Production Talk - 'The Red Veil' by Chua Seng Yew


Synopsis

The Red Veil tells the story of Netra, a young woman sold into prostitution many years back. Thrown into a world of loss hope and despair, she protects herself by remaining indifferent. On a night set amidst an ongoing wedding procession, Netra is asked to dress up a younger girl, Mandira, who remains oblivious to her surroundings. Mandira, distracted and affected by the festivities, begins speaking of wedding dreams and hopes. Her words and enthusiasm begin eliciting in Netra, feelings and memories that she would rather remain hidden.

"Nothing fixes a thing so intensely in the memory as the wish to forget it", so says Michel de Montaigne on the subject of memory. We begin uncovering, in Netra's memory, a time when hope and innocence was possible and a moment that finally made that impossible. When the past that Netra so forcibly attempts to remove remain so deeply embedded in her consciousness, we realize that for survival, apathy might be the only option to turn to.


What inspired this story?

I didn't write the script, so I can't really answer this. The screenwriter is from India though, so I assume that is why it was set in India.


What were some of the most startling or captivating things for you when you were conducting your research for the film?

My research was mostly relevant to what was within the scopes of the script, mainly Indian weddings ( which you would expect has many different versions, depending on the regions in India ), reading and watching documentaries on what children growing up in such an environment were like.

You will be surprised to know that children living in such places don't see it as adults would. Something is only as wretched as what one could reference it to. I guess that was what the central dynamic focus of the story was - the difference in outlook between our two lead girls.

Despite all the research, the focus was always about the mood and the story. The research was only there for the art direction to help me understand what was going on in the background, so it was easier to help me set the mood of the scene.


How did you go about casting?

Casting was an interesting one. The script actually started off as a Hindi one, so we started off trying to cast for Hindi speaking actresses obviously. ( This is why, if any Indians saw this film, they will tell you the wedding is actually a Hindi one) For a while we were getting only responses from overseas, and being a student film, we obviously didn't have the budget to bring anyone over.

The lead actress, Devi, was a friend of a friend, both of them being in theatre companies in Singapore. The younger girl, Sonya, was recommended to me by Lilin ( she was her actress in "Gone Shopping")


What were some of the greatest challenges you faced when directing this film?

The obvious challenge is the language barrier. The thing I did about that was to have enough rehearsals so my direction on set would be minimized and kept only mood related. I had to keep the blocking and dialogue as structured as possible which was a little tough, as I always preferred more freedom during shoots. Fortunately, the actresses were really good, so I hardly had any problems.


This film opens up a little door to rather dark world, if it was a feature film, what would you have liked to portray?

This short film was made as one that was more mood driven so I guess if it was to be a feature, I would probably make it a character study of sorts, something that would not be so applicable in the short form. To explore the two main characters through the eyes of each other; that would be an interesting one.


Tell us a bit about yourself and what you are currently doing.

Not sure what I can say. I take interest in almost everything, and I guess film allows me to delve into all these different vocations and lives to explore these fascinations. I guess you could say the same about any artform, literature, photography, etc, but filmmaking to me seems to be the visceral of the lot, and I like watchin films as well, so yes, easy choice.

Right now, I just finished a project on Jack Neo's new film as a 2nd Assistant Director and preparing for a trip to Europe with a friend to do a backpacking/travelogue project.

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