Neither dark, nor depressing

Anjali Patil in a still from Naa Bangaru Talli  

N aa Bangaru Talli is a film not many had heard of before the announcement of National Awards this year. The film bagged the National Award for Best Feature Film in Telugu for 2013, its lead actress Anjali Patil (more popular now as Fanny from Finding Fanny) received a special mention from the jury and music director Shantanu Moitra received the National Award for Best Background Score.

For director Rajesh Touchriver and producer Sunita Krishnan, the awards should have made the distribution of the yet-unreleased film a cakewalk. It didn’t.

Crowd funding

Sunita, who spearheads the organisation Prajwala that works relentlessly to rescue women and children from sex trafficking, had nothing more to stake.

“We approached different producers and since they didn’t show interest, we funded it ourselves. I lost a lot of things I owned, including my house. I didn’t have anything else I could stake. So we went in for crowd funding,” she says.

Naa Bangaru Talli is scheduled to release on November 21 and the team is beaming. “Many distributors told us they liked the film but weren’t willing to back it for release. We had no star in our film,” Rajesh recalls.

The film narrates the true story of a father and daughter whom Sunita encountered through her work. “This story is an example of truth being stranger than fiction,” says Sunita.

Rajesh looked around for an actress who could play the protagonist. “There are hardly any Telugu speaking girls in the Telugu film industry. We have actresses from Kerala, Tamil Nadu or the North. Most of them are here to become stars and their fee was beyond our budget. I sought help from a friend who is a professor at the National School of Drama. He suggested Anjali Patil who then had done Delhi in a Day. This was before she had done Prakash Kha’s Chakravyuh,” he says.

The film was shot in Rajahmundry, in both Telugu and Malayalam. The Malayalam version Ente opened to critical acclaim.

Rajesh and Sunita describe Naa Bangaru Talli as a thriller fit to be watched by a family audience. “Films on trafficking could be dark and depressing. But this one isn’t,” he says. To some extent, this had to do with Sunita. “I am a movie buff and watch films first day first show; but I don’t like art films. In fact, I couldn’t sit through Piravi, one of Rajesh’s early Malayalam films,” she says.

Not an art film

Sunita was clear that if she was using cinema as a tool to talk about trafficking, it will have to be in a format accessible to masses. “It has to be entertaining, offering a transformative experience. The credit goes to Rajesh for translating this powerful and complicated story into an entertaining thriller,” she says.

She has watched Nagesh Kukunoor’s Lakshmi and Pradeep Sarkar’s Mardaani and says, “ Mardaani dealt with the criminal side to trafficking whereas we have a human relationship story.”

Eight international awards and three national awards came as rewards to the challenges they faced while making the film. “In the last 20 years, one has been working with a mission to make the world safe for women and children. Through my work, I’ve been able to make a few thousands or lakhs of people aware if the problem. Cinema is a great tool to reach a much wider audience. I knew nothing about filmmaking; I didn’t realise it would be a greater challenge to release the film. We threw the film back at the universe and the universe conspired beautifully to make it happen through crowd funding,” she smiles.

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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 5:34:57 AM |

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