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‘Spin’ Director Manjari Makijany Learned How to DJ for Film: ‘It’s an Incredible Form of Self-Expression’

”I had a whole DJ booth set up in my office, where I’d be counting beats and learning how to scratch,“ the director told TheWrap

(Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Disney Channel Original Movie “Spin”)

Manjari Makijany, the director of the Disney Channel original movie “Spin,” which premiered Friday, says it was important to understand more about the film and the characters’ passions – by learning how to DJ.

“Spin” follows Rhea, a young, Indian American girl, coming into her own through music and the art of DJing. Amid helping out her grandma and dad with the family restaurant and school, her passion for music is neglected, but when she meets fellow aspiring DJ Max, it sparks her need to follow her dreams.

The movie had a DJ consultant on set and when Makijany had free time, she said she would practice DJing in her office.

“I had a whole DJ booth set up in my office, where I’d be counting beats and learning how to scratch” Makijany said. “Because the character is coming of age through music and creating beats, it was important for me to get turntables and do some primitive mixing. I have a huge respect for DJs – it’s not easy, but nonetheless, it’s an incredible form of self-expression, and I had fun learning something new.”

The director continued to share how the film’s music – which featured work by composer and producer Marius De Vries – revealed even more details about the characters, especially Rhea, who makes music with everything that makes her who she is throughout the film.

“When Rhea discovers her natural sense of rhythm and music, she makes music with elements of classical old Bollywood songs, electronic dance music, Indian instrumentation. It was very eclectic, as that’s who she is” Makijany said.

Makijany said that they also made sure to create distinct styles within each DJ who performs in the film, as Rhea’s style is more soulful, fusion-y and eclectic, while Max is influenced by more commercial, electronic, EDM-type music.

Along with the need to learn more about music and DJing and properly show their roles in the characters’ lives, Makijany said the color palette in the film told a story as well.

In the beginning of the film, Rhea wears cool tones and lighter, more pastel colors. However, as she starts to lean into her passion for music and discover and accept more about herself, she becomes surrounded by yellows, oranges and warmer tones. On the other hand, Max, who starts off as Rhea’s friend, but ends up using her and taking her music, stays in cool tones throughout the movie.

In the middle of the film, there’s a color run scene – which is based off of Holi, the Indian festival of colors, during which people gather and throw colored powders on each other – with Rhea and the rest of the students from her school. Everyone runs around, tossing the powders at whoever is closest to them, but Makijany said that this scene wasn’t as spontaneous as it seemed, as the colors being thrown weren’t just randomly chosen. In fact, she said that the moment at which the blue and yellow powders collide and Rhea gets hit by the latter, it marks the point in the film where she realizes she needs to pursue music.

“That was the moment of realization for her – the moment where she starts coming into her own,” Makijany said. “It’s very subtle, it hits you on a subliminal level, but from then on she becomes more vibrant, like in the finale scene.”

In one of the last scenes, when Rhea and Max are giving their performances at the final stage in the DJ competition, Rhea’s stage is drenched in bright reds, oranges and yellows, while Max’s stage is full of deep blues.

But along with forming the color story in “Spin,” Makijany emphasized the importance of music in the film, saying that it became its “own character.”

“Music brings people together, and it’s a great way to access a culture,” Makijany said. “It was like its own character in the film. And to be able to fuse all these worlds together was just a beautiful experience.”