Q&A: 'ISTIFA' Director Rahat Mahajan

"ISTIFA" is a narrative short directed by Art Center graduate film student Rahat Mahajan. The film aired as part of the 2014 edition of "Fine Cut," KCET's 17th annual festival of student films. We speak with Rahat about the tragedy that inspired his film.

Rahat Mahajan's Bio

After finishing his schooling at a British boarding school in the Himalayan mountains, Rahat Mahajan shifted base to the city of Mumbai to pursue his studies in mass media. After learning the ropes as an assistant director for almost three years, Rahat had the opportunity to edit theatrical trailers for three acclaimed Bollywood films and numerous television advertisements; write plays; and produce his own independent documentaries, short films, and music videos -- a few of which have secured awards at festivals in the international arena. Rahat is presently honing his filmmaking skills at Art Center College of Design, Pasadena.

Q&A with Rahat Mahajan

Describe how the idea for this film originated.

Rahat Mahajan: The making of "ISTIFA" ("Resignation") has been one of the most incredible and memorable experiences of my life. I had to urgently fly back to India on November 13 due to the sad demise of my grandmother. And it was during the train ride to the Ganges, where I was traveling to with my family in order to disperse her ashes, that I read a short story written by Munshi Premchand. It struck a deep cord in my heart and that's the precise moment I decided to make it into a film that I would dedicate to my grandmother. I then reached out to an organization called Visual Communications in Los Angeles, which had already awarded me a grant for another film, and they graciously allowed me to proceed with the new idea.

How/When did you decide you wanted to be a filmmaker?

RM: I used to paint as a kid, but after being admitted to a boarding school at the age of 8, I drifted away from my love for art until I stumbled upon it again in my senior year at 16, when I had the choice to opt for it as an elective. It was those moments of drifting in front of a canvas that stirred my desire to tell a story with the help of many visuals, and break through the constrains of a four edged canvas.

What influences have inspired your work?

RM: Grand old mountains, beautiful songs of the sea, birds flying in the sky, the ever generous trees, and the dance of a leaf as it kisses the earth; the harmony and the beautiful magnanimity of existence and eternal struggle of us humans to make sense of it all. I'm grateful to be alive.

Name you top three favorite films.


1. "Songs from the Second Floor" by Roy Andersson 
2. "Charulata" by Satyajit Ray 
3. "Badlands" by Terrence Malick

What is next for you?

RM: A film inspired by the life of the Indian scientist JC Bose.

How can we follow you?



We are dedicated to providing you with articles like this one. Show your support with a tax-deductible contribution to KCET. After all, public media is meant for the public. It belongs to all of us.

Keep Reading