still from The Illegal
The Filmmaker: Is it true that immense pain makes you a good artist? Not voluntarily of course. But it does teach you a lot. Danish Renzu was born amid terror and war in Kashmir, and grew up to love the idea of storytelling. But he was unaware of the concept of making films as a career choice, so he pursued engineering at UCLA in Los Angeles. He even took up a job at AT&T and worked there religiously for five years. But he was torn and tired. This is when he found his voice and decided to take the plunge. So he quit everything and chose cinema. He created various short films, such as In Search of America Inshallah, First Love, Half Widow, out of which the first was lauded at prestigious film festivals. His new feature, The Illegal, talks about migration, family, love and loss; themes that often find a place in his stories. It stars Suraj Sharma, Swetha Tripathi and Adil Hussain in vital roles.
The Film: The Illegal is a gritty, realistic story about a young film school student from middle class India who’s forced to drop out to support his family while staying in the United States. Stories that often come out of America, that talk about The Big Indian Dream gone wrong. ‘Living in Los Angles—a hub of immigration for so many years, I realised how difficult it to for immigrants to chase the American Dream. There are so many promises and so much hope attached to America, but there is a lot of struggle and perseverance involved in order to pursue your dreams if you’re an immigrant. It’s heart-breaking as well.’
still from The Illegal
The Inspiration: ‘Pursuing your dreams is hard. But one should never give up. I’ve met people who had come to LA to graduate but ended up working in restaurants as waiters in order to raise families back home. They’ve completely lost their identity and their purpose in life. And it’s like a trap; they can’t get out of it or they’ve lost the motivation to takes risks. So I think this film came from there. Also, tuition for international students in Los Angeles is a nightmare. Even I did multiple jobs on campus in order to survive. So it’s not easy at all. And I thought it’s something that must be brought to screen. Having said that, I also feel that it always works out at the end if you have the patience, perseverance and guts to work it out. Also if you’re a dreamer, you will always be one, and no one can ever snatch that away from you. Listen to your inner voice and always follow your instincts.’
Text Hansika Lohani