I had the opportunity to ask Raj Krishna about his new film Padmavyuha. Set to release on the film circuit in Fall of 2020, this mystery thriller focuses on the complex history of Hinduism. Thank you to Raj Krishna for answering my questions about this project.
Could you tell our readers a little about yourself?
I’m a second generation Indian-American, born in Syracuse, New York (my dad was a Professor at Syracuse University). When I went to UCLA, I shadowed some filmmaking classes. My dad was into American and Indian films and I grew up watching a ton of them. I’ve always thought that good narratives have the ability to move us, to open our mind to the realities of life. I think books, music, movies, art, these are all great ways to explore who we are as humans, and more importantly, inspire us to be better. Since I’ve been obsessed with films for like 25 years, I figured it was time to experiment and make one of my own.
How would you describe your film Padmavyuha?
Padmavyua is a unique Indian-American production, a mystery thriller. It’s about a mysterious phone call that draws a religious studies professor into a dark labyrinth of mystic puzzles – the answer to which could shake the foundations of the world’s religions.
What drew you to create this project?
I’ve always been interested in the general notion of faith. The power faith can have over people and societies, to lead them to do both good and bad. I figured it would be cool to package these ideas into a Zodiac or Indiana Jones style of a historic, mystery thriller rooted in Indian mythology, which I had not seen in Indian cinema before. I wanted it to be a trippy, edge-of-your-seat thriller, whilst also being a comprehensive, balanced lesson in Indian history. I followed the good old-fashioned filmmaking advice and made the movie I would want to see on opening night.
As your directorial debut, how do you think Padmavyuha presents your specific vision?
I wanted the film to be a trippy, edge-of-your-seat thriller, whilst also being a comprehensive, balanced lesson in Indian history. I followed the good old-fashioned filmmaking advice and made the movie I would want to see on opening night. I hope people enjoy it.
You have done a great deal of research into the history of Hinduism in India, what are some elements of that research that have surprised you or intrigued you?
The research was tough – it took weeks to find the right mythical clues that were real, and would blend into the narrative seamlessly, without calling attention to themselves. It took fifteen drafts to find a way to make the story about an actual Padmavyuha (a military formation in an ancient Indian extent) – not just the symbol, but the essence behind it, reflecting the character’s journey physically and emotionally. There were a lot of different angles from our research we had to incorporate in order to make for an effective narrative – the cryptographic elements, the moral elements lifted from some of the ancient texts, and the high-level idea of the power of faith to transform the individual. Although we did go deep into the mythology and some of the ancient texts, many of these ideas transcend Hinduism and apply to all religions – Hinduism is just an example, and one that we used in the film as a way to craft a gripping narrative. There’s a lot of Christianity in there too… see if you can count the number of Bible references.
What do you hope viewers take away from the film?
I hope it prompts a conversation about faith, and the power of faith to bring about certain outcomes. I also hope people see the beauty in Hinduism, are intrigued by some of the assertions in the movie about how the West has corrupted certain Eastern narratives and parts of Indian history, and are prompted to learn more about ideas like Orientalism.
Where can our readers see and find out more information about Padmavyuha?
More information, including our trailer, is up on our website at http://www.california-films.com. Our next few festivals are the North Carolina South Asian Film Festival (Sept 12-13), HorrorHound (Sept 18-20), the Silicon Valley Asian Pacific Film Festival (Oct 2-10), Show Low White Mountains Film Festival (Oct 16-18), and the Louisville’s International Festival of Film (Nov 5-7). We’ll also release the film widely at some point in 2021.