Friday Review

‘It was cathartic’

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The theatres are running full, no tickets for 'Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu'. Hemanth M. Rao, first time writer and filmmaker tells us he is happy, but not elated.

Make way. The youngsters are here. They dare to dream and have the courage to convert them into celluloid. The star in their films is not the kind whose gigantic cardboard cut-outs are sprayed with milk but the story. The refreshing fact is that they don’t have a condescending attitude and respect the maturity of the paying public. The keyword in the films they are churning out is not different but sensible.

Godhi Banna, Sadharana Mykattu’ directed by Hemanth M. Rao is a collage of fascinating characters caught in a cauldron of conflicting emotions. His writing is near flawless and the cast headed by the redoubtable Anant Nag contributes in enriching the experience. For once the quality of a film matches Anant Nag’s performance. I met the articulate youngster outside a temple to get a sense of how his mind works. The streak of holy ash on his forehead showed he had prayed hard. He’s ‘Godhi Banna’ but as a filmmaker, definitely not ‘Sadharana’.

The director you choose to train under also reflects your cinematic sensibilities. Not everybody approaches Girish Kasarvalli.

After my engineering, I really wanted to pursue filmmaking and I did consider going the film school way but I’m someone who’s never done very well in academics. It was the rebellious phase so I felt going to school I’d end up the same way. I felt it was essential to train and understand the craft. I primarily identify myself as a writer and then a filmmaker so grammar is very important when you’re expressing emotions. I felt I had to work with someone who’s understood that. I should be thankful that he took me onboard.

Then you shifted to Jacob Varghese.

Yes. I worked in ‘Gulabi Talkies’ with Girish sir. I felt it was very relevant. What I could see is that the film was not reaching the relevant people. I feel a film should be commercially viable and reach as many people as possible. It has a life of its own after that. I met Jacob who’d just completed a short film called ‘Andhyam’ about a hangman and the trauma he undergoes. I did a short film with him about a seven-year-old girl who’s never seen rain. Then ‘Savari’ and ‘Prithvi’ happened. Jacob comes from a school which believes in marrying art with commerce. It was very good to work with both schools.

You have arrived at a comfortable phase when directors like Pawan and Anup have paved the way. Did they give you confidence?

I would be very arrogant if I say they didn’t have an impact not only on me but viewers as well. I was in the film industry when ‘Ulidhavaru Kandanthe’ and ‘Lucia’ were released. It was important to know that films like these can see the light of the day. You know that there’s an audience. We build our own barriers. Next comes the producer and the audience. We would wonder if people will watch these kinds of films. They’ve certainly paved a path.

Your film is basically about a man who goes missing but I feel the masterstroke is the way you have intertwined crime. Was it an afterthought?

No, it was organic . One of the things that drew me when I started writing the crime track was the character of Ranga that Vashisht plays. There is an element of dichotomy there. He’s the antithesis of Rakshit who comes from a normal background with a family. Their journey excited me. It all fell in place.

I was fascinated by the editing. Was it done on the table or while writing?

It was done at the writing stage, everything that you see in the film. It’s the way I envisioned it. I kept telling Ananth sir that the film is a mirror reflection of the script, especially the love story portion.

I was doing the film with good but limited resources. I may have tweaked the order of sequences a wee bit while editing.

It’s only in a good film that you try to find faults and the only one I got was that Anant does not have a monkey cap when he wanders off but dons one later. Did you have people read the script to see if there were factual loopholes?

There’s actually a sequence where a boy who gives him a cool drink is wearing it. It’s implied that it was given.

The funny thing was that there was a strike and our shooting was delayed by about four weeks and Ananth sir had this haircut for the film. In four weeks his hair grew and it was affecting his other commitments. So we had to find a way out and decided on the monkey cap. Going back to your question, I wrote the script and I’m very critical about it. So I went over it again and again. Thankfully, I have a good team and I sounded them off. They’re all my age and there’s a good spread in energy. We connected the dots together.

The son’s character played by Rakshit is very cathartic. Is there a little bit of Hemant?

(Smiles) Most definitely. I suppose there’s a sense of guilt with sons more often than not because it’s the son who disconnects from the father as he grows older. For the father, the son is always his child. It’s the son who wants space. While writing I felt the emotions that Rakshit does in the film. It was cathartic in that sense.

Lack of budget is no longer an excuse for uneven photography. Why is the photography so flat, devoid of contrast?

There’s no excuse. That’s something we should have paid more attention to especially the night sequences. We rushed those sequences because we were shooting with Ananth sir and we had to take his age into consideration. It’s not as bad in good theatres. It’s a good learning curve.

Are you in a state of relief mixed with joy?

I feel the process of making the film is enriching as a person who loves the medium. I may make five films and the response may not be the same. I’m not elated or jumping with joy but it feels nice.

While writing the film I don’t think you had the producer’s interest in mind although he may be a happy man now. (Laughs) I started a film called ‘Love Churmuri’ before this. One day before going on the floors the producer said he didn’t have the money. It was a film that’s considered safe with dance and love. Once that didn’t work I got into this slightly rebellious mood where even if I do one film it should be entirely my take. I wrote the film and thankfully got a producer who liked the fact that it was not run of the mill. He bought into my vision. He believed in me as a person and I think that’s fabulous.

There are a lot of middle-aged people watching this film but I feel it’s the youngsters who should.

(Laughs) Yes, in fact at Eshwari theatre the manager was telling me all shows were delayed by half an hour because it takes an effort to climb up. Yes, the target is the twenties upwardly mobile audience. I think they’re watching the film too and then taking the elders in the family.

Were you very conscious of the fact that the film should not be preachy?

Absolutely. I’m nobody to impart social wisdom. I’m searching for my own answers in life. Who am I to tell people how to live their lives?



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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 2:56:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/%E2%80%98It-was-cathartic%E2%80%99/article14425913.ece

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