Where have all the sparrows gone? Director Abhaya Simha pondered this question and decided that Bangalore's dwindling sparrow population would form the main theme of his debut film, “Gubbachchigalu”. The film revolves around the quest of two children, a girl and a boy, to find sparrows in the city. All their efforts, however, are in vain.

In a discussion on the film held at Lavanya Theatre, organised by Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan as part of the 4th Indo-German Film Festival, Abhaya explained the challenges he faced when making the film and his reasons for experimenting with the script of “Gubbachchigalu”.

“People asked me, why did you choose sparrows instead of crows? The health of the sparrow is a litmus test for the wellbeing of the environment. Sparrows are the only birds that can co-exist with human beings. Though the preservation of the tiger and the fox are important, what about animals in our immediate environment, like the dog? I think it essential to preserve them too,” says a passionate Abhaya.

“In one scene of the film, the children ask a scientist about gubbachchis. When they get no reply from him, they speak in English. When he finally bothers to listen, he says, ‘Oh! Are you talking about Passer Domesticus?' This scene suggests that we may have great knowledge, we maybe aware of the technical names of virtually everything, but we have lost our personal touch. Sparrows have been an integral part of our growing up years, in Kannada the word “Gubbi” (sparrow) is an endearment. But today, the emotional, poetic bonding with gubbachchis is gone,” says Abhaya.

“After I graduated from the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune (FTII), I was asked to direct mainstream cinema, but I chose to direct art films. I have always been concerned with issues of ecology and the environment. I wanted to make a film that would not preach, but hold up a mirror to society,” says Abhaya. Abhaya is grateful for the training he received at FTII. “I was exposed to the classics. Films like ‘Amelie' and ‘Alice in Wonderland' were there in the back of my mind, when writing the script for ‘Gubbachchigalu'.”

Quiz him on who his heroes in filmmaking are and Abhaya is quick to reply, “I don't believe in icons. I just want to make good films. Each film is different, and I don't like competing with anyone. I don't like the word ‘competition', to me, it sounds very mainstream,” concludes Abhaya.

Abhaya's next film is “Shikari” with Mamoothy playing an important role. It compares Colonialism and neo-Colonialism and Abhaya describes it as a “serious film within the mainstream genre.”