A young boy sat listening with rapt attention to his grandfather K.G. Raghavan Nair, a renowned author, who was narrating elaborate mythological stories. Soon, the boy would be in hurry to retell those stories back in school. So it became that Ray Raghavan fell in love with the art of storytelling as a child. Ray grew up watching a lot of Hollywood blockbusters like Star Wars, E.T. and had the advantage of growing up in different parts of India, thus watched Bengali, Malayalam, and Hindi films as well. Along with that, an inherited love of reading had him devouring books from Westerns to Indian mythologies but science fiction and detective stories remained his favourites.
He says, “An avid reader, I loved losing myself in those worlds.”
Then Ray joined the Delhi University and became part of a theatre group, which was probably when he first thought he could actually do it. He explains how the transition began, “As part of my English Literature programme, we had to become members at the British Council Library. But instead of reading the books there, I naturally diverted to the film section and one of the first movies I watched was A Clockwork Orange. Everything changed at that point. That movie disturbed, challenged and excited me and I realised that filmmaking was my calling. I knew I wanted to make films that challenged the status quo and instigated dialogue.”
So began a quest in that direction – one which would take Ray to Canada to study films. He says, “Coming to Canada was a step towards making the film I wanted to make. Once I finished my course, I was immediately employed at a production company.” So why not study film making in India which has some top-notch film institutes? He has an answer for that, “My first feature film Violentia opens with a violent sequence where a kid shoots at the students in a school. Making films with those kinds of themes is probably going to run into issues in India. However, I am not opposed to making films in Kerala or India.” Ray’s first feature film Violentia is produced, directed and scripted by him and was premiered at the Maryland film festival and in science fiction London 2018 festival, where it featured in the top 10 movies.
However, Ray did not jump directly into making a feature film. He made shorts, documentaries and features, which, he says, is an essential part of the process of becoming a filmmaker. He adds, “You have to experiment a bit before discovering the filmmaker in you. I made two short films and then was continuously writing for about three years. In the meantime, I helped a lot of my friends produce their films. It gave me so much insight into how to manage expectations and budgets.” The experience helped him with his maiden film, “I knew how to manage my locations, actors and crew to fit the tiny budget I had.”
So what is Violentia all about? He answers, “Violentia is sci-fi film set in an alternate reality. The film is an exploration in violence through the eyes of Dr Adam Anderson, a nano-tech engineer who finds a way to recreate memories using nanobots. But his grand plans to cure memory associated illnesses like Alzheimer’s and Dementia come crashing down when his daughter is killed in a school shootout.”
So he enlists in a secret government programme to find a cure for violence using a psychopath’s memories as testing ground. In an increasingly violent world where humans are losing basic empathy, Adam watches violent acts around him but fails to act on it. This desperate and convoluted experiment leads Adam down a dark path where the lines between reality and memories begin to blur. The constant cycle of violence where individual choices make all the difference – this is the mental state of Violentia.
Ray has expectations, “I would like to showcase the film at a film festival in India, like the Mumbai International Film Festival or the Indian International Film Festival. I am hoping to find distribution in India as well.” There is also work to be done, “I have also finished a first draft of my new script. It is set in a post-apocalyptic world and will need a much higher budget.”
Before concluding, he says, “I am a storyteller and as long as I continue to make films that starts a dialogue between two people, I am a happy man.”