On Thursday, students from professor Ken Derry’s Reel Religion course shuffled into the MiST Theatre to attend the screening of Richie Mehta’s film Amal. Mehta, a writer, film director, and UTM alumnus, then hosted a Q&A session, where he shared his inspirations and experiences with the film industry.
Amal was first released as a short film in 2004. After winning the Telefilm Canada Pitch This! award at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2005, the film was readapted and released as a feature film in 2008.
“Most people are guided by money,” Mehta said.
The film tells the story of characters searching for happiness through wealth. Meanwhile, auto rickshaw driver, Amal Kumar, accepts happiness as his true wealth. Amal’s ability to find happiness in helping others inspires one old man who discovers that “sometimes the poorest of men are the richest.”
Back in the MiST Theatre, Mehta took the front to lead the Q&A session where he discusses the open-ended process of the film’s creation.
“If you’re going to address issues in film, you should do it in a manner where anyone can watch it and not necessarily feel like they’re being forced. But at the same time, raising curiosity,” Mehta said of the film.
Film allowed him to communicate his ideas and express himself in subtle ways that informed the audience without overwhelming them. Mehta discovered this freedom during his undergraduate experience.
“Film brings together every form of liberal art,” Mehta said. “I learned [from] as many liberal arts [subjects] as I can to inform myself. My four years allowed me to find a way to communicate.” Though he had always leaned towards film as his preferred medium of communication, his passion for film flourished during his final year at UTM.
When asked how his undergrad experience prepared him for the working world, Mehta said “I worked for The Medium. Working for The Medium, I put in 40-plus hours of work a week. It taught me work ethic, how to write, and how to communicate.” Mehta’s filming experience involves hours of research to produce meaningful, accurate, and valid work.
“The people I meet, the things I see. The film is based on real experiences. Amal wouldn’t exist if I didn’t know people like him,” Mehta said. “I met with as many rickshaw wallahs as I could before filming.”
Amal displays validity by relying on real encounters and occurrences. Filming on set had also influenced his film.
“We shot in a Muslim neighborhood and the call to prayer would go off. And everyone would just stop. It was beautiful,” Mehta said.
Despite Hinduism being the main religion of the characters in Amal, Mehta included the Islamic call to prayer in his film to display a realistic image of India’s religious tolerance.
Personally, I discovered that by relying on his experiences, Mehta gains the audience’s trust which, in turn, allows him to build a relationship with them