Story of an underdog

Sandalwood

Story of an underdog

He is the co-script writer, director of second unit, art and casting director and line producer of the award-winning film Thithi. Meet Ere Gowda, whose real life story itself has the makings of a blockbuster, but he would rather let his acclaimed film do the talking.

This Kannada movie has not just won the Best Feature Film in Kannada in the 63rd National Film Awards, but also has several international awards under its belt. The film won 3 awards at the 68th Locarno International Film Festival, and has also won accolades at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, Marrakech International Film Festival, Mumbai Film Festival, Pune International Film Festival and 8th Bengaluru International Film Festival. Here are excerpts from an interview:

On his experiences while filming Thithi
It was great and challenging. Filmmaker Raam Reddy took care of the creative crew. I was always clear that I wanted someone from the village to be part of the movie. Right from the initial stages, I had my family involved — my cousin Manjunatha took care of costumes and props, my wife Ramya was in charge of food, my younger brother Mallesh took charge of production-related activities and sister Shruti took care of accounts. And we scheduled the work around the availability of our 4 main actors.

On telling stories
I would always share interesting anecdotes with Raam about my childhood in the village, and also gave him my take on things. So I think that was the point where I felt we could do a film based on this story.

On how awards have helped Thithi
Awards have helped publicise the film, and we were not expecting this kind of response. Our aim was to make a film that has not been made before, and rope in actors who were naturals. The idea was to give the audience a novel experience. Which is why we cast people from the village, instead of established actors.

On making unconventional choices for roles
The 4 characters — Century Gowda, Gadappa, Thamanna and Abhi — were all handpicked. Gadappa is my uncle, and I met Thamanna and Abhi during my visit to the village. But I still did not have a story. It was during a trip to Mandya for my cousin’s wedding that I met an old man who was over 100 years old, and then we scripted a story around an old man’s death — thithi is the 11th day after the funeral.

On working with non-actors
It was not hard as I would speak to them in the local dialect to make them comfortable. Also, there was not much of acting involved, as it was just about ensuring that they remembered the dialogues. Moreover, we also made sure that their day-to-day chores were carried out. For example, my uncle’s goats were fed so that he could shoot with us.

On the hardships faced
I never look back at the tough times. I like to work hard. I had to discontinue studies as I had to support my family, and my mother was diagnosed with cancer, so I started working as a security guard in Mysuru. And I later shifted to Bengaluru. I started working in Raam’s father’s office as a security personnel, and became friends with Raam.

However, I soon got bored with work and was all set to return to the village, when Raam offered me work as an office boy with his mother, Anitha Reddy. I would sleep in the office, so I learnt to operate computers at night. Then I learnt to edit using free software and tutorials available online.

A word of advice for aspiring filmmakers
I have been getting a lot of calls from people saying they have story ideas. But what I see is that they all tend to veer towards popular formula films. I feel that the focus must be on your core strength, and if you do something original, it will be successful.
 
The next step
I intend to make more movies. In fact I have a screenplay ready, but it is not yet announced. I want to continue telling new stories, and keep the audience entertained.

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