Abhishek Chandra has been making more time in his schedule lately for interviews. That’s because the film Ladybug, which he directed and produced, has struck a powerful chord. A deluge of awards (twenty and counting) from festivals across the planet such as the Europe Film Festival, Mumbai International Film Festival, Venice Film Awards, and numerous others have made Ladybug and its massively talented director/producer the hot topic of conversation in 2021. Chandra is no stranger to accolades for his film, commercial, and music video work overseas but Ladybug marks a definitive point in which much of the U.S. film community became zealous admirers of this Indian talent.
Filmmaking has increasingly become an art form in which the talent of the storyteller is as important as the tale itself. Chandra’s arrival as the director/producer of Ladybug is serendipitous as present-day America has become increasingly receptive to films which present cultures and languages which are not rooted in the US. One of the first decisions Abhishek made for Ladybug was to present a number of scenes in the native Portuguese language of the family central to this story as opposed to the previous intention of an all English language approach. Having worked internationally throughout much of his career (including commercials for such global brands as McDonald’s, Kellogg’s, Benadryl, Viacom 18, and others), Mr. Chandra recognized the fact that audiences would appreciate the cultural authenticity that a family speaking in their native language would bring. He shrewdly understood that this moment in history lent itself particularly well to a multilingual tactic in for Ladybug. It’s an approach he feels passionately about stating, “I personally have been watching films in other languages for over fifteen years now. For me, it was purely about the love for global cinema and getting to know different cultures through these films. Of course, my exposure to different language filmmakers and their movies in film school only solidified my taste in films that are not in English.”
Ladybug tells of one family’s tragic loss of their beloved patriarch to cancer. A year after his passing, his wife and daughter are still reeling and have become somewhat estranged. The film illustrates how different people cope with the loss of someone so vital to their sense of self and the world. Though this is a very personal story, there’s a great deal for many people to relate to during this pandemic era. The manner in which Abhishek presents something so individual and personal in the film has the result of being highly relatable to so many. His commitment to a respectful approach to this true story displays his ethics as an artist. Working with DP Gareth Taylor to achieve this, the director/producer relates, “Ladybug was simple in devising its visual language. Gareth and I both felt that the Brazil scenes should be more vibrant, colorful as it depicted happier times while the rest of the film, i.e. the Los Angeles portion, had to be gloomy, sad, and empty to encapsulate Olivia’s state of mind. Another thing we decided on was to have different aspect ratios for both these parts. It was very important to handle this true story with the utmost care while still relating the anguish to the audience.”
The central cast of Ladybug (Isabela Valotti as Olivia, Andre Mattos as Marcelo, and Mia Drake as Monica) delivers performances that range from cautious joy to the depths of despair and loss. This film so perfectly displays the simple happiness and the crushing pain of being human and feeling love for others. The characters are layered and mutli-dimensional in the most impactful manner. Ladybug will certainly move you to both laughter and tears, often within a matter of mere seconds. This is the quality which Abhishek Chandra is able to cultivate as a filmmaker. He confirms, “My goal is to make films that entertain and at the same time evoke something within you. I want to create art that transcends borders and culture. I want to tell stories from the east like Mahabharatha, Ramayana to the western audience. As a director I want to find and experiment with different voices and styles. I don’t want to be confined to one style of filmmaking. I personally love all kinds of films. I love Kim Ki-Duk cinema but I’m also a huge Guy Ritchie fan. I want to keep re-inventing my style, keep learning but with one thing always in common – telling beautiful entertaining stories.”
Writer: Coleman Haan