‘If I could earn money doing theatre, I would’

‘If I could earn money doing theatre, I would’

KM Chaitanya says working with Girish Karnad was a turning point in his life

Known for his first film, ‘Aa Dinagalu’, the Kannada director K M Chaitanya has also worked extensively in the field of theatre. He has closely worked with Girish Karnad and even directed Karnad’s Kannada play ‘Odakalu Bimba’ along with the playwright himself. This play was later staged in Hindi by Karnad and Chaitanya as ‘Bikhare Bimb’ and in English with the title ‘A heap of broken images’. 

The filmmaker has recently released three 30-second films on the mobile content platform called ‘Firework’. With these videos, Chaitanya explores the fine fabric of relationships in our lives.    

In an interview with Metrolife, Chaitanya talks about his journey in the industry and about the three short videos. 

How did you get into film making?

I completed my masters from Hyderabad Central University. I used to do theatre before that. After my master’s degree, I joined Girish Karnad as an assistant director for the film, ‘Kaanooru Heggadathi’, which was based on a novel by ‘Kuvempu’. After my stint with him, I became his associate director and went on to become a director.

You completed graduation from Christ College. How was your college life?

It was great fun; it was where I did my first play. There was no theatre when I studied there in 1991, it was primarily known for rock music and football. We were the first batch who started doing plays. The very first play we did had 59 people in it; we won many awards at intercollegiate events. 

What was your childhood like?

I grew up in a family of writers. My grandfather was a ‘rashtrakavi’, my father is a writer and my mother is an artist. I grew up in a house full of books, theater and literary activities. 

Were there any childhood experiences that shaped you to be the person you are today?

I am sure all of us are shaped by our childhood. An advantage for me was that I grew up seeing writers, actors and directors coming home to discuss books and scripts. My parents often took me to watch plays. All this has naturally shaped my understanding of the art.

What kind of books did you like reading as a child?

I went through a reading curve just like any other kid. I started with Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha and then moved to ‘The Famous Five’ series by Enid Blyton. I was exposed to quite a lot of literature at a very early age. In fact, I attempted to read ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ by Fyodor Dostoyevsky when I was in my ninth standard, though I only understood it when I read it much later.

What motivated you to become a filmmaker?

I was doing theater, and if I could earn money doing so, I would have just stuck to that. But as you know, it is not something that you can do for a living. Getting a chance to work with Karnad was a learning experience because he was a playwright and a film director. I could mould my theatre sensibilities to cinema because of him. I also pursued electronic journalism for sometime before returning to television and did my first feature film in 2007. It was called ‘Aa Dinagalu’, which was both critically acclaimed and was a box-office success.

What do you consider your big break?

To get to work with Girish Karnad was a turning point in my life. He shaped my understanding of various things. The writer of my first feature film, Agni Shridhar, choosing me was my second big break. 

Tell us about the videos you have uploaded on ‘Firework’.

In most of the other apps, when we watch a horizontal video with our phones in a vertical position it doesn’t fill the screen unless we turn the phone and vice-versa, but on ‘Firework’, regardless of the position of your phone the video fills the screen and adapts to the orientation. All the videos are restricted to only 30 seconds, so when Sunil Nair, CEO, Firework India asked me if I can make fiction in 30 seconds, I froze. It was a challenge for me. However, I took time and came up with three-short films — Sleep, Genes and Stuck — all of them explore human emotions and relationships. Writing the script took the longest time, almost one and a half weeks to crack the first script. ‘Sleep’ explores the relationship between a son and his mother and how memories of her persist in his actions, ‘Genes’ explores a dark comedy through illegitimate relationships and ‘Stuck’ talks of memories of the past.  

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