26-year-old Dehradun-based filmmaker and creative director Yashasvi Juyal’s Pahadi-language 37-minute long short film –– Aakhri Buransh (The Last Rhododendron), delves into the generational relationship with one’s home in a village. Examining themes of migration and the loss of a home, the film is set in a village in Uttarakhand narrating the story of a mother and daughter that echoes through the land. As the young daughter, Mamta, makes preparations to go to the city for her education, her mother is haunted by the thought of being left behind in an almost ghost village, where everyone has migrated to urban centres.
In a small village in the mountains of Uttarakhand, as a daughter is summoned by an urban promise, her mother is haunted by the possibility of a ghost village. The Last Rhododendron narrates the journey of a conflict where one generation is connected to the possibilities of the city, and the other is tethered to the survival of their land. To better understand the film, the creative process and the inspirations through the years, we had a conversation with Juyal.
What are some things you learned while putting this project together?
The Last Rhododendron is an ambient experience. It’s my take on loneliness associated with migration in the higher Himalayas. I really experienced the power of the region in storytelling, and how potent and powerful it is to get together a team of local individuals to tell a story from their territory or soil. This project for me was like film school, it was the first time I was working with a technically sound crew and resources. It helped me steer control of my directorial skills a little more and understand the politics of caste and religion in Uttarakhand. There’s an old Himalayan saying that goes “In the land of the Gods, the Gods gamble while the Goddesses go and work” (Uttarakhand is known as Dev Bhoomi, The Land of the Gods).
What are some of your biggest inspirations over the years of your artistic career?
I really admire the idea of spaces and the existence associated with any of them. All my work till now revolves around the idea of home and the politics of humans in relation to spaces we all reside in. Then comes mood, culture, social constructs and general human feelings. I stay in Uttarakhand and the higher Himalayas have always inspired me to think beyond and actually cultivate different ideas through audio-visual mediums. For the last 3 years, my collective –– Silvercord films, and I are on a journey to document and experiment with the landscape and the local culture and politics of Uttarakhand. The tribal communities of my state and the idea of spaces, may they be isolated, urban or historical inspires me to write more and document the already existing in an unusual unseen manner.
Describe your creative process and the purpose with which you create.
My creative process is self-designed and mostly depends on the subject and the idea I am implementing or trying to. I am a visual animal and most of my work is a mixture of pre-conceived images with diegetic/non-diegetic soundscape which comes together to tell the untold or show the unseen. It is completely based on interpretation and an individual relationship with the viewer. I partake in documentary photography and create absurd diary notes and visual montages to reach a point where I can connect all these dots. Recording routine daily conversations of existence around me is also a part of my process where I understand the narrative of mundane ambiences.
As filmmaking is a collaborative effort and also an artistic technical balance, I make sure I am in constant discussions with my technical team, be it the cinematographer, the sound recordist, or the editor. Sometimes self-designing your technical meetings into creative exercises helps you understand the idea better, which also includes multiple location visits with every technical member.
What are some of your biggest influences as an artist?
Architecture and the chaos of nature and concrete really influence me to think. Minimal politics around my neighbourhood and the different origin of spaces also influence me to think. Cinema is a medium which is received through audio and visual. India is a sonically powerful country and this chaos in sounds and the visual scape has so much to think about and convey.
A project you wish you were a part of?
I have never thought of this, but maybe a mentorship project like the ‘Rolex Mentor & Protege’ initiative in film.
Who are some artists who are currently on your radar?
Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Thailand), Scott Barley (British), Viktor Kossakovsky (Russia), Gianfranco Rosi (Italy) and Prantik Narayan Basu (India).
You can follow Yashasvi Juyal’s work here.
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