Mandala Road is an independent film about two college friends who re-connect after some years have passed. Though it’s proven through flashbacks that there are some romantic sentiments between the two, it is never fully realized in the film.
Director Tim Zajac describes Mandala Road as a film that aims to compare and contrast the dreams or aspirations a person may have, and the choices they end up making. When asked what inspired him to make the film, Zajac simply said, “Life experience.”
“People tend to get locked in who they think they need to be or where they need to go,” explained Zajac. “But it’s really up to them to find out.”
The protagonist Gautam, played by Santa Barbara actor Saji Dias, returns to his hometown after years of wandering and traveling, only to run into his would-be flame Anita, played by Carolyn Henderson, working late at a diner. As the two begin to catch up on each other’s lives, Zajac utilizes flashbacks to depict what their lives were like before college graduation.
“Each flashback has its own language, and we really don’t hear music in the film outside of them,” said Zajac. “It’s a poetic way to remember things, looking back with rose-colored glasses so to speak.”
The ending of the film is somewhat of a mixed bag. Although Anita appears to want to pick things up where they left off, Gautam seems a bit hesitant, and leaves the diner after a hasty good-bye. However, when Anita picks up the check, she reads something he’s written and smiles, looking up hopefully.
When asked what the audience is supposed to take from a somewhat unresolved ending, Zijac said he really wanted to engage the audience and invite them to participate in the story.
Similar to Lost in Translation’s ending, in which Bill Murray whispers something in Scarlett Johanson’s ear that only the two of them knew how to react to, Zijac asked Dias to write something on Anita’s receipt that only the two of them knew.
“Anita wrote ‘better late than never’ on the receipt, than I wrote something as my character, a note of appreciation and gratitude,” described Dias. “Tim let the response organically develop, which was great.”
Catch the final screening of Mandala Road tonight at 7 p.m. at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.