Filmmaker Girish Kasaravalli talks about his documentary on U.R. Ananthamurthy and how the writer has been an influence on his life
Girish Kasaravalli’s documentary film on acclaimed writer U.R. Ananthamurthy takes the unusual path. It documents the writer’s intellectual persona through a discussion of his fiction and non-fiction works. In doing so, it brings to centrestage and reiterates the writer’s role as a thinker and cultural critic, his views on Gandhism and socialism, his philosophy of the frontyard and the backyard, and the three kinds of hunger. The film is Girish Kasaravalli’s creative response to the writer’s huge body of work, and also to his role as a public intellectual. Excerpts from an interview with the filmmaker.
You are a feature film maker. How did the idea of making this documentary come about?
My friend, writer and film critic Vidyarthi Chatterjeee came up with this idea. I agreed that it was important, but since I was not familiar with the documentary genre I wasn’t too keen. But he insisted, and I began to think about it. In the last minute, I applied to Films Division and fortunately got the approval.
As I thought about this film I was going to make, I realised that I was not interested in doing new things with the form, but in discovering Ananthamurthy in a new way.
The film opens with you — about the things that shaped your world in your growing up years, and how this writer was an integral part of it. You move to the particular from the personal and as the film proceeds, you bring in various worldviews about Ananthamurthy. Can you explain this synthesis?
I have been reading Ananthamurthy for several decades and have been inspired by his creative works. Through this documentary, I wanted to look at him conceptually. So when I spoke to thinkers such as Ashish Nandy, Shiv Vishwanathan, Samik Bandopadhyay and others, I was trying to extract answers for my own questions. For instance, I asked Shiv, ‘What is the uniqueness of Ananthamurthy?’ which is my question, and also the answer for which I am interested as part of my own quest. The entire film is a search and I have found my answers in the answers of people I have spoken too. The biggest find for me is that I discovered that Ananthamurthy occupies a space between two binaries.
Did you deliberately privilege Ananthamurthy’s intellectual persona in the film over all else?
I was certainly not interested in a biopic. Where he is born, where he grew up… all this seemed redundant to me. I am not influenced by his writings or arguments because he is born in Thirthahalli or studied in a particular college. I am interested in his ideas. During the early phase of this film, I discussed this with film critic Manu Chakravarthy and decided to try this. It is difficult to work with ideas.
I don’t even use film clippings in the documentary, because then they become the creative interpretation of another creative artiste. I started looking for passages from his works that would hold insights into his works for non-Kannadigas as well. For instance, when you choose passages from his novel Bharathipura you become aware of his ideological positions, and also how he uses language in his creative process.
The title is very interesting, U.R. Ananthamurthy, not a biography, but a hypothesis. It captures Ananthamurthy as someone who is constantly reshaping and revising his thoughts and ideas on various issues.
The title is actually what Shiv Vishwanathan says in the film. He put it so beautifully, and I felt that was exactly my thoughts on Ananthamurthy too.
Since the film begins with ‘you’, tell us about the nature of engagement you had with this writer during the making of this film. Did you ‘re-learn’ him and do you thereby claim a better understanding of the creative writer?
My reading of Ananthamurthy was in parts. With such a reading, it is not possible to completely grasp his argument and you do not even see the continuity. For the sake of the film I re-read him. I could see the progression in his ideas, the change in his thinking and also how, with changing time, even I was responding to him differently. During the process of making this film, I began to understand the limitations of my own thinking. Also, even though it seems like a strange outcome, making a film on Ananthamurthy has helped me understand filmmaker Godard better.
The Hindu Lit for Life, in collaboration with Cinema Rendezvous & Hotel Savera, presents
Word on Screen
Two films on India's two great living authors, U.R. Ananthamurthy and M.T. Vasudevan Nair by Girish Kasaravalli and K.P. Kumaran
A Momentous Life in Creativity
Documentary on M.T. Vasudevan Nair, English, 72 min
January 4, 2014, at 6.30 p.m., Sabha Hall, Hotel Savera.
The Hindu Lit for Life thanks the IGNCA and the director K P Kumaran for giving us permission to screen this film as part of the festival programme.
Premiere screening of Girish Kasaravalli’s Ananthamurthy: Not A Biography But A Hypothesis
English, 75 min, January 5, 2014, at 10.00 a.m.
Sandesh Hall, Hotel Savera
The film will be followed by an interaction with Girish Kasaravalli and comments and observations by writers and cinema personalities from Chennai.
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