Instead of attending law school, Rippin Sindher decided to take a trip to the Amazon rainforest. The trip allowed her to think about her aspirations and made her realize she wanted to pursue film.
“You’re in the middle of this jungle in a canoe, and it’s just a healing process,” Sindher said. “It allows for you to have clarity, because sometimes it’s really easy to fall into the traps of noise in your life.”
After graduating from UCLA in 2010 with her bachelor’s degrees in sociology and English, Sindher was unsure about tackling the future. Drawing from her own confusion, she decided to write, direct, produce and star in a short film titled “The Hideout,” which premieres Wednesday at the New York Indian Film Festival.
“The Hideout” is about a girl named Sammy who struggles to choose between working at her 9-to-5 day job and exploring her aspirations, told as a Bollywood musical.
“So much of it is grounded in what I know as truth, and everything I write or make, it really has a personal flair to it,” Sindher said. “So a lot of that was influenced by the real-life struggle that many people have. How do I afford a living, do what I have to do, maintain the longevity of a career, and still take a risk on myself and still find the courage to create something?”
As a child, Sindher grew up watching Bollywood films with her family. The films became iconic to her and influenced her storytelling style, she said.
“They were the equivalent of my Disney films,” Sindher said. “I wanted to emulate those feelings that I had growing up as a child and watching them.”
Sindher felt it was important to capture the essence of those films – the distinctive musical style, choreographed dances and sweeping locations – in her own projects.
“I wanted to pay tribute to what I had seen in these movies growing up,” Sindher said. “I always fell in love with that, and it’s so nice to be able to share that in my work.”
To build the larger dance sequences for the film, Sindher reached out to Bruin Bhangra, a cultural dance team based at UCLA that fuses northern Punjabi bhangra with modern and hip-hop dance. Sindher and the team’s co-captain Jaspreet Nijjar built off existing choreography for the group’s routines, and Sindher choreographed most of her own moves, Nijjar said.
“Whatever mix that she had for her film, it was similar to one of the mixes that we danced to at one of the competitions,” Nijjar said. “We just changed it around a little bit to fit her vision a little bit better.”
Sindher blended the choreographed scenes of Bollywood films with elements of Punjabi culture, like the traditional bhangra dancing in the film, which differs from classic Bollywood style. Bollywood emphasizes individual moves and storylines, while bhangra is more traditional and folk-based, Nijjar said.
The blending of the different dance styles gave the film a different touch, making it more accessible to more audience members, Nijjar said.
“When you look at the dance sequences and the music, it’s not only colored a certain way with these vibrant, luscious feelings of what Bollywood cinema and music is, but also the choreography lent itself to feeling like a fluid magical realism escape for (the main character),” Sindher said.
The process of production took almost a year, from when Sindher first came up with the idea in the fall of 2015 and launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund her four-day shoot on location in Los Angeles to the subsequent editing process.
Sindher’s brother, Gurinder Sindher, produced the film, after previously working together on a web series in 2012.
“She’s like the showrunner of every set, she’s like a mini-Mindy Kaling,” Gurinder Sindher said. “Her passion for her dream (and) her passion for her creativity is kind of what makes her who she is and will lead to her success in the industry.”
Rippin Sindher feels that Indian filmmakers are often faced with fewer opportunities, although she has been able to avoid limitations by creating her own opportunities through the projects she pursues.
“If anything, I feel like being Indian-American and being true to my experiences and my voice … has really helped me share something different,” Rippin Sindher said. “I’m very passionate about being a voice for Indian-American content, so it was important to me to make something that I could identify with … grounded in that truth that I’ve grown up with.”