Screening Friday Review

...that something else

How does an artist pick the right moment to make a portrait? The subject of a portrait, especially, is often one that is eternally prone to change, transforming into something else with each fleeting moment. I wondered about this as I watched ‘Life in Metaphors- a portrait of Girish Kasaravalli’, a documentary made by O.P. Srivastava.The film, which was completed just a few months ago, attempts to capture the life thus far of Girish Kasaravalli, one of Karnataka’s acclaimed filmmakers and unpack the genius behind poetic masterpieces such as Ghatashraddha, Dweepa, Thayi Saheba and Kurmavatara, to name a few. Srivastava talks to a range of artists- those who worked with Kasaravalli as well as those who studied with him at FTII, in order to unearth the mind and process of the filmmaker. A shy, but articulate Kasaravalli, also appears at regular intervals speaking to us about his method, the influences, the choices and his objectives.

In more ways than one, Srivastava’s film is his tribute to Kasaravalli, a filmmaker he admits he is ‘mesmerised by’. When he first met him at a workshop in Goa in 2012, Srivastava, an investment banker turned filmmaker, was spellbound by Kasaravalli and his oeuvre of work. “I attended a master class by Girish where he also screened Dweepa. I found Girish to be a very honest, down to earth man. And after interacting with him, I realised that this is the kind of filmmaker I wanted to be. I asked him if I could work with him and learn filmmaking from him,” he recounts.

Srivastava spent the next one and a half years researching about Kasaravalli. He saw all his films, travelled to Kasaravalli’s village, met his family, visited him on his film sets and gathered his colleagues and other film personalities that knew the filmmaker intimately. “Here is a filmmaker who offers huge insights into the socio-economic undercurrents in India- starting from the pre-independence era to the present day. He has completely scanned the Indian landscape with his multi-layered and multi-textured narratives in his films. The humanistic quality in his films is something I have rarely seen in the work of other filmmakers,” he adds.

Srivastava’s hypothesis, therefore, and one that is supported by the others in the documentary, is that Kasaravalli's films are indeed an extension of the kind of person that he is. The documentary asserts that Kasaravalli’s love for literature finds reflection in his films, his preoccupation with alienation as a theme often recurs in the characters he crafts in each of his films , it quotes the late writer, U.R.Ananthamurthy who says that Kasaravalli’s approach to his films is philosophical, rather than ideological.

In his documentary, therefore, Srivastava, reconstructs Kasaravalli’s personal journey and intersperses it with carefully chosen, climactic moments from Kasaravalli’s films. He makes them talk to each other, often creating beautiful moments where it seems like Kasaravalli is speaking to his characters and vice-versa. Cinematically too, he, rather apparently, tries to recreate the ethos and poetic nature of Kasaravalli’s frames in his own frames. “I was clear that in terms of the form, my film should evoke the eco-system that is captured in Girish’s films. I have consciously not used my own music in this film. All the tracks are from Girish’s films,” he explains.

Since the subject of his film is a filmmaker, did Kasaravalli offer his inputs to Srivastava during the shoot? “He never interfered when it came to how the film should be shot, who I should interview etc. I only showed the film to him after the final cut. He said that he would prefer if his achievements were toned down a bit…,” he says.

The question in my mind lingered. How did Srivastava pick this moment as a ripe one to reflect, dissect and understand a filmmaker who continues and will continue to make films in the future? “There’s never a right moment. In my case, the decision was based purely on the resources at my disposal and the fact that the subject of my film was willing to co-operate. There will be more films on Kasaravalli in the future. But, that doesn’t matter to me. My film is a statement on the times we live in,” he says.

In one of the closing scenes from the film, Kasaravalli says, “In science 2+2=4. But in art, it won’t suffice to just say 4. You have to say it is less than 5 and more than 3. When I say metaphors, I mean this means this as well as something else.” Srivastava’s film too attempts to capture Kasaravalli’s life in metaphors that evocatively say that Kasaravalli is this, and something else.

A Life in Metaphors will be screened at Doc@Everest by Vikalp, Bengaluru at Everest Theatre on November 26, 7 p.m.

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2020 10:54:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/that-something-else/article7896354.ece

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