When I am coming up with different ideas, I don’t think of the audience at the beginning. I just think about what kind of stories I want to tell. It’s definitely important to know where you are telling that story and who is your direct audience. For example, if I am shooting in India and my actors are Indians, then I know that’s who I’m creating a world for. So, first I locate my actors and the narrative, and then I locate my audience. These things dictate style and the details which will eventually bring that world into its ideal existence. I try to create the most authentic world possible.
On Directing Cold Mess in Particular and Music Videos in General
Gai on the set of Cold Mess.
For example, for Cold Mess
, my ideal world was Mumbai, somewhere between Bandra and South Bombay, and how one will see it when they are in love, but at the same time, in a toxic relationship. When you are really authentic to the world you are creating, the story becomes universal. Your audience is then able to relate to it no matter where they are from. There are details, atmosphere and the most important thing - emotions, emotions are always universal.
Jim Sarbh and Zoya Hussain on the set of Cold Mess
My approach to music videos is different from films. With the former, I don’t listen to the lyrics first. I try to hear the mood of the song. A music video is an incredible piece because it allows you to create parallel stories. You need to sometimes befriend the visual and the audio information, but you can also go completely different. Maybe it meant something else when the singer or the composer created it, but now the visuals can either complement or create a completely new story out of the song.
The first stage is to write the script and come up with a concept. Then I pay attention to the lyrics, to check if there’s anything that I missed, something that the composer really wanted to see there. At the end of the day, when you are writing a song, you have a very strong emotional attachment. This is why it’s important to also bring out the voice of the artist through the visual treatment.
Gai on the set of Sage with Kushal Shah.
On Gender and the Different Categories Society Creates
Gai on the set of Sage with DOP Aditya Varma.
When I talk about gender, I speak from a very individual, personal space. I am trying to stay away from not just the idea of gender, but also nationality, certain political views, everything that is defined by society like stringent rules that you have to follow. I try to stay away from all of them, from boxes that tell you this is your friend and this is your enemy. This is a man, this is a woman, this is what you’re born to do, this is what you’re not born to do.
Yes, some of these rules were created to save our society, but I feel much more confident when I’m in the neutral zone. When I can be a creator without gender. As a filmmaker you can try and be empathetic towards all different sides. However, at the same time, while it might appear like an idealistic bubble that I’m creating around me, there is an outside.
I am a woman, a white woman living in India for the last seven and a half years, and it is difficult. Of course, externally there were a lot different experiences that I underwent, and it wasn’t easy. It is a tricky and hypocritical world. But I just don’t think that by defining it, I am helping it. We all know it, but to be able to stay neutral, while trying to understand it all, makes me think that maybe there is hope to build a little bridge somewhere.