Of hopes & aspirations

New efforts

Of hopes & aspirations

What does a 13-year-old girl do when her parents decide to marry her off? She pedals a distance of over 50 km to meet the chief minister of the State! Jeerjimbe - the jewel beetle has many such situations that are drawn from real-life incidents. “It took me over eight years to develop the plot.

I consider it as an anthropological study as I referred to more than 800 examples that relate to the movie’s theme,” says Karthik Saragur, the director of the movie that bagged four honours at the recent State awards.

He relates the team’s efforts to the movie’s tagline ‘Kalalli Chakra, Hegalalli Rekke’ (broadly translating to chasing one’s dreams). A theatre person and musician, Karthik was drawn to children’s movies when he realised that very few movies in Kannada strike a chord with children. “I have eight scripts suitable for children’s movies now,” reveals Karthik, as he moves on to explain the making of Jeerjimbe.

Mirroring reality

The movie unfolds in layers narrating the lives of rural adolescent girls, their innocence, their dreams, and their effort to break conventional barriers. It touches upon the issues of child marriage, gender equality and sexual abuse. “But we were clear that the final product should be a feature film, not a documentary,” states Karthik. While education lies at its core, the elements of magic realism have been used deftly to make it entertaining too. “The two metaphors — cycle and jewel beetle — are used to signify hope and freedom for girls. While owing a cycle has given them a sense of liberation and an ability to set higher goals, jewel beetle stands for their need to give wings to their dreams,” says Karthik.

According to Karthik, it is not easy to make a children’s movie. “It is our responsibility to entertain them, and at the same time, mould their sensibilities. It’s not enough if we feed them with information about their rights and responsibilities. We should ensure that the information translates into knowledge and later becomes a part of their wisdom.”

“The movie has over 300 children as actors, and about 200 technicians behind the scene. All the actors, except Suman Nagarkar, are new  to films. And, it was a conscious decision to show all the characters with their positive and negative shades,” says Karthik.

Siri Vanalli, who played the lead role in the movie, bagged the Best Child Actor Award for her convincing performance.  

While the average budget for children’s movies is about Rs 35 lakh, Jeerjimbe was made at a cost of Rs 85 lakh, 25% of which was spent on sound technology. “We have used Sync Sound recording in the film, which is relatively new in the Kannada film industry. I was fortunate to have a team of like-minded talents, including music director Charan Raj, who won the State award for Best Music, Mahavir Sabannavar, one of the best sound designers in the industry, and cinematographer Balaji Manohar,” says Karthik.

Interestingly, Karthik turned out to be the biggest winner at the State awards, bagging two honours — Best Children’s Film and Best Lyrics (for the song ‘O Dore’).
 
With some help
Jeerjimbe also heralds a new genre of film-making as a crowdfunded effort. A total of 44 people have pooled in money, and interestingly, all except well-known producer Pushkara Mallikarjunaiah were new to the film industry. “In the past, film-making was an individual pursuit, while film-viewing was a group activity. Now we see collective efforts to develop the creative content, while film-watching is increasingly becoming an individual activity,” Karthik points out.

Karthik’s theatre experience and previous projects that include a documentary on Vivekananda and a 72-episode series on the history of Bengaluru have helped him grow into a promising director. He also conducts film appreciation courses for children between the age of 10 and 16.

He feels that the State awards are a positive reinforcement and wishes that the trend continues in the festival circuit too. While the movie is set for a July release, Karthik has already started working on his next project that revolves around food and memories.

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