Coming Home is philosophical, disquieting and reflective. It’s deceptively simple with the story centered on young romance. But, through its characters’ own complex narratives, it brings forth the conflicting effects of being in a broken family, being at the precipice of one’s youth and self-discovery. We have with us it’s writer-director and editor Mr. Pranav Kothary sharing his observations about complex issues such as these, the nuanced art of filmmaking, and the grit that it takes to juggle between the two.
- Did you fear the audience misconstruing your film’s title as it has been overused to often denote the return to a loved one, a safe haven?
I’m a huge fan of good titles, especially titles that are answers to a film’s question. There’s a quote I used to have on my corkboard (I forget by whom!), which ended like “Curl up with your rawness and come home. You don’t have to find yourself; you just have to let yourself in”. And that’s where the title of Coming Home comes from. It’s questioning (and answering for Lizzie, the protagonist) what we might call home, so I’m glad people watch the film with a predisposition they might have to reconsider. That’s the idea. So, no, I didn’t fear the audience misconstruing it; rather I counted on it.
- It is as much Liz’s story as her parents, but your focus on the young one’s love life is what makes the film more moving. What inspired you to pick Liz as your central narrator of the story?
There’s a couple of reasons why. I’d naturally gravitate to that perspective since that’s what I know; because I’ve never been married. I’m also more fascinated by the effect than I am of the cause. Apart from that though, I think stories told from the perspective of innocent, unwise characters always touch us and stay a little closer to our hearts. I think we’re all aware of the construction and the becoming we might have done in our lives, both as individuals and as societies. And it breaks our hearts to see that happen to somebody else.
- What, to you, is the most important, non-negotiable part of your filmmaking process?
Rehearsals. I once had an actor who refused to rehearse. Granted he was extremely busy, but I couldn’t work like that. And so, a week before production I let him go and got someone new, and I wrote a completely new script and did all the pre-production in one week. And yes we did find time to rehearse! It all turned out great.
- You sparingly used dialogues in Coming Home. As both its director and writer, how did you arrive at that decision to tip the scale between dialogues and meaningful silences?
It all came from Lizzie. Every scene in the film, Lizzie has fewer lines than the characters she’s talking to, except the one scene with her dad. It had to be so for us to see that Lizzie is listening, much more than she’s talking; so that we understand that this is who she is and this has been her whole life. The nurturing that made this character largely consisted of taking in what’s happening around her. She’s passive because she doesn’t know any better. So a lot of the silences, the tone, and the pacing came from sticking to Lizzie’s perspective.
- The choice of placing characters in any given frame is tantamount to the ensuing events of the storyline. Could you share with our readers, how you decide on your frames?
Frankly, my duties as the director are to only ensure the story is told with the richness and efficiency it deserves. The nuances of framing I’d leave to the experts, the DP. But, the story told by the frame is something I’m very focused on. For example in Coming Home, Lizzie is always moving frame right when approaching her goal (her “home”), and moving frame left when approaching her house (where she doesn’t belong). There’s a myriad of parameters to consider; what does the audience need to know? When do they need to know? What is the character looking at? How do they feel about it? Who is stronger, or more vulnerable, etc. The only way to really make any choice in storytelling is to holistically understand both the story and the mechanics of storytelling. Only then can I know what I want.
- The film is congruent with themes such as self-discovery, introspection, and finding your way inwards. Liz’s own moment of epiphany is at a time of a seemingly harmless conversation she witnesses between her parents. Have you had any such in your professional life that cemented your calling into this industry?
I just really enjoy storytelling and filmmaking. Frankly, it’s an extremely selfish choice I’m making for myself; entering the industry. So, I don’t think I have had my epiphany of sorts in the profession. In fact, I don’t even think of my calling to be of this industry!
- Juggling between the demands of a director, writer and editor on the Coming Home project, how did you manage to find your balance?
I take pride in having spent a long time becoming a good director for collaborative work. However, the crafts I haven’t figured out how to collaborate on are writing and editing. These three together allow me to perfectly use my voice as a filmmaker, without anything lost in translation. Although, this film has taught me something new. I was so unsatisfied with the film when editing that I gave up on it for about 5 months. And after having calmed down, I sat down, as an editor, completely disconnected from the production. And then I could really work as someone trying to save the film from its production. In an ideal situation, the larger vision carries one (or many) through all of it, writing, directing, editing, everything else too. But collaboration and entropy happen, and great (or terrible) things can come out of it. Less often when one is doing everything, but in this case, it happened to me. And I have to say, I enjoyed it.
- To you, what’s the most rewarding aspect of completing a project? Is it hard to let a thought go that you have so strongly invested in?
I usually spend more than enough time on a project to not miss working on it at all. However, I always miss being on the set (ONLY in hindsight), every time. I’m not sure about the rewards though. The only thing I can think of is all the memories one would make with the cast and crew; that’s a very special reward. But that too is contained to the creators. Which makes no sense to me because throughout the duration of the conception process my complete focus is on the audience. That I’m doing this for them. And yet I can’t think of any rewards I may get from them. Maybe that’s just my process, do it for them, and then forget them once it’s done. I’m figuring it out. I’ll give you a new answer in 10 years!
- Your body of work delves into existential philosophy, metaphysics, and introspection. What about this genre fascinates you so much?
That’s a big question, wow! Existentialism, metaphysics, introspection aren’t words I have associated with my work. But, how I look at it and what I find fascinating are the tragedies of discovery, the tragedy that comes from learning the truth. It seems to me that the truth is rarely something we want to hear. So learning it is always a struggle. And I think that’s why they make good stories. Because it inevitably involves a flawed character, a strong will, and a resolution at the end of it. The ingredients for a good story are always there. I do agree that in the work that I’ve released yet, the genre remains consistent. But, my latest project is a comedy! And, it does tackle the same content, but, with a different tone.
- What genre would you next like to dabble into?
All of them! Drama is definitely a comfort zone for me. I’ve done comedy a couple of times now, and I really enjoy it. I’d love to do Sci-Fi, that would be magical. I’ve come to realize all the ways one can have fun collaborating with the audience through genre films. Because of all the tropes and expectations, tonnes of possibilities open up. As I mentioned earlier, my latest project is a comedy. And this story is also about someone learning something they didn’t want to learn. I found that the genre is an awesome misdirect for the audience before the truth creeps up to the surface. I would love to utilize that misdirect again.
Indie Shorts Mag thanks you for your time and wishes the best for your future endeavours. It’s the work of filmmakers such as yourself that makes this industry thrive and inspire future aspirants to strive even harder.