Frederick filmmaker to premiere feature on Saturday
Aug. 7, 2003
Robert Schroeder
Staff Writer

Frederick filmmaker Pepi Singh Khara is excited about the premiere of his film, "Far from India," which is showing at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Weinberg Center for the Arts.

It's late afternoon and Frederick filmmaker Pepi Singh Khara is talking animatedly about big themes: race, religion, culture. The sensitivity of men. The difficulties of love. Over a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, sitting on a tall stool at Brewer's Alley on North Market Street, Khara is outlining the plot of his feature film, "Far from India," which is premiering at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 9 at the Weinberg Center for the Arts.

Billed as "a powerful story about eastern love in a western world," the film, says India-born Khara, will get to the heart of those big themes--and maybe even make a few grown men cry.

"We live in a desensitized society," Khara says, looking every bit the film savant in jeans and black cowboy boots. "It's rare, especially for guys, to break down and have a good cry."

As the light fades outside, Khara, a realtor by trade, gets more pumped up every minute talking about the entirely Frederick-shot film, his first feature. He fields business calls on his cell phone--"The condo? It's still available."--and, when a crew member walks in to the restaurant, dressed down in a Radiohead T-shirt, Khara spins toward him and hashes out last-minute details.

Khara exudes a controlled intensity, and associates say he is demanding.

"He seems to really know what he wants and rarely will he compromise from that," said Joey McAdams, a director and producer with Fool Martyr productions. McAdams shot a documentary about the making of "Far from India," and was a co-contestant of Khara's in a recent 72-hour film festival held here.

"I wanted to send a message to people," Khara says about the film, which explores an inter-racial love triangle between two India-born men, Talvin and Nitin, and a "farm town girl" called Chloe.

Khara won't give away the ending--the most he'll say is that "it's a conclusion that nobody's going to expect"--but at least some of the theme of the film is that "religion divides and God unites."

As a Sikh who attended Catholic schools in India and met his American wife at Pennsylvania State University, Khara personally knows a thing or two about how cultures clash. His own family, he says, frowned on his marriage to a non-Indian. "They were not thrilled," he recalls. To his pleasant surprise, he had a very good experience with his wife's family and gently faults himself for perhaps expecting the worst from them.

"I myself had preconceived notions" about how they would treat him, he says.

Khara himself appears to have no time for divisions. "Ours is very much a cosmopolitan family," the filmmaker says of he and his wife, Dianne and their daughter Elisse. Cosmopolitanism seems to be at the center of Khara's ethos as a filmmaker: he is comfortable in several different genres, and plans to have not one Indian character in his next feature.

In the meantime, though, he's planning on getting "Far from India" into as many theatres and festivals as possible. "I don't want to regionalize this film," he says, rattling off aspirations to show it at the Sundance Film Festival and other high-profile locales. He excitedly mentions an e-mail received from the owner of Baltimore's legendary Senator Theatre. "I anticipate traveling," he says confidently. McAdams gives Khara credit for knowing the film business and having the people skills to work out getting locations, financing and the right actors--even in Frederick. "It's not like Baltimore or D.C.," McAdams said.

Khara anticipates continuing to make feature films. "Real estate gives me the freedom to do what I want to do," he says. But he adds later that he's "been a business man for 15 years with a suppressed filmmaker inside of me."

And it's coming out, heart and soul. Draining his Cabernet and asking for the check, Khara says "I don't think I'll ever attempt to be something that is not from within."