WHO is he?
Kannada film director and screenwriter widely considered a major figure in Indian Parallel Cinema. Kasaravalli graduated from the FTII in Pune in 1975 and has made about 15 feature films to date since his debut work, Ghatashraddha. He has won the National Award for Best Feature Film four times, for Ghatashraddha (1977), Tabarana Kathe (1986), Thaayi Saheba (1997) and Dweepa (2001).
WHY is he of interest?
Unlike many Parallel Cinema films that limit themselves to social criticism and sacrifice genuine exploration for narrow partisan politics, Kasaravalli’s films reveal themselves to be remarkably fertile and rich for sustained examination. The characters in his films are not simply helpless people oppressed by overpowering structures, but very dynamic elements that straddle multiple social contours, wherein the ideas of freedom and entrapment become difficult to define.
WHERE to discover him?
An uncharacteristic film, yet arguably the director’s finest work, Mane (1993) details the life of a newly married couple who move into a newly rented apartment. Made just when India had opened up its markets to the world — a historical move whose impact seems ever increasing — Mane is a Kafkaesque tale about the invasion of the private and the personal by external forces that uses an off-kilter image and sound scheme to generate a otherworldly feeling of despair and downfall.
WHAT are his films about?
Kasaravalli’s films are firmly situated in the humanist tradition, in which the plight of one individual in a particular social setup is examined with empathy. The protagonist in a Kasaravalli is almost always a woman, who is regularly bound by the rules of a conservative establishment. His films are rife with religious rituals, legal procedures, rules of social conduct and processes of legitimisation, through which the society under consideration justifies and perpetuates itself. These works set themselves apart from the lesser films of Parallel Cinema by steering away from superficial melodrama for an analytical examination.
The style of filmmaking Kasaravalli adopts is generally classicist: static shots, location shooting, low-key lighting, double framing through doors and windows, gradual pans and tilts, a melodic classical score, naturalistic or understated performances and a functional editing pattern that is faithful to the film’s text and continuity. Kasaravalli also regularly employs major ellipses that bypass dramatic segments, which the audience has to fill in mentally, and intertitles that indicate the passage of time.