JP: It says that this was based on his a true story by Hasan Minhaj. How did you guys meet? And why didn’t you use him directly as the actor? (Jonah did a great job though!)
Imran J. Khan: Hasan and I have actually known each other for a pretty long time, we went to college together back at U.C. Davis. We used to make YouTube videos together back in the day!
Hasan had sent me his Moth Radio Hour version of the story and I was blown away. I asked him if he’d be interested in making a short film out of it and that started our collaboration on the project along with Prashanth Venkataramanujam, who co-wrote it.
In the first few drafts of the script, we were trying to tell this larger story about Hasan and Bethany; showing them meeting then getting to know each other and then ultimately what happens on prom night. But we realized that the core ideas of the story could work just as well with as little backstory as possible. So stripping everything away and just creating a visceral experiential film that puts you in the shoes of the protagonist. It was really exciting once we figured that out.
Q: Did he leave quietly without talking to his dad because his family wouldn’t approve of him going to prom with a white girl?
Imran: In many conservative Indian Muslim households going to Prom would be something parents might not allow at at all, white girl or no white girl. So that was more the reason in the story.
Q: Did you increase the sound of the door slamming at Bethany’s house on purpose? Or did I just feel like it was loud?
Imran: I think that was actually just the location sound on the day. It might have been sweetened in the sound mix, but yeah, I think accentuating that moment adds to the rejection. Since the film is all about experiencing every nuanced moment with the protagonist as he goes through this ill-fated night, it makes sense that a door slamming could feel like a major event.
Q: When he sat quietly next to his Dad on the couch at the very end, was that symbolic of him giving up, of him accepting that this is his life, neither, or was it entirely meant to be up to the viewer to decide?
Imran: There were a bunch of different versions of the ending in the script but in the end, we went with an open ended moment that could mean different things to different people depending on their life experience. So really all of those interpretations are totally valid. I think its the sort of ending that lends itself to projection. The way the script was designed, the opening of the film is him figuratively and literally running away from his father and his culture. At the end of the film, he’s accepting it in a way. That’s why he doesn’t just go upstairs to his room and instead decides to sit down next to his father. At the same time, there are tons of other interpretations of the ending that I’ve heard while doing festival Q & As that are even more interesting and completely valid. For example some people read the ending as a complete downbeat, sad ending. So there’s that also.
Big Thanks to Imran for interviewing! If you want to watch PROM, it’s available below!