August 3, 2002 
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Another award, another Lotus
Dweepa is another feather in Girish Kasaravalli's cap

MD Riti

Imagine your homestead being cut off from the mainland by an overflowing dam. You and the two men in your family are alone on your own little island, battling Nature and wildlife.

This is what Nagi, the heroine of Girish Kasaravalli's Kannada film Dweepa (The Island), faces onscreen. The film has won the Golden Lotus National Award for Best Feature Film this year. This is Kasaravalli's fourth Swarna Kamal and the film will screened as the opening film at the film festival commencing in Mumbai August 4, 2002.

Popular Kannada star Soundarya plays Nagi in this unusual film, which has a cast of just four people. She is also the producer of this film, with two members of her family as executive producers. Soundarya approached Kasaravalli a couple of years ago, saying she would like to produce a Kannada film in the memory of her father, Satyanarayana, a well-known Kannada film producer in his time.

Kasaravalli had, meanwhile, been toying with the story of Dweepa, based on a novel by Kannada novelist D'Souza, for a while. "I had read the book and liked the theme very much," says Kasaravalli to, in an exclusive interview in a sound mixing studio where he was working on his ongoing Kannada serial based on writer S L Byrappa's novel.

"It is all about how people's lives change completely when the land around them gets submerged. It is not just about physical change and survival, but about changes in culture, value systems and even basic self-confidence, caused by circumstances beyond a person's control."

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Alienation of various kinds has been a favourite theme of Kasaravalli for two decades now. In his first film Ghatashraddha, the heroine, who is a young widow, is cast out of her family and alienated by them when she dares to fall in love again. In Mane his last film before Dweepa, a young urban couple is alienated from each other and from society following an incident.

Kasaravalli won his first Golden Lotus a couple of decades ago for Ghatashraddha. Ajit won the Best Child Artiste Award for it.

His second was for Tabarana Kathe, starring Kamal Haasan's elder brother Charuhasan, who also won the Best Actor Award for his performance as the ageing pensioner Tabara Shetty.

More than a decade later, Kasaravalli won his third Lotus for Thaayi Saheba, the period film starring its producer, Jayamala, a yesteryear heroine.

There were, of course, other films in-between.

Perhaps it was the success of Saheba that inspired Soundarya to attempt the same kind of thing by producing a woman-oriented film and starring in it as well.

Soundarya loved the story when Kasaravalli narrated it to her. They were to start shooting in August 2000, but it got delayed as the Kannada industry ground to a standstill due to kidnapping of Kannada superstar Dr Rajakumar.

As heavy rains is intrinsic to the plot of the film, shooting had to be postponed to the next monsoons. The rains failed that year. But Kasaravalli shuttled up and down to the location (the Jog dams and the villages of Bellenne and Taleguppa near them), with his crew, trying to get the rainy days on film. Finally, by December that year, they had completed shooting. The film was ready for release by December 2001.

It was screened for the first time at the film festival in Kerala in April. Kasaravalli also showed it to the film appreciation course students of the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, and got excellent responses from them.

Somewhere along the way, Kasaravalli had made many changes in D'Souza's original story, with the author's glad consent. The human dimension of the interaction between characters came to the forefront of the story, with social concerns like dams displacing people becoming secondary.

Kasaravalli's films are often spaced five years apart. "I wish I could churn out films with greater frequency, but I am unable to do so," he says ruefully. "It takes me time to find a subject I like, then study the subject matter and background carefully, write and rewrite the script."

Right now, he is busy shooting episodes for his ongoing television serial, Grihabhanga. He expects the serial will conclude by early next year, and he will then be ready to look at another film.


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