Interview with Filmmaker Ganesh Sharma (JALEBI NIGHTS)

JALEBI NIGHTS, 13min., UK, Drama/Romance
Directed by Ganesh Sharma
Jalebi Nights follows the journey of a young heartbroken man, named Krishan. He was about to propose to the love of his life, however her mother intervened. 6 months later, Krishan still can’t get over his ex, so his best friend Harry comes up with a plan to help Krishan move on.

Get to know the filmmaker:

1. What motivated you to make this film?

So I’m a filmmaker of south Asian descent, who was born in the UK and I grew up with a passion for watching films and TV shows from the western world. After all, this is where I was raised. However, from an early age I noticed that there weren’t many Asians being represented in the shows or the films that I watched. Additionally, if an Asian person was shown on screen, 9 times out of 10 they were used for a comedic moment. They were hardly an integral part of the story.

Now as a 31-year-old man, I can see that times have changed, and films have become a lot more diverse. There are certainly a lot more Asian faces on TV, which is great to see! However I believe that only a handful of them are ever provided with a lead role. Therefore, as a writer/director of South Asian origin, I decided that I should take it upon myself to change that.

With ‘Jalebi Nights’, I wanted to create a story that felt fitting of the struggles of South Asian people in my age group, in regards to arranged marriages, family pressure, sexual orientation etc. I also wrote the film in a way that people of all backgrounds could relate to. Additionally, another goal for me was to ensure I was giving Asian actors an opportunity to shine, and I’m happy to say I did! My entire cast is of South Asian origin, and for three of them, this is their first ever film credit.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

I conceptualised ‘Jalebi Nights’ around the summer of 2019. I was in the process of editing another short film at the time and wanted to create something new. I wrote the script fairly quickly, and started saving some money. However the Pandemic happened and the World came to a halt.

Once the UK began to ease restrictions, I started looking into making my script into a film! The film should have been directed in 2021 but due to scheduling conflicts, got delayed. Eventually I was able to direct the film in February of 2022, and I completed the edit in September 2022.

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?

Love wins.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

There were two big obstacles that I faced. The first obstacle was trying to get location permits within my budget. The final scene of my film was supposed to be shot at a train station, but the rates quoted by the Transport Company were more than I could afford. After all, I funded this film from the money I earned at my job. As a result, we had to film on a street and the permit for street filming only allowed us to film until 10pm.

The second obstacle was filming the final scene itself. I had a big scene with four characters, and two of them had secrets to reveal. Due to the nature of how I envisioned my characters moving around, I had to carefully block the scene with my Cinematographer in the day, before filming the scene at night. My shot list had to be adjusted a lot due to time constraints!

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I was filled with joy! I can’t explain how happy it made me to see their reactions. When I write or direct anything, I always try to imagine what the audience will feel. Seeing their feedback meant a lot to me.

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I would say the seed was planted from a very early age. As a child, anytime I attended a birthday party at a relative’s house, I always saw one of my uncles filming the event on a small camcorder. I was obsessed anytime I saw it! I didn’t know you could domestically own these devices, I always thought they were just used for films and TV shows.

Then around the age of 15/16, I entertained the idea of getting into acting after attending drama classes. However, after finishing my studies in my secondary school (UK equivalent of a high school), I auditioned at a college, and was told I did terribly. That was a demoralising moment, and left me not knowing what I wanted to do anymore.

I continued to navigate through life, until I saw Christopher Nolan’s beginning scene of the Dark Knight. Seeing Heath Ledger walking over to the van with his mask in his hand, and then carefully orchestrating the bank heist was phenomenal! It was from that moment on, I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

This is a hard one to answer! I enjoy different genres and have a select few favourite films from each genre that I watch from time to time. I know this question is asking for one film, but I will provide three.

1. The Shining. My favourite horror film!

2. Goodfellas. Martin Scorsese created a masterpiece with this film.

3. Home Alone. Every Christmas my family and me get together to watch this. It’s tradition!

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other
festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

Truth be told, I believe other festivals should look at you for guidance on how to satisfy their filmmakers. The fact that your team provides feedback videos for filmmakers, who have worked so hard to create their films, is really touching. Other than that, interviews like this are also something that filmmakers would enjoy. I’ve been involved in other festivals in the past where this stuff isn’t done whatsoever.

Although as a whole, it would be nice to have festivals liaise filmmakers with local filmmaking groups/ representatives from production companies etc. Being an independent filmmaker is very hard and I’m sure many of my peers would appreciate being able to network and try to further their career in that manner.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

For the most part, I’ve had a great experience using FilmFreeway! However I think they should evaluate some of the new festivals that appear, to make sure they are legitimate. I submitted ‘Jalebi Nights’ to a new festival based outside of the UK and I was selected. However, the festival made it clear in the email they sent me after that they would ONLY select winners from the filmmakers who would pay to stay at their villa. This felt like a massive scam. I know a few filmmakers who have complained about them to FilmFreeway.

10. What is your favorite meal?

I tried to think long and hard about this, but I could only think of Pizza. So I’m going to say pizza!

11. What is next for you? A new film?

Yes, two new films! I’m currently co-writing a feature film with friend and fellow filmmaker Ross Henson, which I’m hoping to direct this October. Other than that, I’m writing my 3rd draft for another feature film that If possible, I will direct this year/ early next year. Additionally I’m hoping to have released my first feature film by fall this year. I co-directed it last year in Cyprus with Ross Henson.


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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