It is precisely the disagreement with reality that constitutes the true wealth of an artist who, because of his inability to adapt the mundane, must abandon the beaten paths in order to travel new or forgotten roads. Born out of this climate of profound political and cultural disappointment, KARMA IS A SHE-WOLF is the summation of the subterranean, counter-cultural Indian Cinema, which has been systematically kept hidden by mainstream Bollywood. With his debut feature film Renny Ray has taken a radical departure from the mainstream cliches, and KARMA IS A SHE-WOLF is a compelling testimony to that.
Rohan is killed in a fire accident soon after his first marriage anniversary, leaving his young pregnant wife Nisha devastated. As Nisha tries to cope with the tragedy, the film reconstructs a series of events in backwards to uncover the truth. The ensuing reverse Domino effect narrates a complex tale of love, loss, doubt, revenge and investigates criminal perspective of human psyche to unveil a shocking truth. Karma Is A She-Wolf is an unusual film which probes deep inside the marital institution to unfold a mystery in reverse chronology without dialogue, employing only internal monologues of the two primary characters as streams of consciousness: a film poem wrapped inside a dark drama.
MINDFOOK FILMS presents a crowdfunded feature film:
Genre: Neo-Noir/ Drama/ Mystery
Written & Directed by Renny Ray
Cast: Aneesha Shah, Vishal Handa, Anuj Jain, Debajit Kumar, Tanya Roy, Jyotika Kukrety
Cinematography: Winston Jose
Edit: Debajit Kumar
Music: Shaunak Bhowmick
Featured Music: L Macha Tomba, Moderator, Douglas Dillingham
Sound Design: Abhik Chatterjee
Sound Mix: Sudeepta Sadhukhan
Art: Ayushi Gandhi, Chaiti Nath, Raudro Mitra
Associate Director: Anuradha Nishad
Assistant Director: Pranjal Rajadhyaksha
Creative Consultant: Bipasha Sarangi
Makeup & Styling: Ganesh Panday
Colourist: Riasat Manzoor
Visual Effects: Debajit Kumar
Animation: Amitai Angor
Dubbing Recordist: Abhijeet Sapre
Additional Monologue: Pooja Pande
European Co-Producer: Tereza Penkova
Original Sound Track
Original Sound Track
In Another Life
At The Little Door, Mumbai, during the shoot of KARMA IS A SHE-WOLF (from left to right: Vishal Handa, Aneesha Shah, Renny Ray)
Back in 2004, while still in engineering college, I discovered a Russian director who was unknown to me at that point: Andrei Tarkovsky. Within the next three days I devoured his entire filmography. I was drawn to Cinema pretty early on, thanks to directors like Scorsese, Allen and Satyajit Ray. But Tarkovksy invoked something deeper inside me. It was a complete, transcendental, spiritual awakening. Soon it dawned on me: if I ever want to pursue something in life, it would be Cinema and nothing else. Cinema was my calling.
Years later, after quitting a successful banking career, after finishing film school, after working on other people’s feature films, after directing various music videos, commercials and corporate projects, when I attempted to direct my first feature film I faced the bitter truth: nobody in the film industry would produce a film by me, a newcomer who knew nobody in the industry and had a taste for European Cinema. So after repeated rejections for almost two years I decided to make a film on my own. All I had was about US$ 1500 and an unreasonable heart. People laughed at me. It was an impossible proposition.
I had five registered screenplays, but none of them would fit. I was attempting a feature film with a non-existent budget. It had to be completely out of the box. So I wrote a new screenplay, ‘KARMA IS A SHE-WOLF’ under 10 days and had a reading session with my core technical team. The script was written in reverse chronology and narrated only in monologues. My team loved it and we decided to proceed with the project. The actors joined soon.
US$3000. 10 days shoot. 13 people. No pay. Limitless courage. It doesn’t get any more independent than that.
During pre-production we realised we had too little money. So we went crowdfunding. We created a promo video and directly pitched the film to hundreds of people on social network. Soon we had about 50 people investing little amounts starting from US$15. In the end we finished the shooting in 12 days with a 7-member crew, editing and DI in the next 6 months, sound design and music in another couple of months. We collaborated with various artists from all over the globe, experimented in writing, cinematography, edit, sound and maintained industry standards in every department of the production. The target was to make a bold statement: You don’t need much money to make a genuinely good film. I believe we have succeeded in our primary target.
With ‘KARMA IS A SHE-WOLF’, me and my team took a radical departure from the mainstream Indian cinema to create a universal, non-ethnocentric, contemporary film which would speak truth in every frame and would raise questions on human behaviour. The result is a refreshingly cool film (if I may say so), which takes you on a wild ride and makes you think afterwards. So come, dive in. Experience the She-Wolf.
