The fag end of 2018 saw two films talk about sex in contrasting manners. Amit Sharma’s Badhaai Ho, one of Bollywood’s runaway hits of the year, was about a middle-aged couple handling an uncomfortable situation when they expect their third child.
The comedy-drama exposes the strong hesitance in honest discussions on sex prevailing in the Indian society.
Nathicharami, a Kannada film directed by Mansore, too has sex at its centre but the treatment is serious and straightforward. With the story of a widow’s (masterfully performed by Sruthi Hariharan) sexual desires, Nathicharami gets close to uncomfortable truths. The sincere emotion in the film makes a strong impact. Mansore is one of the directors who was a regular attendee at BIFFES and was inspired by the film festival, N Vidyashankar told DH during his interaction with us.
After its world premier at the Mumbai Film Festival, Nathicharami wasn’t embraced as wholeheartedly as Badhaai Ho by the mainstream Kannada audience. But Mansore’s film, with a subject that’s rarely explored in the Kannada industry, is an important attempt. Happy with the NETPAC International jury award for the film at the Bangalore International Film Festival, Mansore, a national award-winning director, talks to DH about the film. Excerpts:
What triggered you to make Nathicharami?
This subject was running in my mind for many months. Many judgemental responses to social media posts by women disturbed me. Also, Raj B Shetty’s Ondu Motteya Kathe gave more mileage to my thinking. The film showed a man’s need of a companion. I wanted to tell a story from the women’s point of view and show how society controls discussions of such important topics.
The film has a parallel track. Then there is a psychiatrist who is ‘different’. Explain the process of writing this film.
I wanted a woman to write this film because I felt that would help us get closer to our idea. I like parallel tracks because they provide different dimensions to a subject. So in contrast to the lead character, a widow who is craving to fulfill her sexual desires, there is a wife who is unhappy about her sex life and marriage as a whole. Sandhya (Rani) ma’am (writer) did a really good job.
We experimented with the psychiatrist character. It is inspired from Poornachandra Tejaswi’s lifestyle. That’s the way he lived. Just because he is a psychiatrist, we didn’t want to typically box him up in a room with serious dialogues. Here, he is a nature lover and draws meanings from nature’s ways to understand human problems. Tejaswi’s Karvalo further helped us shape this character.
Be it the broken pot, the broken tap, the wind chimes or flowers, the extensive focus on metaphors is evident. Also, silence has prominence in Nathicharami.
I am an artist so I am very attached to images. Watching world cinema has helped me understand the power of metaphors. So I worked hard to let images convey the meanings. And silence has a powerful effect. That’s the reason the final 20 minutes have just three to four dialogues.
Though the film talks about sex, the act itself is shown just once and that too towards the end.
It was intentional. I don’t have anything against intimate scenes in films. But I didn’t want to show them here. My focus was on the ‘before and after’ of sex, the struggles that a person desperate for sex experience. It was also about an inner battle of a widow, still loyal to her husband despite yet wanting to fulfill her physical desires.
Sruthi Hariharan was terrific in the lead role.
Whenever you speak to Sruthi, you sense a great energy in her. I am glad she liked the character and worked on it for three months to understand it. Sruthi’s performance has played a huge role in the film’s popularity. I was blessed with brilliant actors. Sanchari Vijay, Balaji Manohar and Sharanya gave life to the characters.
Are you happy with the way it was received in the mainstream set up?
Well it’s tough to say why the film didn’t have a long run in theatres. Perhaps the timing of the release, one week after a big film like KGF (Chapter 1), wasn’t right. But people are interested in such subjects. I received a message from Netflix, two week after its release there, that Nathicharami was in the trending list of Indian films. This is the second Kannada film to be in the list after Pawan Kumar’s U Turn. We also had to fight piracy. We removed five YouTube links and each of them had one lakh views.
How was the response from the industry?
K M Chaitanya told me that it’s one of its kinds in the Kannada industry. Yogaraj Bhat said I have touched a rare topic and the film will have a special place in the industry. Director PC Shekhar and cameraman Satya Hegde were also impressed.