A Slice of Hari Ramakrishnan
January 29th 2018
With skills in performing, writing and directing, Hari Ramakrishnan is an active and lively presence within the South West creative scene, moving from theatre to filmmaking with the typical through-road of professional wrestling. Having written and directed the Channel 4-hosted Random Acts short comedy film 'Slice', Hari has arrived onto the filmmaking scene with a natural writing ability and a brain full of stories to tell.
'Slice' explores the idea of the bitter graduate experience in a bitingly fresh way, through razor-sharp, dark humour. It brilliantly exemplifies Hari's writing ability with a smart, finely-tuned script, managing to bring the audience into its twisted world with confidence. Being able to showcase your writing and directing in such a short running time is real feat, and clearly signposts Hari as a talent to keep your eye on.
Hi Hari, give us a little info about yourself and what you do.
I'm a writer-director and performer who started out in theatre, moved into the world of professional wrestling and I've now started making films. My style has always focused on comedy, usually creating work that is satirical/darkly comical, often by subverting themes or tropes.
How did you come up with the concept for 'Slice'?
In 2015 I didn't want to focus so much on being a writer, I thought I'd try being an actor. I auditioned for a lot of films and I'd keep seeing the same theme popping up: 'the graduate experience' and how daunting it was. Now, being a former graduate who's gone through that process, I should be able to relate to this work but I found that I couldn't take it seriously. I started going to more open mic nights at the same time, and there it would crop up again - middle class spoken word poets talking about how hard it was to be a graduate. So I wanted to make something that satirised the idea of how hard it was to be graduate.
Then in April 2016, I was invited to a theatre workshop over weekend by HighTide theatre. As part of ice breaker exercises, we would talk to someone, find out something about them and write a short scene. I met a young writer called Rose Goddard, who had graduated from studying English but was stuck working in the same cake shop that she worked in part-time while at university. Here was the graduate experience theme popping up again. Even worse, her title in the shop was the "Chief Joy Officer." She said the only thing that gave her some form of happiness was going home and watching horror movies.
There was my hook; young graduate works in cake shop, but possesses a much darker and sinister side. Here was a perfect way to satirise the graduate experience: to what lengths would someone go to stop feeling "dead inside" at work. What if the only thing that "made them feel alive" came at a cost?
This was perfect because I have always felt that horror movies are one of the most suburban genres of film. Sci-Fi often delves into political and social struggle and places this as a primary antagonist or plot point, whereas horror tended to invent fears or villains that symbolised some form of suburban middle-class angst.
I started to flesh out the character a bit more. One of the first things to come out of this was the name 'Marose' and the connotation it carried. Next was an article I'd read by Mara Wilson about her experience growing up in Hollywood and how this seemingly innocent idea of 'cuteness' was so horrifying later on. I took a lot of influence from Cath Kidston for the feel of the place where Marose worked, a saccharine environment where forced politeness wasn't encouraged, it was expected. Everyone had to be 'cute' all the time. A few years before, my sister, my mum and I were walking down the street when out of nowhere a guy grabbed my sister's cheek, gave it a squeeze and then kept walking. I thought he knew her, she'd never seen him before. He just felt like he could do that, it was awful. So I wanted to include a good reason for why Marose would hate working there so much, and all of this played a part.
How has it been received since it was released?
The feedback has been fantastic, people were able to relate to the experience of working in that sort of job, a lot of women have told me they enjoyed it because it reminded them of their experience working in cafes or restaurants and creepy men they've had to serve. People found it funny, but in different ways: some nihilistic, some for it being darkly delicious, some for its satirical take. I have had a few concerned friends message me to ask what's wrong with me, to make this film. I've particularly enjoyed playing with people on whether it's real or happening in her head.
One element which has been pointed out to me, and where I want to make an effort to improve, is using more interesting angles, a wider shot selection and crafting something more visual for the screen. As a first-time filmmaker I think Slice was an excellent first step, but through working on it I've realised how much there is to learn and how much better it could be.
As someone who works as both a writer and director, which part of the filmmaking process do you feel most at home?
There's two: writing and working with actors comes naturally to me. I enjoy writing dialogue, crafting plot, building worlds and telling a story. Equally, I love directing performances, moulding and shaping characters, playing around with them and seeing what comes of it.
What's most important for me with the writing and the acting (particularly with this film) is subtlety. I want the viewer to work, to not be given everything at face value. I think that helps build the tension, and encourages repeat viewing (of which you'll be rewarded with a few hidden treats).
What are your future plans?
The experience with Random Acts allowed me to make my first ever short film. Since then, I've written five more scripts and have been part of three talent labs for filmmakers (BackPackers, Encounters and B3 Media). Slice was only recently released so I've just got it back from Channel 4 so I'm going to do a re-edit and then start sending it to film festivals.
And finally, do you have any snippets of wisdom to pass on to young creatives out there?
Well, as one of Bristol's most influential young people (as voted by RIFE Magazine), I feel obliged to use this as a platform to inspire others. There are three main principles which have helped me reach where I currently am in my career. The third most important is talent. The second is hard work and dedication, continuing to go for it when many eventually stop. The first, and most important thing that has helped me achieve my goals, is being so good looking. So I advise you to charm your way into every situation and make it up from there.