Director Joe Eshwar’s debut film Kunthapura is set for release next month

Former journalist Joe Eshwar started out writing a book and had completed six chapters when he decided it would look better on film. It was a very ‘visual’ book and therefore he embarked upon making Kunthapura which is due for release next month.

The name Kunthapura reminds one of Raja Rao’s novel Kanthapura. Colonialism and nationalism formed the backdrop of Raja Rao’s work and they do feature prominently in Kunthapura. “Kanthapura and Malgudi inspired me to create Kunthapura, another fictitious village in Karnataka as is Kanthapura,” says Joe.

Independence struggle

The Bangalore-bred Joe says that Kannadigas have a streak of rebelliousness and revolutionary spirit which was reflected in the freedom struggle. Historical connect with Karnataka led to Mysore forming the site of action. “Most villages have some link to the independence struggle.”

A tiny fictitious village therefore became the scene of the action of a film that moves back and forth, from the present to the past. Charu Hasan, Anu Hasan and Biyon act in the film besides a few British actors. “Charu sir represents today’s India and Suzanne, (an English actor) today’s England. Anu’s world view offers a perspective on the present. I have used symbolism but that is not to say that this is an art house production. My film is a commercial venture with a few elements of commercial cinema,” he explains.

The hero, Joe reveals, is a revolutionary called Kazi Bismillah Khan. “There were many freedom fighters from Northern Karnataka, of whom many were Muslims. I want to remind people, through my film, that we got freedom because of the collective effort of all Indians irrespective of their religion or caste.”

The son of a retired Air Force official, Joe says, he has been influenced by his father. That sense of nationalism and the love of one’s country he has imbibed from his father. He calls it that “respecting the national anthem and the national flag thing.” Joe divides his time between Kottayam, his native town and Bangalore.

The English connection extends beyond the script. Parts of the film were shot in the UK. For instance the Bolton railway station became the Mysore railway station. “It had a more authentic feel. A railway station in India would be a giveaway – there would be power lines, the hassle of getting permission to shoot and then the trains which are modern…” Lake District became Ooty, the interiors of Wales with their colonial structures became colonial India. “Since parts of my film had many British people it made sense to shoot in a place where there were many of them.”

Joe calls the film multi-lingual because it begins and ends with Kannada dialogues uttered by Charu Hasan’s character Krishnappa Shastri. The rest of the ‘action’ is in Malayalam and English with a bit of Tamil used by Anu Hasan’s character. The film will also be released in 18 theatres in UK, Joe says, with English sub-titles.