Shoebox Director Faraz Ali Shares What Inspired Him

A film about the changes in an Indian city has travelled all the way to California to the ongoing Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival. The film festival began on August 16 and will conclude on August 29.

Ali says it was simply his own experience of moving out of his hometown, erstwhile Allahabad (known as Prayagraj since 2018) and the changes that he saw over the years, that inspired him to make the film Shoebox. “The centerstage is my own hometown, Allahabad. After moving out, every visit was about a new change in the city and that evoked a lot of emotions in me. You know, like we talk of the Triveni Sangam (the confluence of rivers, a sacred place in Prayagraj) but River Saraswati is not physically there.”


The film, Shoebox, has travelled to many film festivals and even got director Ali the award for best film at the New York Film Festival earlier this year. It also bagged a nomination at the 2022 Mumbai Film Festival. It made its North American premiere at 20th edition of Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles.

Ali was majorly inspired by the emotions he felt when he saw changes in his hometown, Allahabad/Prayagraj, each time he visited after moving to Mumbai. Ali recalls the time he decided he must not delay the film anymore. “The moment it was announced that Allahabad will be renamed, I thought I’d lose many elements if I delay the film anymore. People may also come up with their own versions of what should have been, and what should not have been included in the film. The story is about loss of essence of things.”

Sharing the struggles his team faced while making the film, Ali adds, “Amrita Bagchi (lead actor essaying the role of Mampu) lost her mom just four days before we started shooting. She asked us to move on with another actor but I did not want to do that. Throughout the prep for the film, her mom was in coma. I thought holding up would be much better than replacing Amrita as I could not see Mampu in anybody else. We held for another week. Of course, we had financial troubles as independent filmmakers. We made the film with my own savings, and those of my friends who were willing to take the bet for me. Much like everyone else, the pandemic also hit us badly.”


“I took bank loans and it felt like the darkest times. It felt so suicidal, you feel so helpless but then, I was not the only one. Collectively, the pandemic did something to people which either made people stronger or just destroyed them. Shoebox made me learn a lot,” the filmmaker shares.

“Making changes as essential as preserving our heritage. We need to find a balance, we need to ensure that the essence is not completely lost,” Ali signs off.

(The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.)