On the day of the interview, filmmaker-producer-writer Peter Rajesh Joachim sits on the edge of a sofa clad in casuals with a backpack that hugs his shoulder. He initially seems to have a case of nerves although he has all the reasons to be jubilant.
The 31-year-old has recently received awards at various film festivals abroad, including the Platinum Award for First Time Director at Oregon Film Festival 2014, for his Hollywood film, Blood Empires. The crime drama with an edge of noire plays out the story of mafia member Danny and his blossoming love for a police officer, Elena. It’s the Bengaluru-based filmmaker’s dream realised and an inspirational story for aspiring indie filmmakers in the country. Small beginnings
“Blood Empires exposes corruption in a police department, in a family and in humanity. It explores the darker side of life,” says the maker of the film, who has taken a mere 12 days for filming it in and around Canada, and three months for post-production. “The film has received good feedback, although only a limited section of people have watched it,” he maintains. The one that stands out is from the popular American film critic and journalist Michael Gingold “who gave the film an eight out of 10”, which has encouraged him to direct more films.
To direct a film in a foreign land using one’s own money and without a godfather in the film industry is a challenge. “Every step before the filming was difficult,” he recounts. First, Peter had to kill his “crippling fear” that crept between him and his dream. And the film Good Will Hunting encouraged him to “take the plunge”. He had made infomercials, low-budget corporate videos and music videos for independent electronic artistes before — a vocation he chose after completing his mass communication degree from Christ College in Bengaluru, and which later would help him fund his dream.
This did teach him resourcefulness because shooting then “meant a one-man task. I showed up at the clients’ chosen venue and tried to meet their exacting standards with limited resources.” At this point, he recalls a scene from Terminator in which Arnold Schwarzenegger is seen breaking a car window with fumes over his shoulders for a noire effect. “This was created with a little bit of acid that was poured over the actor’s thick jacket.” A conversation with him is to recall films’ trivia indeed.
Still, his dream was to direct a feature film, so he went to Sheridan University in Canada to study films. Here, it was about convincing a Canadian cast of 27 to sign on to a project by a debutant filmmaker from the land of Bollywood. “The first lead actress backed out.” But owing credit to the superb script that Peter had co-written with Stevie Jay (the lead actor), all of them gave their nod. “They were professionals through and through. We had language problems initially, which resolved itself with time. Not once did they give me attitude because I was a first-time filmmaker,” smiles Peter.
Peter’s dream is rooted in the small town of Kharagpur in West Bengal, where the school-going lad would watch his mother directing plays for children. “The entire town discussed ‘Mrs Joachim’s plays’, as they were called. From her I learned that direction could be a fun activity,” he says, “After I moved to Bengaluru in 1997, my frequent visits to a video library gave me an idea of popular and well-made films.” The life of director James Cameron has influenced him the most, he swears.
“Now I am working on a script that will be shot partly in Canada and partly in India. And the next one will be made in two languages — Tamil and Kannada. Kannada films bear an impression on me, films by Girish Karnad and Shankar Nag in particular. So, my creation is a tribute to the Kannada film industry. And, I admire Upendra who is an amazing visionary. I would love to work with him someday,” he reveals. The filmmaker believes that no show excels the quality of Malgudi Days now. When Peter is not ideating his next scene, he can be seen sipping chai at a corner shop, cooking (to de-stress) or going on long rides on his bike.