• Thursday, July 25, 2024


Mahesh Pailoor: Living in the moment

The award-winning filmmaker talks about Paper Flowers, his inspirations, and that deep love for cinema.

A still from ‘Paper Flowers’

By: Asjad Nazir

OPENING the annual London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) is always a great honour and this year that has been bestowed upon American drama Paper Flowers.

The opening night movie of this year’s festival is based on the true story of a Gujarati American in a long-term relationship, who is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. The powerful story has been directed by Los Angeles-based Mahesh Pailoor and continues his lifelong love of movies.

Eastern Eye caught up with the award-winning filmmaker to find out more about Paper Flowers, his inspirations, and that deep love for cinema.

What first connected you to filmmaking?

Even at the age of 10, I always knew this is what I wanted to do. When my dad bought our first video camera, I immediately grabbed it, started filming, and never stopped. It felt very natural, and a way for me to express myself. From there, every school pro – ject became a filmed project, until I decided to go to film school in college, and then I just kept going.

What inspired your movie, Paper Flowers?

Paper Flowers is based on the true story of Shalin Shah, a young man who, when faced with a terminal diagnosis, found a way to appreciate life even more and wanted to spread that message as far as he could. Being a father of two young kids, and constantly feeling that time is slipping away, the idea of appreciating everything you have and not taking it for granted really resonated with me. As simple as it is, it’s a powerful message that Shalin’s story perfectly captures.  


Tell us more about the film.


Mahesh Pailoor: Living in the moment
Mahesh Pailoor

It follows Shalin Shah, an ambitious USC graduate, who leaves behind his loving Indian American family and devoted girlfriend, Fiona, to pursue his dream of making a difference as a Peace Corps vol – unteer. His life takes a devastating turn when a check-up for a lingering cough reveals a rare and aggressive form of cancer. Forced to return home and undergo treatment, Shalin confronts the fundamental question: what is the true meaning of life when faced with limited time? Paper Flowers is a poignant and inspirational journey of love, loss, and hope. It serves as a reminder to cherish moments we have and to stop and enjoy every sunset.

Who are you hoping connects with this film?  

I really believe this film is for everyone. It’s a reminder to not take anything for granted. But beyond that, I hope it resonates with those who have experi – enced a life-altering diagnoses, or have loved ones who have gone through it.

Is there a message that you want to convey?  

Gratitude. Appreciate every mmomentand the people we get to share this journey with.

What is your own favourite moment in the movie? 

One of my favourite moments in the film is when Shalin and Fiona dance at his co-ed bachelor party. It’s a tender scene, filled with nostalgia. Even though they both know what lies in store for Shalin, they savour the moment in each other’s arms, surrounded by their closest friends. It’s bittersweet.

How do you feel about Paper Flowers opening the London Indian Film Festival?  

This is an incredible honour for us. As an indie filmmaker, you never really know how your film will be seen (or if it ever will be seen). So, to be included at such a prestigious festival alongside other amazing films from around the world is wonderful validation. On a personal note, I love London, having spent time studying there while in college. This is a special opportunity for me to present a film I feel so close to, in a city I have such fond memories of. I’m also curious to see how UK audiences will respond.

 What inspires you? 

My kids. I love watching their personalities form and grow. And I love feeling their sense of limitless hope.

 Who is your own filmmaking hero? 

Too many to name, but Spike Lee has always held the torch. He’s charted his own course, and his cinematic voice is singular. So many others try to imitate him (myself included), but he’s an originator.

 What can we expect next from you? 

More inspiring stories centred around the south Asian experience, which I hope to return to the London Indian Film Festival with, and hopefully directing some more TV in between.

Why do you love cinema? 

Cinema combines many forms of art, including music, poetry, acting, choreography, and photography. Together, they offer the chance for something new.

London Indian Film Festival runs from June 26-July 7 across various cities. Paper Flowers has its European premiere at Regent Street Cinema on June 26. Visit www.londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk.

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