‘Experimental films are always sidelined’

Director Nagabharana, whose play ‘Sattavara Neralu’ was staged for the 600th time recently, says theatre helped him think innovatively

T S Nagabharana

I am glad that my theatre journey, which is the root of my entire film career, is still going strong.

Joining BV Karanth and Adya Rangacharya in 1969 marked the beginning of my theatre career. BV Karanth, Girish Karnad, P Lankesh, Chandrashekhara Kambara are among the famous artists I have worked with.

My theatre journey has indeed helped my film career. The thought process helped me come up with a lot of experimental films as well. ‘Grahana’, which released in 1978, marked the beginning of my film career.

Having directed quite a few numbers of mainstream and parallel films, I don’t find too many differences in them apart from their attitude.

We also have certain definitive patterns formed for both mainstream and experimental films nowadays. But I think they both co-exist and give rise to each other. There are no experimental films without commercial films and vice versa.

Kannada industry has been coming up with these type of films for a long time now. But distribution and exhibition are the main challenges.

Many experimental or low budget films don’t even get to hit the theatres. Digital platforms somehow make it easier these days. Back in the day, there was no way these films could reach the audience. That is when I found out that there had to be a middle ground where though the face was of a commercial film, the heartbeat was of an experimental film.

I came up with 30 such films among which 20 films ran for 100 days. Films like ‘Santha Shishunala Sharifa’, ‘Mysooru Mallige’ and ‘Chinnari Mutha’ were all considered as commercial films but were mainly experimental; ‘Chinnari Mutha’ was the only Kannada film for children that ran for 25 days. Moreover, films like ‘Janumada Jodi’, ‘Chigurida Kanasu’, were hardly given any importance as they were regional cinemas. On the contrary, ‘Swades’ which was a Hindi remake of ‘Chigurida Kanasu’ did quite well.

Over the years, the directing style has also changed to suit the audience. Back then, cinema was the only mode of entertainment. Being an amalgamated art, it is supposed to cater to the needs of everyone. Whereas, in recent times, it is difficult to choose a target audience owing to the different options available.

Having said that, I think making books into films is challenging for a director. It’s a shift of medium from one to another. It is important to retain the elements in the book while we adapt and make changes in the visual medium according to our needs.

My upcoming film is based on Poornachandra Tejaswi’s novel ‘Jugari Cross’. The plot is beautiful with a message about eco-system. The main challenge I had to deal with here is the time frame. I had to make a lot of changes while writing the script to cater to the needs of the present audience.

Then again, books and cinemas are different. When we make this shift, it is like shifting to another house. Digital platforms are flooded with short films by young filmmakers. I think it is better if they go through some training before they venture upon something like this. Acting and directing schools mend them and show them the right path to walk on.

TS Nagabharana

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‘Experimental films are always sidelined’

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