HOW DO YOU FALL OUT OF LOVE WITH COUNTRY MUSICby Vinta Nanda October 6 2023, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 6 mins, 32 secs
Vinta Nanda had this interesting conversation, recently, with Shyamala Moorty, director of multiple award winning film “How Do You Fall Out of Love with Country Music”.
Winner of multiple awards, “How Do You Fall Out of Love with Country Music” is a humorous and moving short film about cultural alienation and the possibilities for human connection through music. Set on stage in a honky-tonk bar, the protagonist Amy Singh courageously bares her soul to the audience and reveals deep truths about racism and belonging in our country today. She just wants to sing country and western on stage, but it’s not easy for a South Asian-American in the deep south where every audience is a hostile one.
The film is directed by Shyamala Moorty, written by Maximilian Singh Gill, produced by Vidhushi Chadha (she stars, too, in the lead part), Kurt Leitner, Shyamala Moorty and Muita Muthee, cinematographed by Hal Masonberg and Alba Morera. It will be screening at the 18th Tasveer South Asian Film Festival (TSAFF 23), Seattle, later this month.
Curious to know more about the Tasveer line-up and the outstanding filmmakers from across the world whose films are selected for screening between the 12th and 15th October, and available to see virtually from the 16th to the 22nd, I’ve been looking out for them.
It was a pleasure to have this brief conversation with Shyamala Moorty, about her film “How Do You Fall Out of Love with Country Music” and other works. Over to the director then…
What made you decide to make 'How do you fall out of love with country music'? And, getting Vidushi Chadha on board?
I was invited by Theater West, during the height of the pandemic, to direct a new short play reading on zoom. I was given a couple of scripts to read and immediately was drawn to "How Do You Fall in Love with Country Music" because the main character was such a bold and daring South Asian woman in a really uncomfortable, even hostile, environment. I was intrigued by her, and also touched by her ability to speak up with humour and to ultimately build a bridge of understanding through unexpected cultural similarities and her love of music. "How Do You Fall in Love with Country Music" was also a monologue and solo shows are one of my specialties, so I decided to go for it.
Vidushi Chadha, was invited in by Theater West to play the lead character. At first I was a little worried since I didn't know her, but I took a look at her reel and had her read through the script. I felt she could really pull off the character well. My only reservation was that she had an Indian accent and the monologue was written from the point of view of someone who grew up in the Southern United States. I spoke to the writer, Maximillian Gill, to get his take on it and he was happy to re-write the script a bit to make it work.
The whole experience turned out to be such a lovely collaboration between the three of us: director, writer and actor. It felt remarkably special and so, after it was over, Vidushi suggested we make a short film out of it. I was game, as I had just made a short narrative dance film.
While my first film had been a simple collaboration with a cinematographer, the performers and myself, "How Do You Fall in Love with Country Music" was a more complex learning experience, which involved bringing collaborators onboard to make the set design in someone’s garage, a gaffer for lighting, and so much more.
The biggest challenge was the onset of the Delta variant and when our shoot date was just days away, all of our junior artists were exposed to the virus. We made the decision to go ahead, focus even more on the main character, and rope in all of the crew to double as audience.
Despite the obstacles, it was an extremely rewarding experience, piecing together resources from nowhere, and being met with so much generosity from all involved.
Tell me a little about yourself and your life. Where are you? How have you grown to be a filmmaker? Also, about your previous films ‘Fight The Fear’ and ‘Grandma's Hands’?
I am a director, choreographer based in Long Beach, CA. As someone who has worked in theater and dance for my whole life, it made sense to transition to film when the COVID Pandemic hit and all live theater was shut down.
At first, I was part of several zoom experiments, including directing the solo show "Grandma's Hands," by Carla Vega, which superimposed pre-recorded material and live zoom material in ways that felt exciting and fresh, and told the story of Carla’s Puerto Rican Grandmother. Simultaneously, a piece I had made for live theater at CSULB called "Fight the Fear" was cancelled, so I worked with a cinematographer to re-imagine it for film.
“Fight the Fear” uses spoken word and dance to express the fear and resilience of a dreamer who has been in the US since she was three years old. The true story came out of a collaborative process with the dancers, and I am so happy that “Fight the Fear” is making the film festival rounds at the same time as "How Do You Fall in Love with Country Music." And, both films have received awards and recognition.
“Fight the Fear” will be showing virtually Nov 6-26 at the Sans Souci Festival of Dance Cinema free of charge. Here’s the link to access it: https://sanssoucifestival.org/virtual-screenings-2023/#program-iii
Are you excited about your film screening at TSAFF 23? What are you expecting?
I am over the moon about being in TSAFF 23! While the film has been shown in various festivals from LA to Kolkata, this is our first South Asian American film festival! This is the audience that has the closest lived experience to our main character, Amy Singh. While there may not be many aspiring country music singers in the audience, I am sure that folks will empathize with her challenges - of belonging as South Asians in America.
I am excited to be able to share it with a global audience as well, since we are in the virtual line-up. Our writer, Maximillian Gill is in New York and our actor, Vidushi Chadha, is currently in Mumbai, so I know they will appreciate the access of "How Do You Fall in Love with Country Music" for their communities. I also am excited that Tasveer has been connecting us with the other filmmakers in the Festival this year and I can’t wait to see the other virtual offerings!
Lastly, where are you headed from here?
I will be teaching choreography at Cal State Long Beach in the Spring. I also am in the process of being a dramaturg and director for several solo shows in the Los Angeles area.
Finally, Maximillian Gil, the writer of "How Do You Fall in Love with Country Music," and I are in conversation about another film collaboration. He is such an innovative writer and has wonderfully complex South Asian characters that I would love to make come alive through film!
Follow this link to book your slot:
"How do you fall out of love with country music" is also in the Silicon Beach Film Festival 2023, the Feedback Female Film Festival 2023 and the WPRN Women's International Film Festival 2023.