The rocky road to success in Sandalwood

Short films in Kannada are no more made for a few ‘likes’ on YouTube. For a large number of artistes, they are the first step to glory in Kannada cinema

Ganesh Hegde gave up his lucrative career as an engineer in Germany when he decided to walk down a different path. 

He came back to Bengaluru and joined Rakshit Shetty on his team of writers, Shetty’s ‘Seven Odds’. Yet to sit in a director’s chairs,  Ganesh has made the first step 
towards it — a short film.

The second step towards it are film festivals and competitions. Having picked up both Best Actor and Best Music Director at the South Indian International Movie Awards 2019, he is a familiar face to producers. He now takes full-fledged scripts to them.

The short film genre was initially an amateur sport in this part of the world. They would spark some interest on YouTube, which would die down.

Today, it is a medium that helps those with money seek out ones with talent.
Nidhi Hegde, who has acted in about 10 shorts, says, “Short films are a pitch for the directors to make features. But nowadays, since the films are screened at festivals, even actors are getting noticed.”

She has landed a small role in a film starring an A-lister.

The genre is still not a way for quick profits. Out of the Rs 2.5 lakh Ganesh’s producers spent on his short film, they have only got back Rs 1 lakh.

But there is no regret in his voice: “We spent Rs 2.5 lakh on it as an investment for the future. We made it like a feature film, but on a smaller scale,” he says.

Remunerations aside, the short films have helped Kannada cinema trot the globe, earning praise in festivals held in Brazil, Bhutan, Nepal and New York, among others. 
But not everyone is happy with modest profits and festival exposure.

Kshema B K, the director of ‘Apraapta’ which won ‘Best Short Film’ at the Hyderabad Bengali International Short Film Festival last year, says, “I spent around Rs 80,000 to 
Rs 90,000 and haven’t earned anything yet. I’ve only gotten shields and certificates from the festivals.”

There is a clear advantage for people who have been to film schools.

“If I had gone into the industry without going to a film school, my mind would have gone in a hundred different directions. Nobody will sit with you and tell you about the process. In a film school, you’ll learn everything in two years. And you’ll take four or five years to learn the same things outside,” says Uthkarsha Balaram, the director of ‘Naan Devru’.

For established actors, short films have become a way of expanding their horizons.
Gopalkrishna Deshpande, of ‘Nathicharami’ fame, mentions the short films ‘Paduvarahalli’ and ‘Chowkabara’ while talking about how the medium had enticed established actors like Avinash and Achyuth Kumar.

He adds, “As an artiste, I’d like to experiment in short films. I can’t act there for money. Still, there’s an opportunity to explore.” However, life is not all struggle for budding filmmakers.

For Jai Shankar, making his first film, ‘Narasimhaiah Phylum’, was a struggle. But the film proved that he had substance, and paved the way for his next film.

The next, ‘Lacchavva’, was backed by a production house.

“Everything was a call away for us. When we wanted to shoot in a movie theatre for a day, we got it. We even shot on a train and a bus. It would have been difficult for us if we had made it independently,” he says.

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