with the use of her pseudonym, as she would like the audiences to watch her movies from the perspective of the characters in them, instead of the fact that it directed by a woman.
The director of ‘Teen Aur Aadha‘ and ‘Namdev Bhau’ had initially worked in theatre, indulging in teaching and parting her vast knowledge about the industry to younger filmmakers.
“I was invited to teach theatre art, in one of the private schools called Scindia School in Gwalior. I came to India and I was researching, writing scripts, directing plays, short films and a couple of Television commercials. And finally, I ventured into my first feature film, ‘Teen Aur Aadha‘. Soon after, we started shooting our second feature film called ‘Namdev Bhau’. The movie will be going to the festivals this year.”
we had decided to shoot the film on one take. The entire film is shot in three and a half takes.
Her connection to India might have started from a mere geographical and travelling aspect, but it has matured into a deep, social and emotional one over the years. Dar Gai considers India to be akin to her second home.
“I have spent a lot of my time here and I feel more connected to the country, the Indian culture and the Indian society. I have also discovered a lot of similarities between India and Ukraine. I adopted really fast in this country. I never really felt like a foreigner or outsider. The more time I spend here, the more Indian ideas are being born. So I feel like it is kind of my duty to shoot all the ideas that creep into my skin.”
Most directors, irrespective of their gender identification, swear by the fact that the first time they direct a film is always extremely nerve-wracking. Dar Gai did arrive at a difficult concept and idea to work on her first film, but never cared much for other difficulties or the prejudice that would be imparted to her. The doubts which would have plagued any director did not make Daria budge in the slightest. She cites that shooting her first feature film was a difficult but rewarding experience.
“The main struggle was that we had decided to shoot the film on one take. The entire film is shot in three and a half takes. The idea is how a story can be told through one house that sees changes through the years. Due to a very tight budget, we couldn’t go for too many workshops or an extended rehearsal. The only thing that we could do was rehearse by and we basically managed everything ourselves. I was scared of the fact that we had only one night for the film’s shoot and we had to finish it off. Imagine you’re shooting for about forty-five minutes and then on the forty-fifth minute, the camera just falls down and everything that you shot for the forty-five minutes has to be shot again from the very beginning. So it was very, very difficult for the actors. But luckily we got really good actors like Zoya Hussain, who was also the female lead in Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Mukkabaaz‘, and it was amazing working with her. Jim Sarbh, Suhasini Mulay, M.K. Raina, they all were incredible and they had all given a lot of time to the work. I think it was because of these actors that our film turned out to be exactly how we expected. I had realized while working on commercials that actors usually don’t give so much time to do rehearsals and for the workshops. Most of the actors in ‘Teen Aur Aadha‘ came from a theatre background so for them, long hours of the workshop was very usual, it was something they very comfortable doing.”
Dar Gai had challenged herself and her actors to complete the entire film in less than three takes. The reason for this shows her artistic interpretations and capabilities. The idea of seeing an inanimate object as a full-fledged character in the film, without having it intrude on the entire film, shows visionary genius.
“Our film was about one house that was first a school, twenty years later, the same house turned into a brothel and later becomes a home for a wonderful couple who fall in love with each other. We thought it was the story of a house, we felt that the house narrated all these stories. If you imagine the house as a character, you will imagine it witnessing everything. The whole world sleeps, it goes through transitions, but the walls of the house go through all these changes, without a blink of the eye. We thought that the only way how we could deliver this idea was by narrating the story through the house itself, and that could be done only in a single take. In one take you do not have blinks, you are not jumping into the next shot, you have to be with the characters all the time. And also the fact that, at the end of the day, if we are personifying the house, the biggest impact will be on time. We wanted to create an experience for the audience to be able to be with the characters and the house, from the beginning till the end. We wanted the viewers to experience everything, here and now.”
The acclimatization of Indian audiences to view particular scenes from different angles or shots in order to get a better idea of what they are watching could have posed a serious difficulty for Dar Gai’s interpretation. However, she understands the difficulty of choosing to shoot the entire film in one take and believes that her choice in doing so is warranted.
“It was a huge challenge because the audiences are used to fast forward films. They’re brighter, they’re plots develop faster and you can see the audience glued to shorter stories. What I felt was that, since it is my debut film, I still had the courage to try something that I wanted to create for my own creative satisfaction. I wasn’t worried about the audiences, I just wanted to exercise my creative liberty with the idea that I had. I think I was willing to sacrifice the large audience for this because it was something I wanted to do with honesty and I wanted to try out all the crazy ideas that I had without thinking about failure or success. I am also thankful to my entire team because it was them who believed in the idea. They did it because they saw something unique, something they hadn’t seen before, and they all gave their all to it.”
