New York Film Academy alum Aditya J. Patwardhan’s most recent directorial feat, Transference is available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video. The psychological thriller tells the story of a trauma therapist who begins experiencing terrifying phenomena following the death of her estranged father.
Aditya, who hails from Jaipur, India has directed an array of different works from feature films to documentaries to short films and TV series. He has directed and produced films in multiple foreign languages including Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, and Lithuanian. His passion for film developed in his childhood through his love of music and instruments. “My filmmaking journey really began at the age of seven when I was introduced to music. After learning to play tabla, drums, and the piano during my early school years, one of the first things I was enticed with was observing how background score shapes a film. It became one of my primary obsessions to notice background scores and try to duplicate them at home on the keyboards and drums. Films like The Lion King, Titanic, and The Matrix played a key role in influencing me in terms of music and its association with video. Naturally, I assumed that I would want to grow up to be a music director.”
His path to film was not direct but one that passed through a variety of different jobs and industries. After obtaining his degree in computer sciences and playing drums for a rock-metal Megadeth and Metallica cover band called Jettatura in his free time, Aditya worked as a social media manager, a media and advertisement head, a music composer, and a music video director. All of these experiences ignited his passion for storytelling, eventually leading him to NYFA’s MA in Film and Media Production program . “What attracted me most towards NYFA was the hands-on nature of its 1-Year (Filmmaking) program. I saw that it gave me a thorough filmmaking education at an accelerated pace and prepared me for a real-world experience sooner than any other school or program that I looked into. The second thing that appealed to me was the filming ‘sand-box’ that NYFA offered. What I mean by that is NYFA has almost all the major filmmaking departments and so within the school, I was able to learn the skills of collaboration with all film vertices.”
Transference is not his only work available on a major streaming platform. A Touch of Aurora (also known as When Red is White) is also available on Amazon Prime Video. The film, which has amassed over 20 nominations and 12 awards in over four countries on the festival circuit, is a Portuguese-language Brazilian drama that tells the story of a couple both of whom are visually impaired. Sara, played by Brazilian film star Thaila Ayala, was born blind while Luis, a former successful soccer player with a glamorous past, lost his sight following a car accident.
Another recent production, And the Dream that Mattered features a number of NYFA alumni including acting for film alumni Themo Melikidze and Jongman Kim. The film is in Korean and tells the story of an actor in his 40’s who goes through a midlife crisis when he visits his family and realizes that he has not achieved what he set out to do.
His latest project, Rivers: The Upstream Story, is a docu-fiction feature that Aditya both produced and directed. The film follows four characters: Adriana, a refugee from crisis-hit Venezuela, Kankana, an Indian actress working in Hollywood, Suraj, a street cleaner from a slum in Rajasthan, and Ravi who is a television news reporter from Jaipur.
“We journey with them as they travel across India, an ancient civilization struggling with climate change, water crisis, poverty, and hygiene issues,” explained Aditya. “One of the storylines in the film portrays Isha Foundation’s Rally for Rivers, a pan India water-conservation drive supported by the Government of India and endorsed by celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Shahrukh Khan.”
Aditya had this to say to incoming NYFA students, “the best thing about NYFA’s programs is the fast pace and hands-on style. But that is also something every incoming student should look out for. They have to be prepared to work hard and tirelessly for the length of the program they’re doing.”
“One of the most important things that stand out to me about my initial days in NYFA is the opportunity I got to experiment with my films,” he continued. “I always made sure that any story I told was out of my comfort zone. The protective umbrella of a film school is where you can do just that: try out as many genres and ideas as possible because failure will have fewer consequences here than in a real-world scenario.”
It was with the help of NYFA’s Industry Lab that Aditya was able to produce his first multi-language film, Red Souls. “The film,” explained Aditya, “deals with with the subject of human trafficking between Brazil and the US, and won the Best Film award at the Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival, making me one of the first Indian directors to win an award at a Brazilian festival for directing a Portuguese film.”
“Almost all the projects I have done have had important team members who were from NYFA and I had collaborated with them first when I was doing school projects. That just stresses how important good collaborations are and the crucial role NYFA plays.”
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.