Values to the fore

Values to the fore

Director Abhaya Simha talks about his latest film, 'Paddayi'

While his first film, Gubbachigalu, won the National Award for the best children’s film in 2008, the latest one, Paddayi, is making waves in the industry for its theme, content and making. In addition, it recently won the National Award for the best Tulu film and has been chosen for prestigious film festivals. Each of the four films directed by Abhaya Simha in the last 10 years has got critical acclaim. This Film and Television Institute (FTII) graduate has more than 20 documentaries on culture and environmental issues to his credit. Excerpts from an interview:

‘Paddayi’ is an adaptation of ‘Macbeth’. What made you draw parallels between Shakespeare’s popular play and the life of the fishermen in coastal Karnataka?

Macbeth has touched generations of film-makers and artistes in many ways. For me, Macbeth is a story of ambition, desire and guilt. These core values are ever-relevant. When I was pondering over this idea, I thought it would be interesting to see how it could be placed in today’s situation. Since I was born and brought up in Mangaluru, I had seen the lifestyle of the fishing community from close quarters. However, their life was changing drastically due to many factors. I could see the core values of Macbeth playing out in their lives every day. Another key element in Macbeth is the idea of war and power. For fishing communities, the war is every day with nature. They have to brave the sea to earn their meal. Paddayi means ‘west’ in Tulu. The fishing community in the Udupi-Malpe area refers going to the sea as going westwards. It’s ironical that the ideas of luxury, money and greed associated with it are slowly crawling into these simple people’s lives. 

You have tried different genres...

I am fortunate to have been able to try different things in each of my projects. Every time a story touches me deeply, it demands to be told. The journey thus begins and takes me along. So, it is difficult to stick to any one genre. It is always a joy to work with new stories.

You won the National Award for your first movie... Can you tell us about the movie?

Winning the National Award was a very special feeling. The story for this movie came from a friend of mine, NAM Ismail. The sense of ecological collapse was the driving force for the film. We attempted to see the changing urban ecosystem through the eyes of children. It was my first film, so I was probably as innocent in film-making as my little actors were. We wanted to raise a few questions and probably initiate a discussion. However, it is hard to bring any real impact with just one film. Though the medium is very strong, it is still small to influence the society in a major way.

Can you tell us about your efforts to document plays and Yakshagana performances? What is the idea behind it?

I have been a part of various video documentation for about 10 years now. But in the last three years, it has taken a formal shape through Sanchi Foundation. It is a small organisation run by three friends, NAM Ismail, Omshivaprakash and myself. We started this journey as we realised the need for documenting various performing art forms. We do documentation in folk, classical art forms and other streams of knowledge on a priority basis. We also conduct workshops and train people in the documentation.