The angry winner

A still from ‘Sexy Durga’

A still from ‘Sexy Durga’   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Sanal Kumar Sasidharan on winning the Hivos Tiger award for Sexy Durga and why threats and criticism will not stop him from making his kind of movie

From the day indie filmmaker Sanal Kumar Sasidharan announced his third movie, there were voices raised against Sexy Durga, the title of the film. Even after Sexy Durga won the Hivos Tiger award at the International Film Festival of Rotterdam (IFFR), the first Indian movie to win the prestigious award, there are voices that continue to mutter and snarl about the movie’s title. Sanal posted on his Facebook page that he had received threats from people claiming to be upset about the film’s title.

“As I had told my critics earlier, all I have to tell such people is to watch the film before they jump to conclusions. Such irate voices had raised objections as soon as I had announced the film. But I reminded them that they should not equate the name Durga with that of the Goddess alone. A lot of poor girls are also named Durga!”

The Noir road movie, shot in 20 days in Thiruvananthapuram, was “inspired by the Nirbhaya incident but it is not about that alone,” says Sanal over phone from Amsterdam.

“It is about a woman travelling in a city after sunset and what she has to confront. It exposes the mindset of our society. This film critiques the narrow and patriarchal attitudes rampant around us. As in all my films, through the film, I draw a sketch of the characters and their attitudes,” adds Sanal.

Shot without a script, the movie, nevertheless, was filmed according to a plan that Sanal had. “There is a direction to the scenes. The actors knew what the scene was about and where we began and concluded. But there was a kind of fluidity to the shots cranked by Pratap Joseph, the cinematographer,” he adds.

Sanal Kumar Sasidharan, winner of the Hivos Tiger Award at the 46th International Film Festival Rotterdam

Sanal Kumar Sasidharan, winner of the Hivos Tiger Award at the 46th International Film Festival Rotterdam   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

The films stars Rajshri Deshpande of Angry Indian Goddess fame. The rest of the cast are all Sanal’s friends and acquaintances. “I did try to cast a female lead from Kerala. But I myself was not sure how the character would pan out. I wanted an actress who was open to experimenting with the character and go with the flow. But many of the actress shied away when I mentioned there might be nudity. Rajshri did not have any hassles about her character when I briefed her about it and that is why I cast her,” says Sanal.

However, Sanal is an angry man. He feels that indie filmmakers and films get noticed only when it gets an award or is selected for a film festival. “The entire establishment is such that there is a hullabaloo only when indie films get noticed in festivals. The promotion that mainstream, big-budget films get during its making and release are completely absent in the case of our films. We struggle for a space to reach our films to viewers,” he says.

During his acceptance speech, Sanal said that he was dedicating the award to the indie film movement in Kerala. “It is againt great odds that we make films. Not all the movies win awards but that does not mean the films are irrelevant. Those films sink into oblivion on account of the lack of support from media and critics. At the same time, look at the kind of space given to meaningless works that might star big names and directors,” he rages.

Sanal adds that while winning the award is indeed a proud moment for him and for indie films in Malayalam, he says he does not plan to make movies to please society or critics.

“There is a kind of subtle and overt moral policing in the creative arts sphere, an attempt to please viewers for commercial gains. That is why great works are rare now. I make films when I feel inspired by an incident or idea. Right now, there are many such ideas in my mind. What will finally become a film depends on the spark that triggers my mind,” he explains.

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 8:43:13 PM |

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