On Thursday, the FWD.us Silicon Valley chapter will screen For Here Or To Go? in collaboration with Immigrant Heritage Month. The film’s director, Rucha Humnabadkar, filled us in on what inspired her to make the film and how her own heritage influences her work as a filmmaker. RSVP for the screening of For Here Or To Go? here!
FWD.us: What is your film For Here Or To Go? about and what influenced you to make the film?
Humnabadkar: For Here Or To Go? is a contemporary comedy/drama about the trials and tribulations of an Indian technology entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, California. It centers on Vivek Pandit, the protagonist, as he attempts to navigate the U.S. immigration system. Ultimately, he experiences what it means to assimilate into a new culture and make a home away from home. Vivek and his roommates, Amit and Lakshmi, show us the lives of ambitious young Indian immigrants as they attempt to establish themselves both professionally and personally while adjusting to a different culture. We see their comical and endearing behaviors as the film examines life from the immigrant perspective and explores sensitive issues with a light-hearted touch.
When I met writer Rishi Bhilawadikar, I realized we both share a passion for storytelling and believe in the promise of technology disrupting the status quo. I felt an instant connection to the script and knew this was not a story told on film before. Indian immigrants have helped shape Silicon Valley and are a big influence on its culture. The Indian community has also developed many idiosyncrasies in an attempt to hold on to its heritage, and so it is a narrative very close to my heart as the protagonist’s struggles reflect many of my personal experiences as well as those of my friends and family. Prior to shooting this film, we also spent time interviewing a number of Bay Area Indian immigrant families, young professionals, and students to capture the stories of our diaspora.
For Here Or To Go? follows protagonist Vivek Pandit (Ali Fazal), pictured above.
FWD.us: How has your own family heritage shaped you personally or professionally?
Humnabadkar: I’ve inherited a passion for learning and an insatiable curiosity from my parents, which has served me well in my professional and personal endeavors. Both of my parents are voracious readers and my mother tried to inculcate reading habits in me early on. Motivated by curiosity of how to tell a good story, I began to write and direct plays at a young age. When I was nineteen I staged my first play, which received positive reviews. I was given remarkable freedom at a young age, uncommon for a girl growing up in India.
My father is an entrepreneur and I learned from him to be independent and self-motivated. My parents supported my dream of attending graduate school in the U.S. After my first semester, I had doubts about continuing, because I was unsure of the field of study I had picked. But my father made me see that I would only gain from this experience. Graduate school opened a world of opportunity and also exposed me to diversity in thought, values and people, which I cherish to this day.
I am the first generation in the U.S. in my family and recently became a U.S. citizen. I have strong roots in Indian culture and visit home every year. It’s important to recognize who you are and where you come from. It’s what makes you unique and special and that’s why you have to tell stories and talk about your culture – it truly shapes who you are.
FWD.us: What do you hope audiences will take away from For Here Or To Go? What are your plans for the film?
Humnabadkar: I am highly motivated to tell this story to the world, not just for audiences in the U.S. but also to share with Indians back home. People in India always perceive Indians living in the U.S. as having an affluent lifestyle free of troubles. My experience has shown me otherwise. The reality of leaving home, assimilating into a new culture, and finding success in a distant land is an arduous yet rewarding journey. The film has received terrific audience response at film festivals, and I’ve had stimulating Q&A sessions with audiences after screenings. This leads me to believe that the film will resonate with a global audience and trigger conversations around some of the most hotly debated topics of our time.
The plan is to globally distribute the film and reach a worldwide audience. We are also holding private screenings of the film with key organizations to raise awareness. One recent event at which we screened the film was called Indiaspora, a gathering of Indian Americans from various fields. This viewing led to an invite by the Indian Embassy in Washington D.C to host a special screening.
FWD.us: We’re celebrating Immigrant Heritage Month throughout June – if you could celebrate your heritage in one way, what would it be?
Humnabadkar: I would invite my close friends and family to eat my favorite dessert Gulab Jamun and, of course, watch For Here Or To Go?
Join the Silicon Valley chapter on Thursday, June 25th for a special screen of For Here Or To Go? Click here to RSVP.