GALO: While the three characters are registering students to vote at a college campus — without much success — Roopa yells into the speaker, “Get off your ass and stop watching American Idol!” Roopa, Farah and KJ have sloughed off the ennui and apathy that often paralyzes young adults. Do you believe that pseudo-reality television has contributed to the dumbing down of America, as many have argued? Or is there something else at work?

MM: Yes, even though Kiran improvised that line (she’s an awesome stand-up comedian), I do think that reality TV does support apathy and disengagement. The first decade of this century ratcheted up the noise level of what’s around us. Besides reality TV — which overpowers more truthful consciousness and how we experience ourselves as young people — the volume of political rhetoric through cable news has created an environment where no one can make their own opinions, and that’s equally damaging.

GALO: It’s a deadening of the human spirit, of hope and change, perhaps.

MM: Yes, we live in a world where there’s so much noise that we can’t hear ourselves and articulate our own thoughts, drowning out how we really feel and how we feel implicated by what’s going on.

GALO: I’d like to go back to the notions of hope and change. These young women seek to unite communities and are in direct defiance of the male campaign manager who tells them to avoid red states all together, lamenting that there’s no time to unite the country. There is a bar scene in Ohio, where they are collecting their thoughts after a long day of canvassing. Above their heads is a television with then Senator Barack Obama talking in support of John Kerry for president. Was that a gracious nod to his presidential campaign’s message of hope and change that united college students four years later?

MM: Absolutely. I don’t know if the youth movement would have been as organized and as passionate in 2008 had there not been two election cycles in which the anti-war movement really brought youths together. I do think these things are related. The 2004 election often gets overlooked in favor of the 2008 election, because there was a dynamic leader at the forefront.

GALO: There’s often a risk of disappointment when all hope for change is placed on one person or one moment in time.

MM: The characters wanted to find this perfect political candidate to fulfill their visions for changing the world, but the reality is there isn’t going to be one figure or one person who can change everything. Change takes time. We also felt this reflected Farah’s journey and her pursuit of the perfect person, perfect moment or perfect scenario to have sex. What she comes to realize in the end is similar to what they realize at the end of the political process: nothing is ever perfectly packaged. It’s a collection of experiences, ultimately resulting in how we can learn about ourselves and change the world. Nothing is going to be perfect. You just have to take charge and get done what’s got to get done.

GALO: That’s a direct reference to Farah, I’m sure. [Joint laughter] The acting is pretty close to perfect. You’ve noted in other interviews that the three actors are really close. How did you cast them? And how did that energy and synergy come together so beautifully?

MM: We got super lucky, since the casting process was really rushed. An ultimate key to keeping a film engaging is an engaging cast. We put a casting call out to the universe, but all three girls came to us in different ways. Roopa approached us directly. Nikohl’s agent approached us; she had just finished up Circumstance. And we called Kandis to an audition, because we had seen her in I’m not a Hipster at Sundance and she blew us out of the water. It was a crapshoot whether the chemistry would work. To their credit, they read the script, saw that Laura and I were really good girlfriends and understood that the heart of this project was for them to get along and find their place with each other. They immediately clicked and recognized that the work they needed to do was to get close real fast. There was no ego management required. I feel like we barely scratched the surface of what they can do.

GALO: Well, like Mindy Kaling, you’ve brought the North Star to millions of girls out there with your brilliant casting. Let’s look at the film’s title character and her journey. There is a defining moment for Farah when she asks a 17-year-old girl why she’s campaigning for Kerry. The girl responds, “I wanted to do something I hadn’t done before.” Could this be the red thread running through your film?

MM: Absolutely. With Farah’s story, we’re trying to show that there’s no such thing as the right time or moment to lose your virginity. She is so encumbered by the sense that she’s missed the train and should have gotten it done much earlier, because that’s what the common narratives, culturally and socially, have told her. Farah’s development in the film marks an understanding and realization that all of this can be done on your own terms — you just have to feel comfortable and decide when it’s good for you. We definitely wanted to show in the bar scene that she and Farah were both experiencing a shift in their desires to exist in ways that they hadn’t experienced before. And just because there’s an age difference, doesn’t mean those experiences can’t be shared. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to timing. Your life is a long collection of experiences, and you can experience them at any time.

GALO: Speaking of timing…what lies in the future for Farah Goes Bang?

MM: It’s exciting, but we still have a long way to go with this film in terms of shopping it around and showing it to people. We are mapping out what festivals to go to next, but showing the film at college campuses will be the best screenings we’ll have. Those are the conversations I’m most excited about! If they’ll have us, Wellesley is the audience I want to talk to and figure out what works and what doesn’t. We want to engage young women in a discussion about what it’s like to be in your 20s — finding yourself, discovering yourself through your friends and being politically active.

GALO: Sounds like a great road trip! It’s been a pleasure, Meera. Thank you and good luck!

MM: Thank you!

“Farah Goes Bang” opened at Tribeca on April 19.

Featured image: Director: Meera Menon. Photo Courtesy of: Elizabeth Kitchens.

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