Directing Sexy Durga – An Interview with Sanal Kumar Sasidharan

Sanal Kumar Sasidharan is back in India after his glorious win of The Hivos Tiger Award at the International Film Festival of Rotterdam 2017 for his latest film Sexy Durga. The director of Oraalppokkam and Ozhivudivasathe Kali takes time to interact with us at The Cinema Resource Centre (TCRC).

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PC: Sanal Kumar Sasidharan FB page

Firstly, congratulations on this wonderful win! Was this kind of international recognition something that you had expected for Sexy Durga?

Thank you. I never expect anything except a good movie, while making it. But once it is made in the way I want to make it, I don’t hesitate to dream about its success. For me, film is not a local art. It has universal readability, so I naturally dream of international success. A dream is an expectation too.

How important are film festivals and these recognitions for an independent film maker?

Independent film makers are really very fragile in many respects. We have no stars, no money, no market and no popularity gimmicks. We have only a few openings through which we hope to reach audiences. One of the most important openings is film festivals. Film festivals play a great roles in bringing art house movies and indie film makers to the limelight. They are also important as they serve as forums for serious discussions about such films.

Tell us more about Sexy Durga and the team behind it.

Sexy Durga is an art-house movie that has many layers to it. It is very simple, yet complex. There is no ‘story’ in it. But you can attribute one to it though your experience of the movie.

Prathap Joseph, the cameraman did a good job with the many difficult camera movements the movie demanded. Murukan was the Art director, Harikumar Madhavan Nair was the sound recordist, and music was by Basil CJ.  Editing was done by me. Murukan and Basil CJ have been working with me since my first film.

For the role of ‘Durga’  I wanted an actress who was fearless about using her body and was comfortable with her physicality. Rajshree Deshpande seemed the perfect fit for the part., and was sold on our idea of her character and thus, became part of the movie.

All other artistes are mostly new faces or non-established actors. The main artists are Kannan Nayar, Vedh, Bilas Nair, Arunsol, Sujeesh KS. Byju Neto and Nistar Ahammed, who acted in Ozhivudivasathe Kali, also essayed roles in the movie.

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PC: Sexy Durga FB page

How is Sexy Durga similar to and /or different from your earlier films?

Sexy Durga is totally different in approach and the making from my earlier films. But all the films are socially rooted in the Malayali psyche.

Sexy Durga had no storyline or script. Most of the portions of the film were shot in midnight, in available light. The tough decisions involved in the making of the film gives it a unique feel.

From a lawyer to a film maker. How did this journey and the discovery happen?

I really only wanted to become a film maker since my childhood. But my family had a problem with my dream of becoming a film maker. My father was dead against my desire to apply to a film institute. So I was thinking about ways to infiltrate the film industry through the back doors. I approached several directors to take me on as an assistant director. Nobody was willing because I had no one to recommend me. Then I thought that if I had a professional degree and the kind of dignity that comes from it, people may accept my passion. But I was wrong. After my Law degree, I was forced to remain a lawyer. But I dropped the profession and escaped. I formed a film society named Kazhcha Film Forum and started making short films. In between, I worked other jobs, some of which I don’t even remember properly. In 2013, I made my first feature Oraalppokkam, produced by Kazhcha Film Forum, and that was the turning point

What is your typical pre-production process for your films?

Actually my films are simple for me. I don’t like much production set-ups, technical extravaganza and too many big artists in my film. I always wanted to keep the freedom and possibility to evolve even at a later stage of making. I don’t even like a concrete scripting process. The main part of my pre-production is dreaming and meditation. I think about the making pattern a lot. I rethink and rethink and keep all the options open. It may have its own drawbacks but I love it. Identifying location is the most important thing for me. Once I find a comfortable location, I feel relaxed. Finding actors is the next important step for me. If both are properly and satisfactorily done, I am sure that my film is done.

How much do you depend on your actors to take a scene forward and to decide the pace of the film?

I depend upon my actors a lot. Actually, I love to play with them. I put them in the location and let them freely do something. I only casually explain to them, so they may not even get a clear idea of what I have told them. In fact, I don’t even ask if they understand properly. But I make sure that they clearly know the situation and the political emotion behind the scene they are about to enact. Then I retreat and become a spectator. I get ideas as I see them acting out the given situation. I just shape it with gentle suggestions. It is like watching the movie while making it. I have a feeling that without my actors actively and freely engaged in the making, I can’t make a film properly

What are the release plan for Sexy Durga, or is it too early to talk about it? You and your team behind Kazhcha Film Forum took independent cinema to the masses with the concept of Cinema Vandi. You think Sexy Durga will also soon travel in the Cinema Vandi?

