“The artist is the creator of beautiful things. To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim.”
The definition of beauty, however, is amorphous and subjective, evincing itself as a quiet bower – overlayed by the gossamer petals of the laburnum that shades it – to a romantic, which I do not deny being myself, and as fresh blood bespattered over the white of snow, scintillating under the winter sun like rubies secured to a diamond jewellery, or the cadaverous death mask of Dante, to one who relishes the macabre, which I admit to incline more toward. Beauty peeks at me through the grotesque and inspires my art.
What draws one to psychological thrillers and dark art and makes one choose Munch over Monet, who is to say? Perhaps it is an exploration or an expression, a dive into the dark thoughts lurching in the deep recesses of one’s mind or a means of letting one’s sordid fantasies come to life in lurid details. Following through the warped labyrinths of man’s psychology, perhaps it is an attempt at a desperate search for an answer to the questions - “What lies beyond morality? What of men who are not confined by the lines of virtue we set for ourselves?” What is dark art if not a reflection of the fears of some and the desires of others, and what is its charm if not the same as that of the world in all its tainted glory?
While in my society it is the doctors and engineers that are lauded, I have always, in my secrecy, lauded the enigmatic and eccentric beings that artists are. As Beethoven’s Symphony 7 Movement II rose to a crescendo, I closed my eyes shut and opened them wide to flurried dreams and fast-changing scenes from endless films projected on the theatre inside my mind, which flares alive in the midst of a silent night, keeping sleep hostage from the insomniac I have always been. These films have been written, directed, casted, and shot so swiftly and simultaneously that it has always escaped my notice, kept my attention from the process and secured it to the end result, rendering me an innocent and oblivious storyteller. The beauty of storytelling was revealed to me upon a chance encounter when I happened to have made an anime music video, solely to meet the purpose of something to accompany my anime song cover. The realization that I so relished this process dawned on me and impelled me to make more such music videos, and eventually instigated the awareness of filmmaking being my true passion.
Perhaps yielding to the mood swings that plague my own life and paint it distinctly in shades of black and white and nothing in between, everything that has anything to do with me, including my art, is intense and raging with passion. A storyteller may in his rightest mind call himself an entertainer; I, however, refuse to associate myself to the word, for the last thing I wish to do as a storyteller is entertain my audience. What I desire to create is not a film that serves the purpose of entertainment as long as the viewer watches it and one that he may return to at any time he seeks a few evanescent laughs, soon to dwindle into the air, just as the film dwindles from the viewer’s memory, but a film that takes the viewer through an unsettling and agonizing journey, and imbues him with an experience that will haunt him for a long time after. I wish to create the perfect film impregnated with the right quantum of music, art and drama with deep and affectionate characters that the audience bond with inevitably and yearn for as their lives spiral into an inexorable and abysmal doom, like in A Tale of Two Cities. Whether it’s a sci-fi, psychological thriller, or romance film, if it isn’t intense, dramatic, theatrical, and emotionally moving, I would rather not have my name on it.
Music has harboured a fair part of its share in my creative process. It has blared through my headphones in the dead of night and inspired the films playing in my head, and it has blared through speakers in noontides while I have sat, in front of my easel painting over a canvas, or on my bed, envisaging a new fashion collection. Music plays an essential role in my stories and films and I endeavour to integrate pieces of orchestral music building from a lilting chord progression to fervid crescendo with the rising action of my films leading to its tension-spiked moments, the mastery of which is observed in Aronofsky’s Requiem For a Dream.
What drew me first to the allure of films and the power of a filmmaker were Christopher Nolan’s Inception, Interstellar, Memento and The Prestige. Through adroit cinematography, the use of colors to establish the mood and tone, profound character development and mind-bending storylines, Nolan succeeded in turning each of his films into legendary masterpieces. It was the reflection on the feeling that loomed over me the moment a Nolan film’s credits rolled in, the inward question – “What did I just watch?”, and the transfixed state in which I attempted to fully make sense of the journey I had just been plunged into, that caused me to marvel at the power Nolan had over his audience and think, “This is what I want, to make films that affect the audience this deeply and to leave them in this exact transfixed state I find myself.” Memento inspired me to plunge deeper into the genre of psychological thriller, which was to carve into the subject of my newfound fascination, sent me scrounging through the top psycho-thriller reads of the time, from Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go to A.J Finn’s The Woman in The Window, and in the realm of cinema, introduced me to Darren Aronoffsky. My pre-established belief of artists suffering through a blending of their passion into their obsession, and that being the cause of their rise and subsequent fall, took vivid shape and life in Aronoffsky’s films. Black Swan and Requiem For A Dream saw character development augment to a transcendent level, with an innovative approach to cinematography and the ingenious fusion of music and art with a heart-rending, character-centric storyline. From plot centered films, my appreciation drifted to character centered films like Whiplash, The White Crow and Prélude, and I realized that the key to imbuing the audience with an unforgettable experience lies in creating unforgettable, real and flawed characters.
The search of style and elements of madness in films brought me straight to David Lynch. As a lifelong admirer of Franz Kafka, I prescribed the same emotions to Lynch’s Kafkaesque films, especially Blue Velvet. His highly stylized and abstract Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet rose in me a fancy of abstract storylines that fail to ‘make sense’ and yet address the most cardinal of affairs, and influenced my own works stylistically.
Before I had drifted my obsession to psychological dramas, however, my previous, and still prevalent, obsession was that of crime dramas which was instigated by watching The Sinner and The Alienist. These TV shows acquainted me to a new sphere of art - violence and gore - that now forms the substratum of my artistic practices. The same period of my exploration of the dark arts saw deeper dives into, and subsequent influences of, works of Francis Bacon, chiefly Figure with Meat, Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X and Painting 1946, Caravaggio, particularly Judith Beheading Holofernes, David with the Head of Goliath, and The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, and Francisco Goya, notably his Black Paintings.
With the dramatic and chiaroscuro lighting in Caravaggio’s paintings inspiring my own lighting techniques, the aforementioned artworks have turned out to be the principal inspiration behind my crime fiction stories, dark poetry and paintings. Aside from artists, much influence may also be attributed to the infamous gothic designers, Alexander McQueen and John Galliano. Having incited a love of the grotesque and macabre, McQueen’s beliefs have reaffirmed my expectations from art to be intense and dramatic and his Joan, What a Merry-Go-Round, and Highland Rape fashion shows have directly inspired my fashion illustrations.
With an exceptional conservatory setting and blue-ribbon faculty, I believe DePaul to be the perfect choice for a major in filmmaking. Seeing that I already have a clear mind about my interests and concentration in the film program, and that I thrive greater in an active, heuristic learning environment, I find the rooted-in-theory-yet-hands-on-and-practical teaching approach very appealing. With the countless ideas and stories I have to share, I wish to undertake the concentration of Film Directing, and hence as a director, take a creative lead in films and actively collaborate with my peers and classmates to bring our creative visions together.
As I seat myself on a red velvet chair with a box of popcorn in my hands, my eyes fixate on the black screen in front of me, gleaming with fascination. After the next two hours, I shall walk out of this aisle a changed person, having been plunged into an experience. That’s right, an experience to which no adjectives can be prescribed just yet. The screen mysteriously holds in it a whole new dimension wrapped in silence.