'I had thought after completing Oraalppokkam, I would take a break from direction and find a job that would provide financial security for my family.
But I realise that is impossible as the visuals of a new film have started haunting me. I have no idea where the finance will come from or what will happen to my family.'
Director Sanal Kumar Sasidharan discusses his new film with Paresh C Palicha/ Rediff.com
Malayalam cinema is rediscovering its creativity.
Young directors and actors are finding commercial success with New Age movies, and are also trying to revive the parallel cinema movement that thrived in the 1970s and 1980s.
Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s independent film Oraalppokkam is creating waves on the festival circuit. The film stars well known Dalit poet Meena Kandasamy and Prakash Bare in the lead roles.
In this interview with Paresh C Palicha/ Rediff.com, Sasidharan talks about the experience of making his first feature film.
Your film Oraalppokkam won two awards at the recently concluded 19th IFFK. How does that feel?
These awards made me feel confident that my thoughts and beliefs about cinema are right.
I'm not a trained filmmaker. My approach to filmmaking is intuitive rather than based on any knowledge or technique.
Sometimes, even my colleagues weren't sure about the things I attempted. If my approach had failed, I'd have lost faith in my own intuition and it would have affected my confidence in a negative way.
These awards prove that whatever I tried wasn't suicidal as it felt at that time! I can continue to make such blunders.
Does this reduce the heartache of your film not making it to the Indian Panorama of IFFI in Goa last month?
It wasn't heartache. You can call it disappointment.
When you see commercially successful films being shown there and experimental, independent ventures getting ignored, you're bound to feel disappointed.
If it was shown in the Panorama, it would have got the financial benefits given to films that are screened there, and it would have been telecast on Doordarshan, which is not a small thing for independent films made on a shoe-string budget.
Your film is an independent venture and it’s crowd-funded, where hundreds of people have contributed to make the film. Yet you could shoot all over India -- Trivandrum, Mumbai, Delhi, Uttarkashi etc. How did you do it?
There is nothing extraordinary in what we did. We had a small crew. We travelled by train for the most part, stayed in affordable lodges, and sought the help of friends in various places.
When shooting, we relied on improvisation and talent instead of those high-end machines.
Trust too played an important role. The investors trusted me, I trusted my technicians.
Most of all, everyone had a strong belief that nothing was impossible.
How was the reception from ordinary viewers, since the film tackles sensitive issues pertaining to man-woman relationships?
I thought that the film would appeal more to those who love experimental movies, but was surprised to find that the film captured the hearts of the majority.
I like to think that it was received well; after each screening, someone or the other would come and tell me that it was a wonderful experience.
I felt that most of them were impressed with the visual beauty and the exotic locations rather than the essence of the film. Whatever be the reasons, I know that they will remember the movie for a long time.
Was it difficult convincing English poet Meena Kandasamy and Prakash Bare to be a part of this film because there are some overtly sexual dialogues, open relationships etc?
Not at all. I had approached them knowing that they would be on the same wavelength as me and I was correct. They agreed to do the film after the first reading of the script.
I am a strong believer that life cannot be bound by any set of rules. I have tried to explore many layers of life which are invisible or ignored by society as they don't suit so-called morality, or conform to the social fabric.
You are a trained lawyer. How did the film bug bite you? Were you influenced by any filmmaker?
I can’t pinpoint a specific incident or film. I only remember trying to catch the light thrown on the screen in the cinema pura -- that is what the thatch-roofed theatre was called in my village.
My father wanted me to become a doctor so I graduated in Zoology. I went on to do my post-graduation in Law but I always dreamt of filmmaking.
I was fascinated by the art house films of people like Adoor Gopalakrishnan and G Aravindan. I got the opportunity to be a delegate at IFFK in my early 20s and could watch world classics.
I was particularly fond of the works of Krzysztof Kieslowski. His narrative style has influenced me a lot.
What about future projects?
I can’t claim that I have a passion for filmmaking or any such thing. I had thought after completing Oraalppokkam, I would take a break from direction and find a job that would provide financial security for my family.
But I realise that is impossible as the visuals of a new film have started haunting me. I have started reworking an old script of mine in partnership with a friend.
I have no idea where the finance will come from or what will happen to my family. I only know that I am going to make my next film.