It is said that cinema is a very powerful medium of expression and if used in the right way, it can do wonders and one filmmaker is trying to make all the difference with his approach towards cinema.

A native of Mumbai, India, and now living in Vancouver, Canada, Aashish Chanana is on a journey to offer people some great cinematic experiences. He is an acclaimed director, producer and actor who has not only tapped on the social issues through his films, but, he also creates cinema that hits the soul directly.

For Aashish making a film is more like a form of expression. “When real life stories start to bother you (religious and spiritual conflicts – war crimes – the dangers of terrorism or the dark side of multiculturalism), how do you deal with them if you’re not a politician or a religious leader but simply a filmmaker? For me the right way is by morphing them into a story – a story that is about you and me and the world we live in. However, the challenge is to include the audience as one of my characters so that more people can relate to it,” he said.

His film Afreen has won close to 50 Awards and nominations and he is often told that no film till date has won such a big number of awards. With the support of Jay Minhas, we caught up with him and here’s what he has to say about his journey till now.

EM: What according to you is more difficult, working on an idea and shaping it into a script or the post- production?

AC: Honestly when you love what you do – nothing seems difficult. Nevertheless to say that Afreen was one of my most difficult films for various reasons but at the end of the day, I am happy I accomplished what I aimed for and overall enjoyed the process. Whenever I find difficulty in doing something, I remember that my mom always told me, for a Punjabi, nothing is impossible.

EM: You don the hat of many personalities, you are a producer, a director as well as a CEO of an international production company, which one of these roles do you enjoy the most and why?

AC: Like I said above, I enjoy the entire process of film making and I am passionate about all that I do – or else – I wouldn’t pursue it. But if I had to choose one, I’d say being a director, as a film is the director’s vision and there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing your vision come through ‘on screen’.

EM: Why according to you is ‘cinema’ a powerful medium of expression?

AC: To answer this question, I’d like to pose a vital question to you and to my readers, with context to my recent film

Afreen: I hope this would answer your question.

• Should the challenges and perils of international terrorism be solely in the hands of politicians?

• Should we, the film artists of the world, sit aside in our enclaves and watch it all burn?

• Such questions surely resonate with the worldwide filmmaking community and prompt the natural following question: Are we doing our utmost to change the world for the better, if only on the scale of a drop in the ocean? Cinema surely is a very powerful tool to provoke thoughts and channelize people’s minds to constructively do something to change this world into a more positive world.

EM: If you had to choose an alternate career, what would that be?

AC: I can’t think of any other profession honestly – maybe designing cars – but I don’t think any other would give me this kind of satisfaction.

EM: How did the shift of interest happen from automobile engineering to producing films? Would you say it was a wise decision?

AC: Way back in high school (Modern High School – Delhi) I designed the first electric car in India – I totally enjoyed the process and surely all the limelight that I got right after. But as I grew up I wanted to do more – I dabbled into acting, producing and finally directing movies. Being a filmmaker is what I would do now – hence – yes, was definitely a wise decision.

EM: Your upcoming film Emily is still in works, what goes behind writing and producing a story? What after a draft is ready? Does it take long to get to the final draft?

AC: I’m sure every film maker works differently and I respect their craft. When it comes to me, I follow a longer process in the beginning as I like to drown myself, totally immerse my soul, my consciousness, my whole being into the emotions of the script.

So to start with I need to find a connection, a reason or a motivation and once I have that, nothing can stop me – nothing. No money, no fear, no obstacle as that becomes my sole goal in life.

So if you were to ask me what is my motivation for my next film Emily – it is a crusade against, ‘human traffickers’ – I am not looking for money or fame or awards – all I want is to save the life of one girl, one child, that has been wronged by these inhuman elements of our society. Most people think that human trafficking is not happening anywhere near us – they feel it could be in far away countries. Unfortunately, it’s happening rights here in North America and you and I need to do something about it – NOW!!!

EM: Films like Afreen are very hard hitting in general. Do you focus on making films for a niche audience? Or your films are even suitable for the masses?

AC: Absolutely masses – I feel that’s the difference between my films and the others who make films on subjects like these – they make great documentaries which are for niche audiences, while I like to make films that entertain and in the process – I ‘soft sell’ the ‘core’.

EM: Name a few of your personal favorite directors that inspire you?

AC: Being originally from Bollywood, my favorite directors would always be – Yash Chopra, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Raj Kumar Hirani. In Hollywood, I like Steven Spielberg, Michael Bay, Ridley Scof, James Cameron and Ang Lee.

EM: Message for budding film makers, writers and actors.

AC: I’m an optimist – I believe in positivity and love. That’s what I give and that’s the ‘only’ energy I absorb. Being a good person is where you start and either ‘do good’ or do nothing at all. Anything you do, do it with your heart and you’ll achieve your goals!

He signed off!

Ritika Tiwari
Freelance Writer/ Blogger/ Content Strategist