Rohith S. Katbamna (MA Television Journalism, 2010) is a filmmaker, journalist and author based in London. His most recent work is the hybrid novel, Down and Rising, which was released in January 2019.
Born in Hammersmith, England, Rohith began his writing career in the film and television industry.
Following on from his work with the BBC, Channel 4 and IFC, including his acclaimed documentary, Hooking in JoBurg, Rohith’s feature debut came at the age of 28 when he wrote, produced, shot and directed the British television miniseries, PREMature, a culmination of a decade of work on the professional circuit.
Rohith tells us about his time at Goldsmiths and his current project:
There is a certain pride when I am asked where I studied and my answer is, “Goldsmiths”. This comes primarily from my experiences on the course, the teaching staff and the eclectic range of students from around the world.
Before studying here, I had been working on feature documentaries for key British and American broadcasters. However, I felt something was missing. Something, which I hadn’t attained at my previous university while studying for my BA. My experience there wasn’t the best and that came down to what I felt was ‘auto-pilot’ teaching. Passionless, stagnant and an absence of innovation. These and other variables eventually pushed me to earn a place at Goldsmiths.
I knew from my initial interview that this institution, in particular, my soon-to-be course leader, was passionate about having me be a part of this redeeming experience. I remember distinctly, Peter Lee-Wright saying to me, “by the end of the year, you won’t regret it, Rohith”. One year later, I graduated with a distinction, a One World Media Award selection, and a barrage of knowledge that to this day has continued to remind me about the importance of independent thought.
For the past three years, the world has seen great change on the social, cultural and political stages. For many, 2016 was a big turning point. For myself, I was excited to be turning 30. But it was also the year I decided to dedicate my efforts towards writing my first novel, Down and Rising. A project, which was essentially a response to the tensions around us.
In Down and Rising, we see 10 survivors in the year 2027 come together for an ultimate mission: to seek truth. From different backgrounds, stripped of their societal masks, they undergo a journey fuelled on hope, blood and tears, and they do this against a negative resistance familiar to the one we face today.
However, unlike a lot of establishment media and clickbait content, this book isn’t designed to appeal to the desires of the pessimists and cynics. Neither is it formed to reinforce the walls that surround the self-professed misanthropes.
In actuality, for a book set during the ‘end of the world’, there is a deep emphasis on humanity and seeking spiritual truths. Efforts to better ourselves. To find optimism in the dourest of conditions. To reflect and ‘liberate our minds’ from the prisonous thoughts that run in cycles every second of every day. To regain the attribute of independent thinking and not to fall into the generic traps of echo chamber residency.
Throughout the writing process, I often came back to my education at Goldsmiths and the course’s emphasis on news consumption from a rich pallet of sources. Particularly news sources, whose history and record I didn’t normally agree with. Because I knew that if I gave these an ear, there may in fact be a legitimate challenge to the mainstream perspective. One that would at least nudge me to see another side.
In life, I’ve come to understand that listening to all sides is paramount to building better solutions. This lateral listening and thinking was something I consistently employed to ‘check myself’ during my writing. It was important for me and the reader to see a wider perspective on the themes, motivations and circumstances of each character and their stories – protagonist and antagonist.
This goes back to decade-old discussions during seminars at Goldsmiths, which today still resonate with me.
In parts of the country, particularly the metropolis, we’ve embraced a culture of reactionary opinions. One way conversations. Shortened our language even. Individualism has taken a backseat and mob mentality is often seen at the forefront. A voluntary dumbing down of independent thought and true self-expression. It may also feed the perspective that life is moving ‘too fast’.
I don’t subscribe to the idea that life today is moving fast. I believe it is the perspective one takes on which determines the pace of life. If you’re able to slow down a touch, take a moment and lend an ear, I believe it’ll make a difference.
Instead of living in a bubble of extremes where everything is either black or white, left or right, I’ve found that my most rewarding moments have come from living and working in the greyer areas of life. Outside of my comfort zone where I maintain my edge. This is where stagnation is near-absent and progression is encouraged. A core of positive-rich activity where the central focus concludes with my voice.
I’ve learned to trust my voice and I thank my time at Goldsmiths for encouraging this.