July 1 2015
Developed and shot in rapid time, this low budget feature is a funny and poignant take on a celebrity whose image has been destroyed…
SWEET, charming and tender, Amit Gupta’s third film, “One Crazy Thing” which opens the East End Film Festival, is something of a treat for those who like their films a little understated.
Starring Ray Panthaki (“Jadoo” and “Eastenders” further back) as ‘Jay’ and Daisy Bevan (daughter of actress Joely Richardson) as ‘Hannah’, it’s about a rising soap star whose career takes a terrifying nosedive after a sex tape he makes with his actor girlfriend goes viral.
She becomes a Hollywood A-list star, while he finds himself having to start again and avoid sneering references to his ‘Asian Persuasion’ antics. You get the picture…
The film opens the East End Film Festival later today (Wednesday, July 1) in a gala screening and is the most prominent of fictional features from a South Asian perspective of the total of 33* films on offer over the festival which closes on July 12. Local Hackney boy Asif Kapadia will screen his already much trailed documentary, “Amy” tomorrow at the fest. Both Kapadia and Gupta should be doing Q&As after the screening of their films.
Gupta told www.asianculturevulture.com: “It’s very exciting to be the Gala opening film at UK’s Tribeca (a New York-based film festival created by Robert De Niro and others).”
The film already has a US distribution deal, having premiered there at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, where it got a terrific reception. It will also screen at the London Indian Film Festival on July 21 (see full listings below) and a UK deal is not far from being inked.
Just five months in the making from penning a script to shooting and very much a budget feature, Gupta deserves praise for producing a film which has echoes of early Woody Allen (especially in the main character Jay, played by Panthaki) and writer-director Noah Baumbach.
Forget the sex tape in “One Crazy Thing” – it is quite incidental in some ways and focus on Jay – sad, lonely, and lost, Panthaki plays him as a loser who just can’t seem to escape his groove (we’ve all been there…) and it’s far worse, because once upon a time he was someone in a TV soap called ‘London Town’.
Gupta told www.asianculturevulture.com: “I wanted to write a film about celebrity, and it’s my take on it. There are a lot of kids who aspire to be a celebrity, rather than be an actor or writer, and they don’t know what celebrity is really – I am horrified by this.”
This unforgiving milieu allows Gupta to come up with some smart insights – one supposedly ‘blind’ date Jay has, goes very awry as the actor’s sordid past catches up with him. His family can’t speak to him as they share out the chappathis and dal at dinner time and it’s a pretty gloomy time.
But what’s far more affecting is the love story that unfolds. Jay stumbles upon Hannah (quite literally) and sparks fly. It helps that she is unaffected by the modern world and has little time for the internet or its advantages as we might understand them (ahem)…
Without giving too much away, it’s a film that has a powerful but very subtly delivered message – it might be too understated for some, but others will find merit and more purpose in that.
It’s important too to see this film in its larger context, it’s not really a British Asian film, it just happens to have a British Asian character at the heart of it.
“It’s about his (Jay’s) struggle, and trying to come to terms with his own past – it’s not about him being an Indian guy. I was interested in what happens to a guy whose life is defined by something he wished had never happened,” said Gupta.
“I was definitely thinking about Woody Allen, Richard Linklater and Noah Baumbach when I was writing it.
“I don’t want to bang people over the head. I don’t think people are obvious in real life and I really wanted to undercut the cliché of the Indian family…”
We can’t tell you exactly how, as that will spoil it, but you can bet your bottom dollar he hasn’t subsided into clichés and stereotypes – though a fiercer critic or two might argue that family reaction initially to the sex tape is utterly predictable (and very 1970s). Again these are minor tropes, hardly the main fare.
The film essentially is asking how do you deal with the past and how do you explain it to other people who are unlikely to understand.
Gupta explained: “You can regret things that did happen to you or didn’t, or opportunities you did take or didn’t; I’ve seen it with filmmakers, wishing they had done this or that, and then you meet them 10 years later and they’re still banging on about the same thing – now are you going to be defined by that one thing or the one heartbreak in your life…”
There’s a good bit of Gupta in Jay too, he conceded – he likes to carry his toothbrush around with him and some of Gupta’s own experience as filmmaker have found their way entertainingly and humorously into “One Crazy Thing”.
The first audition scene will hit home with many an artist and people’s expectations of them when they see a brown face.
“It’s like when you go into a meeting and they’re expecting some form of exoticism. They want your Indian experience, it’s definitely happened to me. I pitched an idea and they said to me: ‘Have you not got anything grittier, anything more Asian?” posed Gupta.
He said in US they were more receptive and did not have preconceived ideas of what someone like him would be pitching.
The film makes some strong points about perceptions and people’s stereotypes of the Asian actor/artist.
“Jay is frustrated by the way people perceive him,” noted Gupta.
He said it’s important for anyone in a creative function to stand up and say and do what they want and not be bound or restricted by what other people might expect (- or fund, though it’s more complex he agreed, in that scenario).
“The most fundamental thing to all this is, that we define ourselves. I don’t want to be told by someone else what I should be writing or what I should be making.
“I will call myself a British Asian filmmaker on some days, just a filmmaker on other days but most days I call myself a father of two young children because that is what defines me most of the time,” said the father, who has been married eight years.
He has two bigger budget features in the pipeline – one is an adaptation of the Virgina Woolf novel, “Night and Day” and a film from the popular novel, “Come to the Edge” by Joanna Kavenna.
Gupta is also working on a similar low budget quick turnaround film called “Dublin Run”, a romantic comedy in which UK immigration laws play havoc with the course of a romance.
“One Crazy Thing” follows after “Jadoo” which was a story about two warring restaurant-owning families in Leicester and was partially based on Gupta’s own experience growing up in a family that ran a restaurant there. The film enjoyed an extensive festival run and was released in UK cinemas in 2013. Prior to this, Gupta wrote and directed the BAFTA-Wales nominated “Resistance” which is a World War 2 period feature and had a cast of home-based stars, including Michael Sheen and Andrea Risborough in it.
Gupta began his creative career writing for the theatre, winning a Royal Court Theatre writing competition in 1998, before crossing over to films.
Selected highlights East End Film Festival July 1-12
For full programme please click: www.eastendfilmfestival.com
TODAY: ‘One Crazy Thing’ – 7pm; Genesis cinema, 93-95 Mile End Road, Whitechapel, London E14UJ.
Tickets: (£15 with drink) – www.genesiscinema.co.uk
TOMORROW: ‘Amy’ – 8pm; Rio Cinema, 107 Kingsland High Street, London E8 2PB
Tickets: www. riocinema.org.uk
*Saturday, July 11 – ‘Udita’ and ‘Can I Have’ (short film) 4pm; Genesis – free entry.
London Indian Film Festival July 16-23
(Full preview to come but you can see highlights from FACEBOOK posts).
Tuesday, July 21 – ‘One Crazy Thing’ – 7pm Cineworld Wembley, Unit 107, London Designer Outlet, Wembley Park Boulevard, Wembley, HA9 0FD
Ticket info/booking: http://www2.cineworld.co.uk/whatson/liff-one-crazy-thing?cinema=london-wembley