Dheeraj’s work has included BAFTA and Oscar nominated feature films and shorts. He is the associate director of an independent film festival called Bombay Mix and founder of a charity called Grassroots Stories which specialises in making films that can inspire social change.
You’re a writer, director, cinematographer and producer. Which role holds the most enjoyment for you?
I like writing and directing the most. Writing is very primal, it’s between you and your computer or paper. While writing you can become very close to your film, and know it intimately. While directing, you get to realise what you have written. It’s extraordinary to work with artists in front of the camera and from behind the camera, travel through many ups and downs and stay true to your vision… It’s true that while writing you are directing, and while directing you are writing!
What advice would you offer to graduates looking to use their knowledge and break into the industry?
Just keep at it! Giving up is not an option. And there are crazy times when nothing works out and there are piles of rejections, and people laugh in your face or behind your back or both! But that time is a gift - you have to use that time constructively to work on your skills and learn along the way. And this I will not say as a matter of advice, instead I want to share it from the bottom of my heart, that you have to keep knocking on those doors. It may hurt, it may hurt a lot, but keep knocking. Because one day, one of those doors opens!
How did your study at Goldsmiths prepare you for working as a film-maker?
It has helped me immensely! Our course convener Robert Smith is largely responsible for this. He worked extremely hard for us and with us. He took us to many different places - from Working Title to The UK Film Council, from distributors and exhibitors to lawyers and independent producers. He made sure we worked hard as well. Tammy Riley Smith - our teacher on the core course was extraordinary. Both of them encouraged us to write our cinema. This fantastic exposure taught me how to put together an international co-production. Robert encouraged us to go to various film festivals where we could participate and pitch our projects, however scared we were. In this field, like any other, you need someone to advise you, someone you can talk to on creative and pragmatic levels, and Robert has been there for me and that has helped me a lot!
What skills or knowledge have you taken from your time at Goldsmiths?
I think the most important thing has been the exposure and freedom Goldsmiths gave me. I learnt many things there. But I also worked in Goldsmiths’ library for three years, during my student days and after. And I am most thankful for that. I made wonderful friends, read a lot, saw a lot of films. It was at Goldsmiths that I started developing my first feature length film ‘Liv & Ingmar’. I am immensely grateful for what Goldsmiths has given me.
How do people react when you tell them that you’re a graduate of Goldsmiths?
I am treated with a lot of respect when people know that I am a Goldsmiths graduate! They look up to this institution, for many reasons. In the force of the current circumstances, I just hope that we do not lose what is good about this place… It takes decades, even centuries for a tree to grow and blossom, but it takes an hour to axe it down… we must not forget that!