The Girl Upstairs came about almost by chance during my yearly visit to India in Dec 2011. The film was planned and shot completely in just 2 weeks. The budget was near zero. I did not have a crew, nor any experience/training in film-making. The only videos I had ever shot were "less than a minute" clips of my kids on various visits to Disneyland. Nevertheless, I've had an inner passion for films since I was a kid. I guess that dormant urge bubbled up and spilled over.
It all started with idea of converting one of my unpublished novels,"The Kite Festival", into a screenplay a few weeks prior to my India trip. It took me less than a week to convert the novel.
The logistics would be difficult to figure out until I actually landed in India: how much would it cost, where would I get the camera, what about lights and other equipment - and last but not least - the actors - where would I find actors in Bangalore on such short notice. To make matters worse, I would be stopping, enroute, in Paris and Rome for a 3 day whirlwind Europe Tour, and I had another Kerala tour planned while in India. This would leave me with less than 3 weeks of effective time to plan and complete the shooting.
I knew it would be difficult, but the moment I landed, I began scouting on online websites for actors. I looked around and found a company that rented out cameras for film shooting. I found a few local stores that sold the kind of LED lights I was looking for. With those logistics taken care of, I turned to finding actors.
A few actors send me their resumes. I briefed each one about the screenplay and the possibility of starting shooting on my return from Kerala. Most were not a proper match. Luckily, I ran into Vipin Naik, a highly accomplished actor, who had acted in a short film called A REASONABLE COMPROMISE (that is currently scheduled to be shown at Cannes) and a mainstream South-Indian film. Finding the heroine turned out to be more difficult. Either the girls were not a proper fit, or were too demanding to fit into my small-budget film. Eventually, one of my mother's friends referred me to her neighbor's daughter, Prithvi, who graciously accepted the heroine's role. Both Vipin and Prithvi were very helpful during the entire two week shoot (and not to forget Gaby (Gabriella) and Shaakz, who played the side roles). My parents played the parents role in the movie and I'm very grateful to them, as I am with everything else in life.
Shooting started on December 12th. We shot for 3-4 hours a day, since Prithvi had college and was free only in the afternoons. We worked hard. I had no prior experience in film direction, acting, or for that matter, making people act; nor in lighting, sound and all the fine details that go in film-making. I could only call myself a reasonable expert in one field and that was story/screenplay writing. But in the end, we endured and succeeded as a team. Many thanks to my twin brother who was visiting India at the same time. He took care of the second camera. Eventually, on December 27th, the last shot was filmed.
And that was how THE GIRL UPSTAIRS became reality.