Sexy Durga is travelling all around the world now. It has just started leaving its footprints. Let it travel and come back. We will talk about the Indian release only after the censor board approves it without much harm. I want to release ‘my’ film, not the censor board’s film.

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Cinema Vandi at a venue at Kottayam, Kerala. PC: Kazhcha Film Forum FB page

What is your take on independent cinema in India?

Indian independent cinema is establishing its presence very fast. The world has started recognizing it. As more and more people started thinking about this alternative space, more and more films will start coming out  soon. I hope that we have a bright future.

Thank you for talking with TCRC. Before we sign off please let us know your opinion about the importance of preserving and archiving cinema heritage.

Cinema is history. It has importance not only in terms of art or commercial product. It has cultural importance also. It is very important to preserve our pathways to see how long we travelled and how difficult it was. It is very important that one look back to where  one came from. Thank you

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Screening of Ozhivudivasathe Kali (An Off- Day Game)

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The Cinema Resource Centre in Association with Ashvita events is excited to release the critically acclaimed film Ozhivudivasathe Kali (with english subtitles) At Escape Cinemas, Chennai on July 8th, Friday.

The film revolves around a public holiday where five friends meet in a resort deep in the jungles to spend a day drinking and merrymaking. They come from different backgrounds and professions, but they have only one aim – to enjoy life for one day and forget the everyday hassles. But, during the course of the day, the animal instincts within them come to the fore. To resolve the crisis and to end the boredom,they decide to play a game – a game played when they were kids. What happens when an innocent game for children is played by drunk adults?

The film was made in an unconventional way. Says director Sanal Kumar Sasidharan :

“The movie “Ozhivudivasathe Kali” (An off-Day Game) is based on a short story. I have not developed the story into a written screenplay or shooting script. The film is not the story; but it is my reading experience of the story. Making of this film was very interesting
because of the total absence of a written screenplay. Almost all the artistes in the film are new faces. Almost all the dialogues which you hear in the film are spoken by the artistes themselves without any specific written instructions from my part. I was just telling them
the situation, the history of each character and the politics behind the scene. The moment
we switch on the camera, the artistes turned into characters and started uttering their own
dialogues. The decision to go without script helped me to attain a raw and real looking movie”

Don’t miss this film this weekend. Book your tickets here: http://bit.ly/29kAjci

Watch the trailer of the film:

 

 

 

Discussion with Award winning director Manohar

National award winning director Manohar, discusses his short film ‘Post man’ during the Shamiana short film screening with TCRC hosted by Ashvita Bistro. The film maker brings to light the issues he faced during the making of his debut film, how the film finally proved to be commercially viable and much more.

TCRC presents an exclusive screening of ‘ Amma and Appa’

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TCRC is bringing the popular documentary ‘Amma and Appa’ to Chennai on the 23rd of August 2015, Sunday at Ashvita Bistro, Alwarpet. This will be the first time that the film will be screened in Tamil Nadu. The film is in Tamil and German with subtitles in English. The film makers will be present for an interaction with the audience after the screening.

About the film:

Amma & Appa (Tamil for Mother & Father) tells the story of film makers Franziska’s  and Jay’s parents. It is about their first meeting and of them getting acquainted. Both couples are about the same age and both have been married for more than thirty years. But they come from very different cultural backgrounds. Franziska’s live in the south of Germany, Jay’s parents in the south of India. They now come together because their children have fallen in love with each other and have decided to get married. For Franziska’s  parents it will be the first time they visit India and for Jay’s parents it will be the first time they receive foreigners as guests. While Franziska’s parents married out of love, the marriage of Jay’s parents was traditionally arranged. It was thus a great shock for them to learn that their son wanted to marry by his own choice. And what is more: A girl from Germany. His decision challenges their traditions and beliefs.

Against this backdrop the film unfolds its story. It tells the story of two cultures coming together and raises the universal questions what makes it all work- love, affection and living together. The film makers, as a young couple, want to know the recipe for a successful relationship from their parents and aim to find out with their  observation of the interaction of their parents toward and with each other.

Here is the trailer of the film:

The Tamil connect at The Venice International Film Festival

The 72nd Venice International Film Festival, organized by La Biennale di Venezia has some interesting line up of films. But two films have caught our special attention.

