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There’s no turning back

String together a flyover in Bengaluru, a filmmaker who writes in his car, and 65 people willing to invest a few crores in a thriller based on the city’s traffic, and you have U-Turn

Bengaluru’s infamous Double Road flyover and the city’s traffic chaos will be on many people’s minds right here from the city, all the way to Europe.

Kannada thriller U-Turn that has used the city’s traffic as a background for its story, will be seen this May 20, by Bengalureans, with audience in Germany, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland, and other countries the world over where it’s getting a worldwide release.

Pawan Kumar created ripples in Kannada filmdom two years ago, making its first crowdfunded film Lucia, and using unusual marketing and viewing techniques to reach his film out to an audience nobody seemed to believe existed for Kannada cinema. With a keen sense of how he can leverage technology and social media, Pawan has made sure his work gets noticed, and has always spread his wings wide.

Now he’s leaving no stone unturned for his latest film U-Turn.

In Karnataka alone, 80 screens will be showing the film, and theatres all over India are showing it with English subtitles.

U-Turn’s premiere at the New York Indian Film Festival on May 8 was totally sold out, and an additional show added on demand. The film was nominated for best screenplay.

The international distributors also increased the number of screens they will be showing the film at, post the NYIFF response.

If Lucia was much talked about for its layered non-linear and turn-it-on-its-head storytelling that left you flummoxed, U-Turn, promises Pawan, is a lot simpler. “This one is about how Bengaluru traffic is becoming totally chaotic. My story is based on our popular Double Road flyover, which had no reason to be there... but is there! (laughs) And everyone who has lived in Bengaluru has seen it take different shapes - one day it was a one way, and then suddenly it had a divider. It is the only flyover with a signal. As a Bengalurean, I found that glitch in the flyover very important.”

But really? An entire feature film on the subject?

“Everyone kept asking me ‘Why tell a story on this subject?’ I kept improvising. The way I approach story writing is that something has to disturb me very strongly. I don’t write just because I have to make a film. That is why I haven’t made a film for the last two years. The theme has to disturb me so much, that I can flesh it out well,” says the filmmaker.

Pawan, who was active in Bengaluru and Mumbai’s theatre circuits in his early days, had written two successful films — Manasaare and Pancharangi and worked as associate director with popular filmmaker Yograj Bhat. He made his independent directorial debut with Lifeu Ishtene.

Money money money

In the meanwhile, after Lucia, Pawan had been wanting to actually work on a film C10H14N2 (referred to popularly as Nicotine ). The crowdfunding route didn’t seem to be working for this one.

“It is a film to do with the tobacco industry so it has to be shot and shown in that lavishness it is associated with. A film about tobacco is a tricky subject even if it is fictional. We went through eight months of talks with producers and actors, but I started to feel that the story with their inputs was becoming something I didn’t intend it to be. So I put it aside, and U-Turn happened.”

It is easy to convince one producer, points out Pawan, promising to cast a particular star and include a song.

“That way you’re killing your film a little bit...,” he smiles sardonically. But with independent funding, there is freedom. “This freedom is something I’ll never give up now,” he stresses, making a case for newer forms of aggregating finance.

Which is why, with U-Turn Pawan brought together 65 serious and interested investors who trusted in his creative strength to form a private limited company to fund the film. Most of all, they gave him space, and never questioned his way of working. For these 65 people it was an investment of Rs. Two to five lakh each – “probably what they put on the share market,” points out Pawan. “Who, otherwise, would have taken on a film with no songs, no stars and a new girl in the lead and do something worth 1.5 crore?” Pawan finally ended up spending 2.5 crore on this film, including budgets for the film’s publicity, he says. U-Turn features Shraddha Srinath, Roger Narayan, Dilip Raj, Skanda, Krishna, Pavan, Naveen, Divya, Pramod, Aarna, Kennedy and others.

Writing in my car

When Pawan started writing U-Turn, his daughter joined pre-nursery. A happy coincidence, according to him! Bengaluru’s traffic also ensured he wrote the script in his car. “Her playschool was just two kilometres from home but because of the traffic it would take me half an hour to get there. I used to take my laptop along, park my car outside and wait for her because she would be done in one-and-half hours. It didn’t make sense to go home and come back for her! Over 15 days, the script was ready. It was quick writing!” he admits.

Small films, big reach

Pawan has always been a strong believer in listening to his audience -- something he’s successfully tapped into since the beginning of Lucia. And he’s doing it yet again with U-Turn. “Lots of people on Facebook have written in with their city and address saying they want to watch the film. So maybe we’ll do one show in a place where there are about 400 people, or send a digital copy to download.”

Online release worked well for Lucia, admits Pawan, but takes up time from the filmmaker. “It’s so important to do it today. At least for indie cinema and for the kind of films I make. In just a few years we won’t get that theatre space anymore. They will become a space only for big films. Just look at what Marvel Studios is doing... (And Pawan is learning this the hard way — a theatre in Bengaluru suddenly backed out of U-Turn’s screening, just days before the release, opting instead for a big Telugu starrer. It was after much complaining and discussion with the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce -KFCC - that the theatre rolled back its decision.) With a smaller film, the audience can watch it on a smaller screen. It’s more personal that way.”

What next? “If this film does well, I will start off with Nicotine. There’s talk of remaking U-Turn in Telugu, Tamil and Hindi. I might do that if Nicotine takes time.”

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 12:46:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/pawan-kumars-uturn-is-all-set-to-release/article8614873.ece

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