Review by Mikim Bizii
I saw the film twice and in so many ways it left me quite breathless and pleasantly envious of you. The first thing that struck me was the unutterably beautiful and noticeable sense of place; it halts the viewer with its soft textures and colours. Your film is filled with images of startling and serene beauty with such elegance of composition that it feels almost like a tableau. I also love the sedate, slightly voyeuristic camera movements creating a mesmerising, intimate visual spell.
Adding to that was the sheer poetry of the narration – the monologues that brimmed with such lyrical beauty that I almost wished there were subtitles so that I could focus on the exquisiteness of the words. At times, the richness of the narration felt rather ponderous and faltering and not keeping with the pace of the visuals and I had to strain a bit to keep track of the v/o while focusing on the unfolding story.
What’s arresting about the movie was an overall sense of connectedness that I could feel although the world of “Karma Is A She-Wolf” is a world under attack. There is a sense of pliancy in the relationship between the man and the woman. In my first viewing I found them rather jarring because I was trying to fit and profile them. But viewing the movie a second time, I realised those two characters cannot be boxed nor categorised. There is that indefinable human intimacy and cruelty seamlessly shifting throughout the movie while their shared darkness kept growing larger and larger. It felt as though the characters have embraced the paradoxes of love and was softly assaulting the viewer’s senses with a vague feeling of something gone wrong, some seed of an old conflict that has permeated its roots into the soil of their relationship.
Initially I found the interiors a bit grating. Every object seemed to be breathing at a slower pace as if through an oxygen mask, forcing the viewer to slow down and fall into the rhythm of the movie. But as the story progressed, the objects seem to effortlessly thread together and speak more than the characters. The lighter, the flowers, the jar of ashes, the small details in the room, the very atmosphere seems to be conscious of their own existence and significance.
The closest analogy I can think of the “Karma Is A She Wolf” experience is watching green tea leaves unfurling in hot water. It is so subtle, -at one moment it is just disparate things: water, honey, lemon and tea leaves, but soon it turns into a fragrant brew – every element adding radiance, sweetness, warmth and a hint of a curious aftertaste.
[Mikim is a poet from Bangalore and she teaches creative writing and film studies.]
Review by Alisa Sheli Orsa
I finished watching Karma Is A She -Wolf and the experience was almost unspeakable. I needed some time to send you a proper feedback as I had too many feelings about it.
First of all, I was really amazed how carefully you put fragments of Písek memories into the film. It was touching and sweet. And to realise that you made your main character an editor – wow, I couldn’t believe that for half of the film! That made me happy.
And the film – the film is great. It’s sincere, emotional, poetic, dramatic, controversial, honest and loving. I was surprised by the narrative form you chose – block-divided using inter-titles and without dialogue. I saw it like playing with different styles, mixing old forms altogether to find an absolutely new form.
The actors – the actors were very good, very convincing. I believed them 100%. Aneesha as Nisha gave an incredible performance – beautiful and charming.
The film is very unusual and that’s why twice as much interesting. It isn’t the outer motives of the protagonists, but their inner worlds, their private emotions that they don’t share with each other. Because each of us is like a whole universe with absolutely different mind and motivation and so on. The narrative point of view of the ‘inner me’ works very well.
For sure, there are so many layers in this film: poetic imagery, word-plays, alternative meanings and metaphors. In film medium, we filmmakers do not always show events in literal or superficial sense, most often than not there are some hidden, underlying significance to them for different and alternate interpretations. I caught some references towards ‘Art’ in general and I realised you expressed your opinion and views about ‘Art forms’, but I need to re-watch the film to better understand them. On the surface the film is an emotional journey and it leaves you very sad and sentimental.
You did such a fantastic job. I can’t imagine how hard it was to make it all happen. I hope it won’t go unnoticed. Enormous and amazing work, Karma Is A She-Wolf is truly a great film.
[Alisa is a professional film editor based in Prague, Czech Republic.]
Review by Priyanka Oliveira
After watching Karma Is A She-Wolf, I truly have no words. I wish I was as good as expressing myself in words as you are- I’d tell you how it felt.
Earlier when I saw the photos, I imagined a different story- I thought I had it all figured out but I was so wrong. The movie had all my attention, I couldn’t get my eyes off the screen. I wanted to know what had gone wrong. I felt what they felt. When I heard the poem – I smiled – I didn’t want it to end. The movie was way more then I imagined it to be. Such great work done by each and everyone in the team. The movie should reach way more people. I could never imagine the end of it.
Each time I saw Debajit I had a mini flashback of how he’d show us his acting videos in Brandish. I was glad to see him on screen. I felt everyone had given their all, I could see their passion, their efforts. They made me feel the story was their own. I felt it was mine too.
This surely deserves a lot of acknowledgement. After a very long time, I’ve finally seen a great film.
