Communication senior Dhruv Mehra directs “Ozona”


Photo courtesy of Dhruv Mehra

The cast and crew of “Ozona” shoot on location. Filming took place in Plainfield, Ill. on Oct. 15 to 17.

Alexa Crowder, Reporter

In the middle of Iman and Liam’s road trip across the Midwest, their car broke down. Stranded on a rural highway, their options were limited. When a middle-aged man from the area pulled over and offered a hitchhike, they had to decide if they should trust him.

That’s the plot of “Ozona,” a film written and directed by Communication senior Dhruv Mehra which shot on location in Plainfield, Ill., from Oct. 15 to 17. The movie chronicles the challenges of a multicultural relationship and questions the human tendency to make snap judgments.

Mehra purposefully created a “triangle of characters” who were bound to come into conflict with each other. Iman is Pakistani Muslim and grew up in Asia, Liam is East Asian and was raised in the United States and Keith is white and has lived his whole life in a small, rural Midwestern town.

“What happens when these three entities all end up in the same time and space when they should never be together otherwise?” Mehra said. “What are the first ideas that they have about each other and how are their preconceived notions challenged?”

Many of these themes came up on Mehra’s own cross-country road trip with his girlfriend, on which “Ozona” is based. The film also touches on presence and trust within a relationship that is struggling under the pressures of multicultural traditions and families.

Chicago-based actor Mirrat Moloo said she was grateful to find a role that reflects her identity and experiences. As a Pakistani woman raised in the U.S., Moloo said she relates to her character Iman and her arc throughout the film.

“I’ve struggled to come across roles that speak to me,” Moloo said. “A lot of roles are for white women, and it’s very much something that I have to act. And in this one, for the first time in a long time, I’m feeling like I won’t. It just feels so comfortable right off the bat.”

During filming, Mehra, Moloo and about 30 crew members drove 90 minutes outside of Evanston to shoot “Ozona.” Each day of shooting, including transportation there and back, lasted about 13 hours.

Producer Lucia Agajanian (Communication ’20) was responsible for some of the logistics of the shoot, including budgeting, timing and COVID-19 safety. Since graduating from Northwestern, Agajanian has been freelancing in the film industry for the past year.

“It was a learning curve for me to adjust to working on a student project again,” Agajanian said. “It’s been really amazing to see how many people are willing to work really hard, but you can’t expect as much from people who are full-time students and who are working for free.”

Mehra met Agajanian when he was volunteering as a crew member for her own student film a few years ago. He remembers appreciating the production experience he gained from working on student projects as an underclassman.

Since COVID-19 has prohibited younger students from the same experiences until recently, he intentionally staffed underclassmen on his crew for “Ozona” and hopes to mentor them throughout the filming process.

“I just wanted to give opportunities to people,” he said. “That’s how I feel like I learned everything.”

“Ozona” will debut at the senior directing premiere in June 2022.

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @AlexaCrowder

Related Stories:
Communication junior Lauren Washington exhibits “Samuel Johnson Jr: More Than a Barber”
“These are very strange times:” remote learning disrupts student films, RTVF classes