Q&A with Bhargav Saikia, Director of “Awakenings”

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Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Horror spirit animal?
Hands down Sweeney Todd, aka Benjamin Barker. A complex villain immortalised on screen by the combined genius of Johnny Depp and Tim Burton. Mr. Todd can also sing and he is a romantic at heart – apt for someone like me who digs horror (especially the Gothic kind), but has grown up watching Bollywood musical romances!

You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
Unfortunately, at any given point in time, bad ideas are always much greater in number than the good ones! But when I am working on a particular screenplay, every single idea, whether bad or good, is important to me. All of them combined help me to find that one single spark that works best for the narrative. You’ve got to dig deep, persevere and understand all the crazy, fanciful ideas harbouring in your creative mind.

Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
Yes, I do! Living in India, I wasn’t aware of the closely-knit community of horror fans and filmmakers abroad. But when Awakenings went on to screen at some of the most prominent genre festivals in 2015-16, I was suddenly exposed to this wonderful world of highly passionate horror enthusiasts. I was completely blown away when I attended Sitges Fantastic Film Festival with Awakenings in 2016. Not only did I get the opportunity to watch some of the most progressive genre cinema there, but I also built relationships with experts and like-minded individuals dedicated to the advancement of cinema contained within the broad field of the fantastic.

When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
I derive tremendous inspiration from traveling to places that seem suitable for the film’s setting. I usually do this immediately after I have developed a satisfactory plot/story, and much before I begin writing the first draft of the screenplay. Other than that, I also seek inspiration from personal experiences, music, paintings and works of other filmmakers.

What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
Waking up inside my latest fantasy short, The Black Cat, would be great fun. I would like to meet the eccentric and outlandish Miss Bellows (who happens to be a witch!) and convince her to take me on a broomstick ride along with her pesky little black cat. Getting her to say yes would be an adventure in itself!

Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
The mad Jack Torrance from The Shining, the evil and manipulative (yet loveable) Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and the devilish Black Phillip from The Witch.

Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Freddy. Lovecraft. Practical. Post Apocalypse.

And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
El Orfanato (The Orphanage) by J.A. Bayona. I discovered this film at a DVD store in Manchester while I was studying Molecular Biology at the university there. It opened up a whole new world of artistically rich horror cinema for me. It is a masterpiece that is scary and moving in equal measures. I was fortunate to meet the director J.A. Bayona at Sitges Fantastic Film Festival, where he invited me to watch his film A Monster Calls at a special screening hosted by the festival. I sat just two seats away from him. A truly unreal and unforgettable experience!