Arati Kadav on her sci-fi film Cargo: ‘Our spaceship can compete with top spaceships’

Debarati Palit Singh
Friday, 3 April 2020

Arati Kadav, who has directed the sci-fi film – Cargo, talks about the process of making the film.

Even though sci-fi is a popular genre in Hollywood and has a huge fan following in India, our filmmakers haven’t attempted much of it. Arati Kadav’s debut feature film -- Cargo is already being lauded as one of the most inventive sci-fi dramas to come out of Indian film industry. The film starring Vikrant Massey and Shweta Tripathi has already travelled to different international film festivals. It had its premiere at MAMI 2019. 

Arati, who has been working in the movie industry for eight years, says that she always wanted to make a sci-fi or fantasy film because she was fascinated with the genre since childhood. 

“When I was struggling in the industry, I was also reading about different myths prevalent in various civilisations. I realised that a lot of them were curious about how and why humans came on the earth and the second most-talked-about topic was the after-life. It made me think that we want an answer at every step and because we do not get an appealing or convincing answer to our questions, we keep going back to them,” says the young director. 

She adds that a visit to an immigration centre made her think --‘What if we all go through immigration after our death?’. “I have always believed that we are all travellers. But where does the journey end? I read up on this whole Yamraj mythology, and as I went further into it, I found how dense the whole folklore is. When these two ideas came together, I was sure that I wanted to make the film,” says Arati, who in the past had directed short and ad films. 

Cargo, which will release in India later this year, is being presented by Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane. Arati says that both the filmmakers have treated the film like their ‘ghar ka movie’. 

“I know Vikram and his mother Deepa aunty. I bullied them into giving their office, where we shot a few scenes,” she says.

The director informs that it took her two or two and a half years, including the writing to put Cargo together. “The pre and post-production were very heavy, especially the VFX. Because I have struggled for long, I knew that there was a lot of interest among producers for this genre and they were eager to meet me and listen to the story, but they were not confident. For them, the benchmark for sci-fi films is Hollywood blockbusters. Even if we make a film here, how do we beat something like Star Wars? The audience will still look out for that,” says Arati, who, before Cargo, had written a few sci-fi screenplays, including Time Machine that was converted into a short film. 

She adds that makers need to realise that they can still tell magical stories without splurging their money on the screen. “You just have to come up with nuanced ideas that do not require too much of VFX work,” she suggests. 

And how challenging was it to work on the VFX in a limited budget without compromising on the quality? ‘Very challenging’, says Arati, adding, “It’s a challenge that nobody really understands because so much happens behind the scene. There were two sets of people working on the set, one of them included close friends -- I had an animator friend who had fresh ideas and also understood me. And we were also working with a VFX team. 

“At the beginning of the project, we kept thinking as to how would we work on the project with such a small budget but by the end of it, everyone was so passionate about it,” she recalls.

The people who were designing the spaceship had realised that it was the first spaceship on screen from India. “They wanted to feel proud of what they had created. I can confidently say that our spaceship can compete with top spaceships. The VFX took almost a year and a half and a lot of patience,” she adds. 

She believes that Hollywood sci-fi’s stories are rooted in their culture, so when we write our own stories, we too have to choose a similar path. 

“We too have to build it up gradually. It will change because after MAMI screening, I have seen so many writers writing on those lines, but they are unable to find an avenue.”   

How were Shweta and Vikrant convinced to sign the project?

“I have known Shweta much before I started working on Cargo. She is a very intelligent actor. She is one of the few actors who have always supported first-time filmmakers. After reading the script, she had asked such valid questions that I knew the collaboration would be fruitful. As for Vikrant, he too is a very intelligent actor. I got to know him through Shweta, and he believed in the concept. While Shweta is spontaneous; Vikrant is a studied and method actor.”

Cargo has now been officially selected for other international film festivals including 27th edition of the South By Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival followed by IFFLA 2020. Arati feels Cargo going to so many festivals is a significant validation for the team. 

“In many of the festivals, we were told that they hadn’t seen a sci-fi film from India. It’s a great exposure for us,” says Arati before signing off.

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