Working on a narrative that has elements of mystery, drama and suspense weaved into it is as exciting for a filmmaker as it is for those watching it, says Indian filmmaker Pradeep Katasani, who is gearing up for his debut film that has all of those above-mentioned themes rolled into it.
Set against the backdrop of San Diego, Calif., the 110-minute-long film is titled, “Silk Road.”
It charts the story of Kishore, an Indian student and a part-time motel clerk who unwittingly steals a huge stash of drugs belonging to the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Durga Rao, a third-generation Indian American and a sharp DEA agent who wholeheartedly believes in the ideals of the American justice system.
Kishore then decides to sell the drugs on the dark web, where he’s sure his crimes can’t be traced back to him. Unfortunately for Kishore, his methods aren’t as foolproof as he hopes and special agent Durga is hot on his trail.
“Suspense thriller is my favorite genre,” Katasani told India-West. “Even my thesis as a student for my master’s project was ‘How to Generate Suspense in Narrative Fiction.’ ‘Silk Road’ is going to be a very taut thriller. There are not going to be any fillers.”
“Silk Road” is based on the eponymous novel by E Mapache. Katasani co-wrote the novel.
“It’s a suspense thriller. It has a lot of chases and suspenseful scenes with law enforcement involved. In terms of visual style, the color palette is 80s retro. I’m a big fan of Nicholas Winding Refn and this film is inspired by his work. I also took visual references from the works of several cinematographers,” said the Los Angeles, Calif.-based filmmaker.
The Hyderabad native adopted a two-pronged approach while chronicling the stories of two Indians in the U.S. who are in two very different circumstances: to spotlight the myriad thriving careers of Indian Americans and also showcase the trials and tribulations of Indians immigrants in the U.S.
Katasani said before he came to the U.S. as a student, he, like most Indians, saw the lives of Indian Americans through rose-colored glasses.
“At the outset, when you look at all the immigrants from India who come to the U.S., they all look very similar. A lot of them come here as engineers, either do their master’s, then get work permits, get married and settle down, etc. Initially, I also had this narrow view of NRIs and everything seemed great,” Katasani told India-West. “But once I came here as a student, I was fascinated and kind of surprised at how different each person’s story was. So, I decided to write a story about a student and throw a new light, a new perspective.”
Expounding on the characterization of Durga, he added: “Later on, I also came to know a lot about Telugu and other Indian immigrants who are spreading into different fields. Indians back in India don’t really think about all these careers when they think about Indians in the U.S. I wanted to show the interesting things Indian Americans are doing.”
The young filmmaker, who got his bachelor’s degree in computer science from India, worked as an engineer for a year before switching lanes to pursue his passion.
Before he came to the U.S. in 2015 to earn his master’s degree in television and film production from San Diego State University, Katasani had also been selected as a research scholar at the Complutense University of Madrid in Spain where he worked on developing a media markup language for film scripts.
Since graduation, Katasani has been actively associated with the film industry, performing various roles, including that of first assistant director, production manager, and post-production supervisor on feature films. Among his film credits is the Shabana Azmi and Satinder Sartaaj starrer “The Black Prince,” which narrates the true story of the former king of Punjab, Maharajah Duleep Singh.
He also worked as the new media producer for the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles where he oversaw all the video content produced during the festival.
Rahul Ramakrishna, a rising star from Hyderabad, has been signed as the male lead, while the casting and other preparations for the rest of the film are underway.
“We are also trying to get the visas for the actors and some crew members and are planning to begin the shoot in April,” Katasani said, adding that he is looking at a late 2019 or early 2020 release date.
“Each character has his/her own arc, their own purpose in the story,” he noted to India-West. “I want to give the Indian American audiences a completely fresh theme, with no stereotypes.”