Kudos to the entire team. Everyone has been seeing the hardwork and passion you guys had put in & after seeing the film, I can say it surely paid off. What you created is always going to stay in my mind- you are truly the best!
[Priyanka is a multimedia graduate and currently works in Dubai, UAE.]
Review by Shalini Kiran
I watched Karma Is A She-Wolf and it was very good, and you definitely attained the impact intended while using the unique technique of reverse chronology. It left me wanting to watch the film another time to make sense out of every scene again. Towards the end of the movie, no matter what conclusion you come to, in a few hours another scene pops into mind making you scrutinise your whole theory again. Karma Is A She-Wolf will stick to a viewer’s mind for days after watching it.
The background music captures the nostalgia of the movie, combined with the quotes, poetry and intense monologues. That’s where the beauty of the movie lies. Great job there.
It is stated that the film is inspired by real life experiences, and that has a profound impact. It made me wonder exactly what could’ve been running in your mind while deciding on the title of the movie. I had to look up the characteristics of wolves.
It’s pretty evident that everyone has really given themselves to this project and dived deep into their respective roles and characters. One less committed person and the film wouldn’t have had this impact.
The greatest assets of the film are the writing, the music, and the redolence of exposing the deepest emotions one can feel. Some things are embedded in my brain, like the monologues about how you change suddenly from innocence to adulthood, about one person cutting off another from the rest of the world and feeling invincible, to name a few.
Keep making films about the things you feel strongly about. The gratification of doing something you are passionate about is bigger than big budget commercial movies. And these films resonate with people for a longer time. Thank you for making such a wonderful movie.
[Shalini is a film/poetry/art enthusiast from Bangalore who describes herself as a dilettante and a philomath of everything and nothing.]
Review by Ankan Roy
A black screen. We hear an approaching footstep in the background. The footstep stops and then we hear the sound of the projector. The projector begins and then we see a flurry of images in quick succession…images that capture the magic of the art of cinema…the essence of it! And then? Well, bingo, wonder happens. As the conversation slowly pops up in the background, a director discussing his shots with a man and a woman, probably his actor and actress, and a montage of avant-garde art keeps appearing on the screen, we keep wondering about the title ’Karma Is A She-wolf’! Why Karma? Why Karma is a wolf? Why Karma is a she-wolf? Has the title got anything to do with Zen philosophy? We keep wondering about it until we arrive at the climax. It hits us…it hits us hard with all it’s enigma.
I watched this enigma on a breezy weekend evening and came back home in a trance; A trance that persisted for a long time…a trance that made me rethink about the frailties and vulnerabilities of human existence, a trance that percolates deep down your consciousness; It’s brutally honest, I must say! Honest in it’s portrayal of the complexities of human life and emotion and finding an equally perceptible route to connect it to the mindnumbingly huge labyrinth called ’The Universe’.
The film works in ’reverse chronology’, a format which we don’t come across very often, but here the debutant director Renny Ray has meticulously blended the format with his unique story-telling style! It captures conflicts – conflicts that exist in many layers: conflict between species, between nature and human, conflict between genders, between mind and body, conflict between consciousness and subconsciousness,
conflict between reality and hyperreality…conflicts that eventually make life enigmatic and existence beautiful.
Aneesha Shah is a revelation in this film. Her Nisha is poignant, vulnerable yet strong, melancholic yet effervescent…she is a loner at heart yet she exudes elegance,passion,determination….throughout the film, she is an enigma herself! In certain scenes she is just ethereal. Vishal Handa is just so perfect as an obsessive and to some extent confused, bewildered lover. He is having a constant turmoil with his own self and this is corroding him inside out. He is yet to come to terms with his own life and this makes his relationship with Nisha particularly vulnerable, rather dwindling. The maker’s excellence in craftsmanship lies in capturing the nuances of this troubled relationship. We see both the guy and the girl are trying their best but they are not heading anywhere…
Winston Jose’s camera work has done justice to portray the sordid atmosphere where the characters are planted. Of course there are rooms for development but there is a raw, nascent feel in the images which is rather very intriguing; Shounak’s music is instrumental in portraying the helplessness of the characters and the helplessness of us as we sometimes feel trapped in this blackhole of existence and the cacophony it brings in. Abhik Chatterjee has done a tremendous job as a sound designer. He has brought nuances of quintessential cityscape come alive with his unique blending with an equally haunting and surreal atmospheric soundscape.
In his debut feature, Renny Ray has been able to cast an impressive spell with his unique, non-linear storytelling that will make you wonder and ponder. And yes, there is a huge, savage plot-twist at the climax which will force you to rethink about the entire film from the very beginning as well as your own life in this vast maze called ’Uncertainty’!
[Ankan is a filmmaker and film academic based in kolkata, India.]