Santosh, the upcoming feature from Sandhya Suri, will shoot later in 2023, having been through both the writers and directors labs of the Sundance Institute. British-Indian filmmaker Suri describes the process as “one of the best experiences of my life”.

“There’s nothing about marketing or positioning where your film is going to go; it’s only about the work,” says Suri, who “had never done anything with actors” in her life prior to the directors lab, and previously had a background in documentary. “Then the first time, I’ve got Robert Redford standing behind me looking at what I’m doing.”

A character-driven neo-noir set deep in the hinterlands of northern India, Santosh is produced by Good Chaos. An “easy development process — touch wood” has brought it to this point. “There was no pulling it apart, it has been a constant, subtle round of refinement,” she says.

Suri has a second project in the works with BBC Film which is an adaptation of a dystopian JG Ballard short story; The Gustav Sonata with Buccaneer Media for Film4, based on Rose Tremain’s novel; and a “big ensemble cast” series with Balthazar de Ganay, one of the producers of Santosh and her short The Field, which received a Bafta nomination in 2019.

Hailing from Darlington in northeast England, Suri has international experience in multiple sectors. Her first filmmaking venture was buying a camera to document her time teaching in Japan; then she enrolled on the documentary course at the National Film and Television School.

“My only interest was to travel, to access worlds I have no right to enter otherwise — but with a camera to open doors, be curious,” she says. Among her international adventures are a year in India, which included “living in a brothel”; and running the film unit at charity Oxfam, where she covered disasters and development work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Haiti among others.

Her first filmmaking output was 2005 documentary I For India, about her father’s early life in England, which he recorded and sent back to India. It played Sundance in 2006, creating the connections that brought Suri back to the institute almost a decade later.

She does not want to work on the same story twice. “When you’ve explored something, you did it with as much depth as you could,” says Suri. “It’s about there never being any cynicism. Film is a very emotional medium for me.”

Contact: Harriet Pennington Legh, Lark