Partly autobiographical and partly fictional, Srinivas Sunderrajan discusses the bumpy ride of making ‘The Untitled Kartik Krishnan Project’

The Untitled Kartik Krishnan Project (TUKKP) was first screened as part of the Mumbai International Film Festival, 2010, in the New Faces of Indian Cinema section. The film’s director Srinivas Sunderrajan had made the film with film festivals in mind. He showed his film to a few luminaries from the film industry, who felt it had potential for a larger release. A long wait later, the film was picked up by PVR Director’s Rare initiative and released recently in Mumbai and Delhi. Srinivas Sunderrajan is keeping his fingers crossed as his film gears up for a staggered release throughout the country.

He admits the wait till the release was frustrating. “I got busy with my second film, Greater Elephant, so I didn’t grow desperate or go on a killing spree,” he says with a smile.

TUKKP catches attention, right from its unusual title. What would have been a working title for other filmmakers became the actual title of the film. Srinivas quips, “The title came to me, in my dream,” and then elaborates, “I was researching on a few directors on imdb.com. It’s common to find films that are in production to have ‘Untitled xyz project’ written against them. Once the film is complete, this tag is replaced by the actual title of the film. The next morning when I woke up, the words ‘Untitled Kartik Krishnan Project’ were stuck in my head. Since there was no script or idea in place, I was happy that at least I had a title in mind.”

The film is partly autobiographical. To be precise, Srinivas says, “It started as 20 per cent autobiographical (especially the chance meeting with Quentin Tarantino, after which Kartik Krishnan met me and wanted me to help on his short film). The rest was supposed to be fictional. But while shooting and with the amount of obstacles that cropped up, it ended up being 75-80 per cent autobiographical.”

Hands-on experience

Before TUKKP, Srinivas assisted the making of an independent Hindi film titled The Pool, directed by Chris Smith and starring Nana Patekar. The film won the Special Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival. “I learnt a lot from the experience which I then used in my short films Tea Break and Vaapsi. It took me one night to write the script of TUKKP. It was January 5, 2009,” recalls Srinivas.

As the Rs. 40,000 film found its way to MAMI and other international film festivals, critics described it as a ‘meta film’ and even appreciated its ‘guerrilla filmmaking technique’. These terms were alien to Srinivas who didn’t go to a film school. “After standard XII, I did a course in IT business management, but then dropped out and did Mass Media with the hope of entering the event management industry. I didn’t have any formal training in filmmaking,” he shares. His classmate Dev Dutt introduced him to the works of Godard, Fellini, Antonioni and Wong Kar Wai among other legends. “We also had a module in ‘Understanding Cinema’, which helped me understand filmmaking concepts,” he says.

Shoot and scoot

It took Srinivas and team 25-27 days to shoot the film, spanned over a year, since the work was done on weekends. With not much money to spare and permissions being expensive, the team did what indie filmmakers do: Hide, shoot and scoot before being discovered. The journey was eventful and worth its testing moments for Srinivas and his cast — Kartik Krishnan, Vishwesh, Santosh and Swara.

After TUKKP, Srinivas is working on Greater Elephant, which he describes as “a dramedy about a mahout who loses his elephant in the city and then enlists the help of colourful characters to find him.” The 90-minute film was shot in colour and in 10 days. “This time, it is a bigger cast and crew and less abstract. We’re hoping to release the film in September,” he says.

When you see the passion with which Srinivas works, we are bound to ask how an Indie filmmaker like him breaks even. “Any profession can be a source of bread and butter, but one has to stick with it with full commitment, belief and focus. That’s when the money trickles in. At least this is what I believe in,” he signs off.