Commonly known as Adi, he is one of six different innovators from six different backgrounds from within the Wellington region interviewed for a documentary about diversity, innovation, and sustainability in Wellington’s film industry.

The Wellington UNESCO City of Film project called ‘Diverse Voices: Making Screen Work Different’ is directed and produced by Pachali Brewster, with help from facilitators and Victoria University of Wellington’s Missy Molloy and Raqi Syed.

Material for the documentary has come from a hui featuring six local storytelling talents, including Adi, around the central question: “How can we make screen work different?”

The New Zealand-born Indian American director, screenwriter, editor and producer developed an interest in film-making from a young age through his love for old-school Bollywood, Westerns and 70s and 90s American cinema.

Having grown up in an Indian community in northern California, Adi spent his late teens and early 20s aimlessly meandering through various parts of the globe.

It’s those experiences abroad that exposed him to the diverse strongholds of the Indian diaspora which he says has had a big impact on him.

“Now I’m in a space where the voice I’m trying to push forward as an artist is central to how I grew up, which is amidst a diaspora story.”

Unable to render element

Adi’s long-term goal is to build a unique filmography that focuses on fictional narratives based on immigrant South Asian communities of the past, present, and future.

His film called ‘The Lascar’, is a 25-minute psychological drama set in 1799 that centres around the forgotten Indian sailors of Aotearoa’s original seal-hunting gangs.

Breaking the tradition of bi-cultural narratives, ‘The Lascar’ is about a messy but profound power struggle between the British, Indians and Māori during New Zealand’s early days of colonialism. After coming up with the idea while stuck indoors during New York’s first lockdown, Adi took a risk. He left his life in America to return to New Zealand after 25 years to make the film.

Based in Wellington, it became his thesis project for his Masters in Film at Victoria University.

Adi and his team have plans to submit the film to international festivals.

He hopes people, both in New Zealand and around the globe, will come to learn of this largely forgotten history of early Indian arrival in the Antipodes.

For updates on Adi’s film, The Lascar, you can follow their Instagram @thelascarfilm.

“Now I’m in a space where the voice I’m trying to push forward as an artist is central to how I grew up, which is amidst a diaspora story.”

Aditya B. Parige