While (or some might say despite being) at the Bar, you can still build creativity and fun into your life if you are able to integrate your interests outside the law with your legal skills. I never let go of my interest in journalism, drama and film, for example, and gradually learned how to integrate these into my practice which led me on to media law.

Some of my cases have been very distressing; ‘unbelievable’ situations to some are the real-life stories of others. As an antidote to the serious nature of our profession, I am a keen advocate of laughter (and yoga), so I started writing down some of my courtroom experiences that had a comedy slant. I also continued my radio journalism (having worked for the BBC on a freelance basis back in the 90s and early 2000s), script writing and short film projects.

In 2018, I decided to ‘bite the bullet’ and go to actual film school. I embarked on an MA in filmmaking at Sheffield Hallam University with a view to making films about the law. During the course, legal responsibility was a central theme and this comes up every step of the way when making a feature-length documentary film. In many respects, lawyer-filmmakers are very well-positioned.

For any barristers interested in making a documentary, my first tip would be to choose your topic carefully. Keep it simple. Many of my fellow film school students had plans for obscure or distinguished topics, which can involve a lot of planning and time-consuming/bureaucratic permission-seeking. I shortlisted many ideas for my first film, but in the end decided on a relative’s wedding in Delhi for the following reasons. First, Indian weddings are always captivating, colourful, and chaotic, but secondly, and most importantly, there were no sets or locations I had to source and get permission to film. This was a wedding of a relative and, once I had secured the family’s permission, everyone was on board. Adhering to the principles of crowd release, I placed signs all around the home so that everyone knew that a documentary film was being made and that they were going to appear in it. I obtained individual consent from everyone who gave formal interviews to camera.

Shooting in an Indian wedding is a bit like shooting at the Carnival in Rio – electric in atmosphere but also unpredictable. This brought several challenges, such as how to obtain the consent of people who randomly chose to speak to camera. After the shoot, I realised how difficult, timely and costly it would be to track down many of these people given I was back in the UK and they were in Delhi. It was no use having consent forms to hand during shooting because it is not practical to ask someone to fill out a form while they are giving a great interview amid a music filled environment. I also sourced footage from many of my trips to India. Each piece of footage had people in the background, and many scenes have incidental footage, which is inevitable if you shoot in public locations. Therefore, I used technology to assist me in this process.

I never thought the film would have a red carpet premiere at Arc Cinemas nationwide and online global release on Paus.tv. The film has reached almost 5 million people on social media.

Ultimately, I realised that the process of filmmaking is not only creative, but heavily law driven. As a lawyer, and a filmmaker, it has been a benefit to approach everything with caution and utilise my skills to know where to cut out red tape (where possible!). So, in conclusion, my advice is to not let your other skills become stale. After all, we have many highly articulate and creative individuals at the Bar with the ability to tell great courtroom stories. You, too, can follow your creative dream and see where it leads. 

Haresh’s feature-length documentary film, My Niece’s Big Fat Delhi Wedding, was released in November 2021. If you would like to watch the trailer, please visit: www.myniecesbigfatdelhiwedding.com. The full film is also available to watch here (pay per view) via Vimeo on Demand.