The elephant in the room

What started out as a serious film for independent filmmaker Srinivas Sunderrajan emerged as an existential black comedy with the involvement of writer Omkar Sane

Published - September 03, 2012 06:40 pm IST - Bangalore

Srinivas Sunderrajan's Greater Elephant. Photos: Special Arrangement

Srinivas Sunderrajan's Greater Elephant. Photos: Special Arrangement

Independent filmmaker Srinivas Sunderrajan has gotten comfortable on the international festival circuit with his second film Greater Elephant . The film follows the search of a mahout who has lost his elephant, a theatre owner who has lost her god, a god who has lost his identity, a devil who has lost his teeth, a constable who has lost his faith and they’ve all lost their marbles. Greater Elephant is an assembly of those who still haven’t found what they’re looking for – a purpose.

What's the story behind Greater Elephant ?

I was at a bus stop when I saw a mahout driving his elephant towards a fruit seller. I started thinking about the consequences if the elephant got lost in the city – what thoughts would race through the mahout’s head or what the implication of this loss would be. And it was as if his purpose in life would be lost — and he has to find and reclaim it. It’s one of those existential thoughts about a ‘search’ for something set against a human society that is slowly losing its grip on reality.

Greater Elephant is about a mahout who has lost his elephant in the city and enlists the help of many colourful characters (Dracula, Lord Shiva impostor etc) to help him find the pachyderm!

Is the metaphor this film speaks of one that is relevant to you as the maker of the film?

The theme of search is explored through the mahout and the other characters and this is reflective of our personal lives – a search to find our purpose. A lot of times we ask ourselves questions that come out of introspection and observation, of the way one deals with their own lives. The film relates this quest to the metaphor, on behalf of all of us.

Crowd-funding is niche and new. Can you give me an idea of the trouble a film-maker goes through to get his film to the screens?

Film-making doesn’t cease at the stage of having a finished product. The rest is getting the film across to the intended or general masses and that’s where a lot of factors come into the picture. Advertising, theatre rental, digitisation etc. requires a lot of money and with no big names to lure audiences and an unknown director, the stakes are high and the finances required to get the film across is almost level as the making budget. And crowd-funding is a novel platform that’s just found its way into India after finding success in the western countries. It’s the process in which we involve cinephiles to invest in a film and thereby getting to be part of the film’s crew!

How does crowd-funding work in the practical sense? Have there been other films that have been crowd funded?

Usually, crowd-sourcing happens before a film is made or sometimes during the post-production process, but in our case, we already had a finished product in our hands and it was when we started speaking to distributors and buyers for the release that we realised we had no funds to get the film out. A chance meeting with Anshulika from Wishberry gave us the idea of maybe using crowd support to raise to get the film out to everyone. Around the same time, another Indian film-maker, Onir created his own platform to crowd fund his film “I Am”. I started doing some research on the model, how it works and how one can customise it to suit ones needs. And when talks about Greater Elephant’s release started, one of the ideas that struck me was to try and involve friends and cinema-lovers to be part of your film through crowd funding.

When a film travels to festivals, does that pose the danger of being typecast as a certain kind of film, and loss of appeal to a segment of the audience because it might be an arty film?

From time immemorial, film festivals were known to be choosy and picky about the genre of films that they selected. It is also a mainstay platform for films deemed arty or experimental. But times have changed now and film festival programmers have customised their film selections so as to involve a wide and varied audience. Also, the audience psychology has changed and so we see high attendance for films which have travelled to film festivals.If you’d like to support the film Greater Elephant , you can do so through the crowd funding site > up to the September 9, 2012.

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