In 2016, independent filmmaker Rohit Mittal made Autohead, a dark drama about a psychotic autorickshaw driver in Mumbai. He is currently working on his second feature, Megalapolis, which he describes as “an experiment in visuals and sound” and his take on one of his favourite novels, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Demons.

Meanwhile, Mittal has churned out Roop Ki Rani, an absorbing short film about a strange encounter between two lonely individuals in Mumbai. The title is both a reference to the movie Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja as well as to the key characters. A thief (Arjun Radhakrishnan) breaks into an apartment one night. The owner is asleep, but his daughter (Sanya Bansal) is awake – and her gaze holds curiosity as well as a challenge.

“I wanted to do a short story that was more like an anti-fable, and I wanted it to be about love,” Mittal explained. “I wanted to explore the idea of two weird kind of people meeting in a strange place and how they connect.”

Mittal hopes to release Roop Ki Rani through one of the many short film channels on the internet. Despite the literal and metaphorical darkness that engulfs the characters, the film is a love story, he says, one that unfolds in a city not exactly known for optimism. “It’s a Bombay story – it’s about big desires, escape, loneliness, depression,” Mittal said. “The characters are a psychological outcome of what the city has become, but let’s not forget that we still manage to find love, somehow, somewhere.”

Mittal hopes to work again with Arjun Radhakrishnan, who plays the robber, and who has previously been seen in short films and independent features. “I think he is a very good actor,” Mittal said. “An actor friend of mine recommended Sanya. I could see the disobedient, fucked-up-in-the-head side to her.”

Even as he works towards distributing Roop Ki Rani, efforts continues to complete Megalapolis, a “completely experimental film” and hence a “tough sell”. Autohead went directly to Netflix after being screened at the Mumbai Film Festival, and Megalapolis might similarly land up on the internet. “It will have a different kind of audience, and I am hopeful, but yes, I am also open to directly putting it on YouTube,” Mittal said. “The idea was never to make an award-winning film that was saleable.”

Autohead (2016).