B. Suresh's award-winning film Puttakkana Highway raises a strong voice against our lopsided vision of development

National-award winning film “Puttakkana Highway” hits the screen when the farming community has been sacrificed for the “greater common good”, all in the name of development. This is happening everywhere: at both the state and national levels. The film directed by B. Suresh raising pertinent questions on development and displacement has been chosen as the best regional film on social issues.

For many years now, issues around land acquisition have remained merely at the level of seeming oppositions: agriculture versus industries, livelihood versus development. But the film moves beyond this, and tries to draw attention to how the middle class has now aligned itself with the system and hence has no qualms of conscience in the gross injustice meted out to one section of the society, that continues to remain largely voiceless.

The film is based on Nagatihalli Chandrashekar's story, but Suresh has made suitable changes to explore the underbelly, the politician and the corporate world nexus in ruining the agrarian economy. With indirect references to Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC) project, the film highlights exploitation of farmers to pave way for development.

The film also portrays the unsuccessful fight of the poor to protect their land, with which they have an emotional bond. It makes a scathing attack on the mindless development plans of the government, besides the changing mentality of the farming community that considers business as the better option.

Through the plight of Puttakka, Suresh exposes various facets of displacement in a series of fleeting images. Puttakka gets displaced for the second time to National Highway-108 that facilitates ‘movement of 12 trucks at a stretch'.

To understand the flipside of development, you have to watch “Puttakkana Highway”, says Suresh, who was haunted by the subject for over eight years after a traumatic personal experience. This writer-filmmaker who has been largely influenced by the films of Emir Nemanja Kusturica and thinkers like Chomsky and Caldwell says, “It was a very long process. I wrote first version in 2003 and finally shot the 13 version. The first version was too linear, and characters were black and white. The script improved with every draft and in the tenth version, television evolved as a character.” Suresh successfully used flashback technique to present the multiple layers of the society. “It gave me a poetic licence, to narrate the story in the way I wanted to,” says Suresh.

With a series of images, the use of electronic media and other narration tools, Suresh metaphorically represents the plight of Puttakka. “My intention was to present an all inclusive vision. I wanted to narrate untold story of a larger society that includes creatures other than human beings also,” explains Suresh.

The agonising silence of Shruthi in the climax is the hall mark of the film. “Had Puttakka spoken even a single word, the impact of the film would have gone. Through her silence I wanted to project her placid anger,” reasons Suresh.

Even as he is still soaking in the success of “Puttakka…” he has a whole lot of projects lined up. He is involved in writing the script “Bahuroopi” about a folk form, apart from three other projects.

Meanwhile, Prakash Rai is planning to do two films with Suresh. “Dhoni” deals about education and parenthood and “Swaroopa” is based on “Mukhamukhi” a play by Yashavanta Chittala.