A film still
In just a matter of fifteen minutes, Taufiq Khan’s debut short film, Lullaby, deftly depicts heavy issues like domestic violence, mental health and police brutality. By providing just a brief insight into the protagonist Neil’s life, the film showcases his struggle with mental health, seeped in his desperation for his mother’s love. The audience is never really told what happened to or with his mother, but as he slips in and out his childhood memories and begins to lose his grip on his sanity, reality crashes through. As the rest of the events unfold, a question begins to linger near the denouement — how can we not be driven insane in a world filled with horrifying social issues, which have managed to retain themselves even when a pandemic has engulfed us whole.
We connected with Taufiq to know more about him and his film, which is now streaming on Disney Hotstar.
I hail from Bombay and was led towards filmmaking by a good accident, a serendipitous encounter is what I’d like to call it. I was on a completely different path before I got into filmmaking, I was pursuing Bachelors in Commerce and had no definitive plans for myself. I was just a super confused kid post high-school, I was always trying hard to figure things out, like what to do next with my career/life and was always caught in that puzzle. On the flip-side, my parents wanted me to finish studying Bachelors in Commerce, and help my Dad with his business. I uninterestedly studied that course for around two years and then, by the grace of God, I finally figured out that it was not meant for me. I went back home one day and told my mom that I wouldn’t be pursuing the course anymore. She was so aggravated hearing this, we had a long argument that day, and eventually I received a couple of slaps from her.
A film still
I truly feel that now I understand this form of art better. I’m cognisant enough to know now the kind of discipline, effort and sacrifice it takes to make a film. I’m also studying and understanding the business aspect of cinema and am willing to know how I could capitalise on every project that I make from now onwards, while making sure my viewers are also happy. The whole filmmaking game has become binary for me now, it’s not ‘just films’ to me anymore. I’m very new to this industry right now but I’m slowly understanding everything. I feel like I’m still a student of cinema and there’s a lot left for me to learn and execute. In terms of inspiration, I am influenced by my personal experiences, and my daily encounters with life.
Lullaby was made during the roughest period of my life. I was just 23 years old and this was also my diploma film. So things came to me with lots of constraints and restrictions. I wrote this film in a span of 10 days due to strict deadlines from my institute. I’d written a completely different script before which was scraped-off by the head of my department. She said that I have no vision in my writing, though I didn’t believe so. I took it very personally because I went through a rough ride since the beginning of the writing stage unlike anyone from my batch. My vision was questioned, my self-belief and confidence were on the brink of getting shattered and due to all this ruckus, many of the crew members from my own batch were not interested in working with me. However I came out on top of everyone because I did believe in myself and I’ve come to realise that self-belief is vital.
At one point, during the scriptwriting process, I was also taken to the police station for a situation that the police thought I might have a link to and I was interrogated for two days. There was this mental-shift I’d faced suddenly because the event these cops were interrogating me for was a gruesome one. However like I mentioned, I enjoy making films inspired by my personal encounters and thus after going through so many mixed emotions, I gulped down all of these experiences and made Lullaby. The film is filled with many different emotions and it is very difficult to surrender to only one emotion until you have reached the end of the film, and that’s what I was experiencing prior to writing the script. As the great Ernest Hemingway once said ‘There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.’ I tried to use my cinema as catharsis, so that everyone could experience what I was truly experiencing — that was beautiful to me, and no other art form does it better than cinema, when it comes to such communication.
A Film Still
There were many thematic concerns at play in the film, like domestic violence, police brutality, and mental health, which played a huge role particularly. However, the propelling force for me was the mother throughout the film, which was also the crux of the script during the development period. I really wanted my writing process to be real and authentic and I asked myself, what is the most real and honest experience I’ve ever had in my life. The first thing that popped in my mind was the relationship I have with my lovely mother, the time we spend together is the most honest time. I was sure that the viewers would also agree to this in general. So I made sure to keep that powerful source of love of a mother in the centre and then give the script a dark and chaotic treatment, to basically balance out the juxtaposition. This was basically the style of filmmaking I was opting for back then.
Having said that, the other primary thematic concerns of the film like police brutality and domestic violence were added because these issues really mattered to me and I wanted to share that with the audience, with the support of correct background score, lighting, frames, acting, production design, etc. Therefore, I wanted a correct amalgamation of all these scenarios running in my head, turn them into an eye-gripping cinematic experience, and serve it to the viewers in the style of filmmaking that I would also enjoy personally.
This whole pandemic experience played out fairly well for me, I really found this whole experience very intriguing. A total shutdown all around the world was something very new and strange to witness. In-terms of coping with it, it has been quite normal for me, perhaps just like any other time. I’m generally very much used to such self-isolation. On the flip-side, this was actually the year in which I’d planned a lot of outdoor work. I had shoots planned both in India and Europe, all of which got jeopardised by this pandemic. Nonetheless, I’m very positive about my future and cannot wait to get back to do the stuff I’ve planned for myself post-lockdown. So, I guess there won’t be a new normal for me, I’ll be pursuing the same objectives post-lockdown as per my plans made before the lockdown. However, it would be really interesting to see how the world unfolds after this. I’m really keen to see that as well. It’s going to be an unknown territory for all of us, and I really hope it’s an interesting one.
Right now, I’m super excited and eagerly looking forward to this new project of mine. I’m working on a music video for my very close friend Kevin Clarke. He’s releasing his debut album as Tokioplaza soon. I almost just finished shooting it in March, right before the pandemic was declared. Thankfully, we almost shot 80% of the stuff already and just a day of shooting is left now, which will be happening this or next month. This is actually a very special project for me, my wonderful team and all the lovely people who are involved in it. We are collectively creating a very unique and thrilling experience for everyone, and this is not just limited to viewers in India. This is for the world to watch it. I don’t want to talk much now about the video, until it is ready to take-off, but it is not something that has been done or witnessed by anyone in the music video scene out here in India. We are coming in with fresh ideas and thoughts and we just cannot wait to show it to everyone.