Anurag Kashyap is one person from the industry who really believes in the art of filmmaking. He thinks that if you have a story, you should shoot it wherever you are, no matter what resources you have, or even if you don’t have money.
Dar Gai’s repertoire of television commercials, theatre work and short films had been preparing her for a larger role in the creative medium of motion pictures. However, she says that she had received a lot of encouragement from friends and family as well. This was needed as that last push before she started telling herself “I am ready to direct” a full-length feature film.
“I would say that I actually had a lot of people who encouraged me a lot. When the idea came, I made a short film with one of the stories of Teen Aur Aadha. I showed that to Anurag Kashyap, and he really loved the film. He asked me to shoot the film again. He noticed that the camera could be better exercised. I made the film again and he really liked the idea. We then started our journey. We started brainstorming and thinking about what else can be done. Anurag said, “Just go and shoot”.
Anurag Kashyap is one person from the industry who really believes in the art of filmmaking. He thinks that if you have a story, you should shoot it wherever you are, no matter what resources you have, or even if you don’t have money. As long as you believe in the project. There are things like crowdfunding from which we got money for postproduction. It was something I really learned from. If you have the idea you just go and shoot it. And of course, there are people like Dheer Momaya, the producer of ‘Teen Aur Aadha’. He believed that it was something very unusual and something that wasn’t done before. He had faith in our project and gave me the belief that we can make this film happen despite all the difficulties. Without his vision, the film would not have been possible.
When it came to things like sound design or cinematography, we thought that the only way to do it was by finding people who would really believe in the idea. So somehow we managed it and a lot of people supported. When I first shot the film, I showed it to Avani Rai, the director and cinematographer of a documentary named ‘Raghu Rai, An Unframed Portrait’. She loved it. It was she who said let’s show it to Anurag, and Anurag made suggestions. So it was like a chain reaction. We were all creating and contributing. I’m also very thankful to Zoya and Jim because they had to act the same scene three times. I think that once you really believe in your idea, everything just falls into place. I think it’s about energy.”
People like Anna Ador and Rima Das, Zoya HUSSAIN …they’re all so inspiring. They came from nowhere but just on the basis of their hard work and got where they are now.
She plans to release her film sometime soon in 2019, with a lot of screenings for getting a good idea of the taste of Indian audiences. Nonetheless, the film seems set to be a success with Dar Gai being awarded numerous times for her efforts. In fact, her happiness lied in the fact that she was able to share her creative expression with the world.
“I think I was overwhelmed by the response at Kerela Film Festival. We went to see the film with an audience. The audience was clapping, they were laughing, they were whistling and there was a standing ovation at the end. So I haven’t experienced such an amazing audience ever. I think that’s the speciality of Kerela film festival which I had already heard from different filmmakers. The inputs of an audience are underrated. I had heard that if you want to check your film from the perspective of the audience, then that’s Kerela Film Festival. We also won a special jury award at Jaipur International Film Festival. I won an award at LA Independent Film Festival for Best Feature Debut Director. These things encourage us. “
When people ask Dar Gai about her interesting and noticeable concepts, she says that it comes down to how one interprets and observes whatever is happening around them. It’s an amalgamation of people, places and experiences. She then proceeds to talk about the various difficulties a filmmaker of her stead would have faced ten years ago in the industry. She cites inspirations from women from the industry who have worked extensively to establish themselves; with the former winning a National Award for best director of a feature film.
“People like Anna Ador and Rima Das, Zoya Hussain… They’re all so inspiring. They came from nowhere but just on the basis of their hard work and got where they are now. They have all struggled a lot, but they all had strong ideas that they didn’t give up on. You have to prove yourself to be taken seriously and not taken for granted.
When I was working I didn’t want people to look at me as a woman or a man, but for my work. I want to be a filmmaker with no other identity based on gender. I feel this new era gives us much more opportunities to prove ourselves. One of the reasons is digital media. It gives us various liberties and not be bound by people in the industry. I would also like to mention Anurag Kashyap who has created the niche kind of demand. For independent filmmaking, and for the international scene as well. I think it was a huge contribution for indie filmmakers. Personally, he invests a lot in new filmmakers to encourage them and their ideas. People like that are very important.”
Directors and other creative personnel in the industry are now used to a certain amount of autonomy and freedom when it comes to streaming their finished products online. Many filmmakers have been quite sceptical of the change, but Dar Gai believes that it is a reality which all filmmakers must accept. There’s little to no doubt that Dar Gai has already established herself as a filmmaker worthy of all the attention and critical acclaim.
WATCH the trailer of Teen Aur Aadha: