Immigration seems to be a topic everywhere these days. It’s a non-stop subject on the internet, TV news, and radio. This topic inspires passionate debate on both sides of the argument regardless of the legality and the point of origin of those involved. While some individuals enjoy argumentative discourse based around their perspectives, Rajendra Thakurathi prefers a personal and heartfelt connection. As a professional writer for film and other mediums with a host of productions to his credit, Thakurathi used his talent to softly and respectfully display the story of one illegal immigrant’s journey in the film The Dishwasher. Based on a real character, The Dishwasher makes the immigrant experience one of personal connection for anyone who views this compelling and thoughtful tale. In taking away the generalization and placing a face onto a young man in this situation, Thakurathi makes it easier to see a “someone” rather than a “them.” Working with a small cast and project mentorship under Primetime Emmy winner (Chicago Hope, West Wing, Heroes) Jeremy Kagan, his story was able to illustrate the reality of many people who seek the “American Dream.” The film received a thunderous response at the Toronto Nepali Film Festival, Trojan Film Festival, and others in addition to being featured in film magazine Cinephilia & Beyond under Filmmakers to Watch.
The Dishwasher is a film about a foreign student who finds a job as a dishwasher at a restaurant on July 4th after presenting fake paperwork. Ravi (the main character in the film, played by Mahed Rakib of Fox TV’s award-nominated series Graceland) is a foreign student who finds himself in desperate need of money to pay for his college tuition. It’s a catch-22 as Ravi needs money to get papers to allow him to get a job to make money to pay for school. With no means, a friend proficient in Photoshop makes a work permit for him that allows Ravi to get a dishwashing job. He’s a hard worker who impresses his boss and is quickly given more responsibility. Working in constant fear that he will be discovered, Ravi’s plight resembles that of many people who only want to break man-made laws under dire circumstances but have absolutely no malicious intent. Will Ravi’s secret be discovered when a policeman arrives and begins talking to the manager?
The writer of the film reveals, “I wanted to do something with a social theme. Immigration had been on my radar for a long time. I had made a few short films with this theme but they weren’t connecting with the audience. I had heard a friend’s story and thought it could be a perfect opportunity to talk about immigration while also making it a cinematic experience for the audience. So, I interviewed the friend and really got under his skin and found my own connection to the material to make it personal to me. It was a really cathartic journey to be able to tell this story because I was putting myself in the character’s shoes and moving the audience with this story. This was also the first time I realized the power of Cinema – to be able to put the audience in the character's shoes and move them with the story.”
Filmmakers can be equally influential as policy makers because of the unique power of film to create connection with the audience through the stories they produce and touching their hearts and souls. Rajendra understands the ability to persuade with what he does and communicate experiences that have not been felt by everyone. The Dishwasher has received accolades and awards from the Trojan Film Festival, the Toronto Nepali Film Festival, MoFilm LA Movie Jam, and has become included in the University of Southern California residential Education Diversity Training; vetting its ability to simultaneously entertain and enlighten. Thakurathi is continuing this trend in his work and states, “I think as filmmakers and artists, we reflect our societies and the world around us. it is our responsibility not just to entertain, but also to draw attention of the reality around us through storytelling. These stories could really be of any genre (fantasy, horror, sci-fi, etc) and told in any medium (live action, animation, VR, etc). Thakurathi adds he's currently working on a motorcycle road adventure film. On the surface, it's a comedy about a grandfather and a grandson, but deep inside, it's about racism.” I am working on a feature film about this currently. It’s a motorcycle road journey between two characters, but deep inside, it’s about racism. It’s a drama/comedy film.”