The first is Visaranai (Interrogation) directed by Vetrimaran and produced by actor Danush’s company Wunderbar Films has been selected in the Orizzonti section which is an international competition dedicated to films that represent the latest aesthetic and expressive trends in international cinema. In the history of the festival Visaranai will be the first Tamil feature film to participate in the competitive category. The director of the film, Vetrimaran has earlier made critically acclaimed films like Polladhavan and Aadukalam and was the co producer of the internationally acclaimed Tamil film  Kaaka Muttai (Crow’s egg).

The second film that caught our attention is Rinku Kalsy’s documentary  “For the love of a man” which has been selected in the Venice classics section where a selection of restored classics and documentaries on cinema will be showcased. Rinku’s film explores the phenomenal fan for Superstar Rajnikanth.

Besides the Tamil connect between Visaranai and ” For the love of a man” there is another interesting connection. Danush, the producer for Visaranai is the son in law of Rajnikanth on whom ” For the love of man” is centered around.

Watch the trailer of the two films here:

 

Short film screening by Indiearth in association with TCRC

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The next screening of short films by Indiearth in association with TCRC is happening at Ashvita Bistro,Chennai on the 28th of january 2015. Post screening, we will have a discussion on various styles and techniques involved in short film making with the filmmakers – Madhavan Palanisamy, Arun Mritunjay, Sanjeev Kumar, Madhan Kodees and Vydianathan Ramaswami who would be attending the screening.

ENTRY FREE!

SMS ” Short film ” with your name and email id to 9791088189.

The Short films to be screened are as follows:

1. FlashBack
Filmmaker: SNS Sastry
Duration: 21 min
Language: English
Year: 1974
Genre: Art

The film is a survey of the documentary film movement in India . We hear views of Films Division filmmakers S. Sukhdev and S N S Sastry before the Emergency and close to the end of their lives talking about documentary.

2. Gaarud The Spell
Filmmaker: Umesh Kulkarni
Duration: 13 min
Language: Marathi, Hindi (English Subtitles)
Year: 2008
Genre: Drama

The Spell gives us, in the form of a long tracking shot, a fascinating insight into what happens behind the doors of a block of tenements near the station in a small Indian town inhabited by people of differing backgrounds but all on the seamy side of life. Very briefly, we share their very personal lives. The camera takes us to the kitchens, the living rooms and even the toilets and the bedrooms of the inhabitants. The film won two national awards, one for best cinematography, and the other for best sound design. It received the best film award, the Golden Conch at MIFF, 2010.The film was also awarded the PATTON award for Best Indian Film at the 7th Kalpanirjhar International Short Fiction Film Festival, Kolkata.’Gaarud’ has been screened at more than 25 international film festivals, including the prestigious Rotterdam, and Vila de condo.

3. A Dream called……..America
Filmmaker: Anoop Sathyan
Duration: 26 min
Language: Hindi, English
Year: 2012
Genre: Short, Documentary

‘A Dream called America’ is a documentary made on Shahbaz, a 15 year old boy from Gujarat, India. He is the third among the five children of his father Aftab who makes a living by repairing cycles on a footpath. Shahbaz had studied in the US for a year on a scholarship, where he was hosted by an American couple. The one year he spent in US changed his attitude as he experienced a very comfortable and carefree life than his real home. After reaching India, he badly wants to go back and settle in US, leaving his parents in a dilemma.

Trailer & info: http://www.anoopsathyan.com/

Awards
– Best student film, Mumbai International Film Festival, India 2012
– Best documentary film, 4th International Children Film Festival – Lucknow, India 2012
– Silver award for Best student documentary, Indian Documentary Producers’ Association(IDPA) 2011
– Silver Owl for best documentary, CUT.IN Film Festival, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai 2011

Official Selection
– Jeevika: Asia Livelihood Documentary Festival 2011 – NewDelhi, India
– Open St. Petersburg Student Film Festival ‘Beginning’ 2011 – Russia
– CHAGRIN Documentary Film Fest 2011 – USA
– OAXACA International Film Fest 2011 – Mexico
– Mumbai International Film Festival 2012 – India
– Al Jazeera International Documentary Film Fest 2012 – Qatar
– Globians DOC FEST 2012 – Germany

4. Hangover
Filmmaker: Vydianathan Ramaswami
Duration: 4 min
Language: English, Tamil (English subtitles)
Year: 2005
Genre: Current Affairs

This short film deals with the flip side of college festivals in terms of excess inflow of sponsorship revenue leaving behind a trail of unwarranted usage of plastic and other environmentally hazardous waste.

