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(Photo Credits: Tarun Verma)

Tarun Verma caught our attention with his short 5-minute film Therapy that was showcased during a local South Asian Film Festival. Here was a young Indian American with a fresh new perspective on the same old story. And what story is older than the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law rifts and tiffs? That is exactly what Therapy dealt with- the age old saga of Saas- Bahu, except that it tackles the situation in a humorously fresh manner.  I loved it for three reasons- 

a. I feel Indian culture is very non-confrontational. We prefer to shove issues under the rug rather than confronting elders. In this film, the lead character tackles the issues head-on. He calls it out the way it is, going so far as to taking his mother to a counselor. 

b. I love the end. It is totally in keeping with the Indian culture- relationship is bigger than issues.

c. The film is laden with Punjabi humor. 

We had to catch up with Tarun later and interview him. We learnt that his degree is in Pharmacy, but film making is his passion. And much more ...

Here's the our conversation with Tarun Verma ...


#1. You first ventured into filming with a pilot series 'On The Couch' in 2008 with four episodes of 20 minutes each but your career took a different path at that point due to which you couldn't pursue your passion further. 

You returned to it in 2010 with 'Aaj Kal' , a coming of age romantic comedy dealing with the struggles that singles have in making relationships work. 

Now comes Therapy, a five minute short film in which the protagonist, Raj, takes his mother to a traditional American counseling session. We'll come back to talking lot more about Therapy, but do tell us more about your work. Where do you get your inspiration from? What kind of situation interests you? 

Tarun: My interest in film-making came from watching good and especially the bad Bollywood movies growing up. I think I learned more from watching the bad movies more than the good. I would always think… “why didn’t they do this or do that with the story instead, because that would have made the film better!” I’ve always had a creative mind and stories would sit around in my head and I would think “gosh this would be a good story to tell” but I never considered film-making until I got to college. The power of the University of Texas at Austin is that it sets the artist or creative force within you free to pursue AND make it happen! So along with my science course work I started writing a script and a semester later I came up with a great romantic comedy and I never let my mind stop. Anytime I had a fully formed story in my head, I started writing and that process has been so rewarding to me spiritually. It’s a great stress reliever to put my story on paper and form a world and characters I would love to see in real world. I love to tell fresh stories or put my own weird spin on an old story. Many filmmakers say there are no original stories left and I agree. So what we are left with is old stories told with a refreshing perspective.  Dialogue is how make old stories my own. I love great dialogue and I believe that’s my greatest strength as a writer and director. 

#2. You were born in Denver, Colorado and raised in Houston, Texas. You say that the colorful Punjabi culture influences your creativity. Tell us more about it.

My father is a Punjabi who was raised in Uttar-Pradesh and my mother is out and out a Punjabi. Punjabi culture is just so colorful that it’s a shame if I don’t use it in my movies. Punjabis are loud, crazy, and fun and this makes for a great base to create great characters. Story and characters are the base of a good film and you have to work on creating a great base before you get a great film. 

#3. Coming back to "Therapy", in a short five minute span, you capture the attention of the audience with humor and a very real-for-many portrayal of world's most controversial relationship. So tell us about it. How did it come about? 

I am getting married so ‘Therapy’ was a straight lift out of my own life. The conversations between the son and mother are the same that I have had with my own mother. For entertainment purposes I exaggerated the characters and used a traditional American therapy session to ground the story. I wanted to poke fun at these preconceived notions the older generations of Desi mothers have in America. 

#4. What's next on the cards? DFW South Asian Film Festival provided an excellent platform for showcasing your talent this year. Are you going to be back with more and longer films? Any plans of going Bollywood?

Over the years I’ve had projects come to fruition and others that fell during production and I’m a big believer every film happens when the timing is right. I have a few stories I want to tell and I’m going try to make one of them happen and lets see which film’s time is right to be made!

#5. You were born and raised in the USA, but you have lot of family in Punjab and Delhi. So how 'desi' are you at heart? Do you listen to Indian music, watch Indian movies, love Indian food the most, wear Indian clothes at every chance and visit India often?

Being Desi is fully ingrained in me. Despite not having visited India since 1995, I can fully speak Hindi, Punjabi, and can read and write Hindi. The movies, the music, the culture has shaped me into who I am as a man and as an artist. I like to believe I’m a perfect blend of American and Desi sensibilities and I think this comes through in the films I make as well as the other creative endeavors I pursue. I think every young Desi in this country has to find their own balance of how Desi or American they want to be and what balance makes them happy. There is no right or wrong answer as everyone is different. 

WE SAY ...

Well said, Tarun. Everyone has the right to find their own identity in the diversity. As for our readers, our message is- watch Therapy, you'll love it! Watch and learn- tackle issues, with all due respect and without letting go the good values our culture teaches us.

By Sonal Kulshrestha

(Sonal is a programmer by profession and a writer by passion. She founded desideewar to keep her kids and many others of Indian origin connected to their roots- one story at a time.)



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