Projecting alternate realities

Projecting alternate realities

Kannada cinema

Projecting alternate realities

It took an audience to solve an audience’s problem of not having many Kannada films to respect, favour and root for. Well, that and the gutsy spontaneity from a filmmaker. Pawan Kumar, the 30-year-old director of the first crowd-funded Kannada film, Lucia, made this lucid.

The Bangalorean, who said that the film began with a murky idea in 2011, followed by various practical challenges, now has offers from viewers to invest in his future films too. He had always been associated with theatre/writing/direction, as his education in school segued into pre-university studies and broke midway engineering. Pawan met performing arts at his school, Vasavi Educational Trust, in Bangalore. His first lesson? “At the school’s play fest, I was taught that theatre also meant performing arts, and not just a cinema hall!”

The ‘theatre guy’ tag followed him to the National College, Bangalore, which fostered the artiste in him. However, he dropped out of engineering. “It was a very technology-oriented ambience, but it gave me an opportunity to set up a drama club. I was busy for two years setting up this club than becoming an engineer.”

This trajectory seemed to him as the only right one, and he took on theatre full-time. With candour, he admits, “In theatre, I was inclined toward acting. But nobody cast me.” So it was time for his own play, The Final Rehearsal (2002), the one he wrote, performed in and directed. His solo performance was a hit, bringing him under the spotlight.

“To my surprise, the act won me the Best Actor Award at a theatre festival in Mumbai. This was the big push.” Although his childhood was restricted to a few Kannada films (that of Ananth Nag), his impressionable college years let the works of Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Anurag Kashyap and Martin Scorsese bear on his directorial skills and writing techniques.

“Lucia began at that point when I had lost all the channels to bring it out. I only had a lot of space to experiment and lose nothing,” he says. It was with this same freedom that he cast new stars — rich in talent, but unknown. It was the same freedom which let the film crew have the time of its lives without the discomfort of conventional hierarchy. It was the same freedom that became an opportunity for the director to take up research-based shooting. “Shooting with a new camera (a DSLR), we had a new way of working. It was never ‘Let’s get done with this and leave’. It was always ‘How better to get done with this scene’.”

Speaking about the distinction of his stories, he said, “If people looked forward to my projects, it’s because of something philosophical I put into my film. Something that would make them think of their own life. Unless I have something to say, I cannot write.” Although directing a film in a commercial set-up differed from directing a play, Pawan made sure he stole in theatrical elements into his films. For example, “In the film Lifeu Ishtene (his directorial debut), four guys often popped up, who were not a part of the story. That’s a very normal tool in theatre. Lucia, too, is much of abstractions.”

It began with a real-life confusion.“When I was writing another script after Lifeu Ishtene, I fell asleep one afternoon and woke up late evening. But I had a nagging feeling of having spoken to someone. Only, there was no way to know if it was real.” This incident gave words for Lucia and also added a philosophical layer.

Lucia also drew on the experiences of Pawan to portray the complex world we live in. The lead’s aspiration for a common man’s way of life is an offshoot of his experience. “Since I had acted in a few films, people would recognise me. That began to irk my wife as we had no privacy. If that’s what I felt, I wondered what a big star must go through. That’s when that concept was put into the film.”

For those who felt that Lucia lingered on complexity, he said it was deliberate. “Every film encourages the audience to sit back and watch, but Lucia makes people put things together by getting involved.”

The entrepreneur in him came to the fore when the talk about Kannada films’ lack of impact was brought up, “There are about six crore people in Karnataka. There is both plus and minus of being a regional film industry,” he said.

Pinpointing what the Tamil and Telugu film industries did that the Kannada industry failed to do, he explained, “They explored their regional aspect very well. They went deep into their own space, unlike us.”

Yet, his unfailing faith in the industry was revealed when he said, “I feel there is much talent to tap here, and it is only fair that we help them grow because they will  bring in the culture of the region.”

The reliance on social media, which he said was an extension of his personal self, helped him materialise the project and restore faith in people about Kannada films.“On Facebook, people said that a good Kannada film had come out after a long time, and some of them only relied on the subtitles. But to sustain this faith, a lot more films should reach people.”
He revealed that he was penning three scripts and quipped, “Only time will tell which of them will excite me the most,” bringing on his spontaneity once more.

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