5. Karma Vinai
Filmmaker: Madhan Kodees
Duration: 12 min
Language: Tamil (English subs)
Year: 2014
Genre: Social Message

Two drunk friends meet a couple while passing through a bus stop at mid night. they drop them at bus stand, driver doesn’t care who are they as he was busy drinking while driving. when he sees both when they get down he gets disturbed.

http://www.indiearth.com/ViewTrailer.aspx?TrailerID=b10fd7dc-3d4a-40a9-9dbf-e1f5fae447f9

6. At the End of 20th Week
Filmmaker: Sanjeev Kumar Choragudi
Duration: 3 min
Language: English
Year: 2014
Genre: Social Message

‘At the End of 20th Week’ is a short film aimed at social awareness about Abortions and Female Infanticide. It portrays the pain of unborn female children. Our intention was not to get applauded or acclaimed by critics. Our intention was to take the veil of discrimination off the faces of people those who prefer sons over a daughters and who doesn’t accept life as a gift but choose to end it because it took a female form.

A beautiful young girl who is peacefully enjoying the warmth and love from an unknown person gets tortured by also another unknown person in different ways. The girl cannot escape the wrath and stays there suffering. The bed which she assumed as a safe place suddenly turns into an Inferno. The person who shared the love and warmth is no more protecting her. She dies in the end and then we identify that it’s not just another girl but she is the representation of a female fetus. And all the different methods are nothing but methods of Abortion. In the end the young girl being pulled out of the bed symbolizes the delivery method of taking a baby out of the womb. She is killed and then we see the statement “Hell begins for women in India ‘At the End of 20th Week’” It is at the end of 20th week one can identify the gender of the foetus. In most of the cases it can be easily identified at the end of 13th week which on the other hand depends on the position of the fetus. Hence the title was decided as 20th week because irrespective of the position of foetus.

7. River Drowning Horses
Filmmaker: Madhavan Palanisamy
Duration: 3 min
Language: English
Year: 2013
Genre: Art

This film blends elements of fashion and theatre to narrate a complex-relationship situation.


Indie Film Screenings by Indiearth in association with TCRC in Chennai

Indiearth

 

Indiearth and TCRC brings an Evening of Short Films:
A collection of freshly picked award winning films from the Films Division that speak of the various interesting nuances of short film making and documentary cinema; generating profound interest in captive audiences who are either new or seasoned non-mainstream film buffs.

Also included are 2 latest shorts by upcoming filmmakers of today. The screening will be followed up by a discussion led by IndiEarth on “Why short films and documentaries are important; to be made and screened to audiences”.

THROUGH A LENS STARKLY
Kuldeep Sinha
Genre: Arts, Cinema
Year: 1992
Duration: 33 minutes
Language: English

During the 100 years of cinema in India, the documentary films have acheived a tremendous growth and Film Division has played a major role in the movement of documentary films in India. The film details the systematic growth of documentary filmmaking.

YES WE MAKE THEM SHORT
Baba Mazgavkar
Genre: Mass Communication Media, Cinema
Year: 1990
Duration: 13 minutes
Language: English

A film emphasising the importance of short films which generallyare not seen by the general audience. Short films can also beinterestingly made. It is through short films that cinema has undergone various innovations and experiments.

INDIA THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
Siddharth Kak
Genre: Arts, Cinema
Year: 1990
Duration: 33 minutes
Language: English

Here is a history of the Indian documentary film – from thecoming of cinema to India at the turn of the century to its present development. Excerpts of numerous documentaries areincluded. This is was the opening film at the Bombay International Film Festival

ALFIYA
Satyarth Shaurya Singh
Genre: Shorts, Social Awareness
Year: 2014
Duration: 15 minutes
Language: English, Hindi (English Subtitles)

This is a film that explores a single day in the life of it’s protagonist, Alfiya. The film follows an indefinite progression: an oscillation between the social world and the inner life. Alfiya, a young girl in her twenties, grapples with blurred lines of perception which as likely stem from a ‘ delusional disorder’, or a phobia, to an unshakable dream state.

SILENT NIGHT
Rajdip Ray
Genre: Short, Social Awareness
Year: 2014
Duration: 3 minutes
Language: English

Christmas is the season of joy and giving. But amidst all the happiness and brightly coloured lights are the hidden pangs faced by more than 11 million street children in the largest democracy of the world. Silent Night takes the viewer on a trip around the streets of Calcutta, with one such child, on Christmas eve.