Veteran filmmaker Nagathihalli Chandrashekhar, is back from a sabbatical with a new film this May – Ishtakamya. It’s slated for release on May 13.
Chandrashekar has adapted a novel by Dodderi Venkatagiri Rao into a film and that is how Ishtakamya came to be, he says. The novel, also by the same name, was serialised in Sudha magazine.
In this interview, the film maker, whose career boasts of National Award winning films such as Kotreshi Kanasu, America America and Hoomale, talks about why he chose Ishtakamya, the process of adapting the novel into a screenplay and more.
You’ve returned with a film after a break. What is Ishtakamya about?
It’s a love story but attempts to transcend it at the same time. The film talks about the institution of marriage today. It is not a run-of-the-mill love story and I don’t think I can make one of those generic love stories actually.
How did you zero-in on this particular subject and novel?
I read out of my love for literature or to satisfy my quest for subjects that can be represented through the cinematic medium. Ishtakamya was one among the many plot ideas I had. Ishtakamya, the novel and the ideas derived from it for a film made the most economic sense keeping in mind the budget I had at my disposal.
The choice for the title of the film too was deliberate?
People ask why I chose to keep such a complicated title. I tell them I consider my audience intelligent and I don’t need to dumb anything down for them. Just like I respect my reader, I respect my audience too.
You’ve chosen TV actors like Vijay Suriya and Mayuri Kyatari who hail from TV television backgrounds. Any particular reason for this?
I believe young talent should be given a launch pad and I have always done that. I have nothing against the stars and have worked with them as well. It is just that it made sense to work with newcomers also in terms of the context of the story.
Can you elaborate on your process of adapting a novel or ideas from a novel into a screenplay?
First, we must keep in mind the grammar of each media. Film and literature have their own beauty and one cannot be partial to either when working with them. It is necessary to strike a good balance between the two, and determine what aspects of the novel must make it to the film.
Unfortunately, in Kannada, there is a huge gap between cinema and literature; writers treat cinema as some kind of low art and filmmakers often do not have the patience or inclination to engage with the richness of literature. My own practise is an attempt to forge a golden bridge between the two.
What is your assessment of the industry today?
Films today are becoming customer oriented products and not pieces of art, which is a pathetic situation. Quantity has taken precedence over quality, with certain films determining what ‘quality’ is or should be. The industry today comprises some genuine filmmakers who do not have the monetary resources to make films and then others who make certain kinds of cheap remakes of other films just for the sake of monetary support. I strongly feel Kannada audience is a good judge of quality and will only encourage good talent in the long run. The phenomenon of five to six releases each week cannot be a long-term one.
Has Kannada cinema lost the middle class as its audience?
I think so. TV has developed as a parallel threat to cinema despite the fact that there is tremendous interdependence between the two. If we have to bring back the ones we have lost to the television, we need to recreate the magic of the big screen with technical competence and the strength of good content. As a filmmaker, your life outside the world of cinema – what you read, how much you travel and experience matters equally.
What’s the hurry to make films? Why is there a tendency to watch a set number of films and cull a similar script out of it? I believe filmmakers and technicians should devote a certain number of years to every project.
What do you think determines success for films today? And are you nervous about Ishtakamya?
Theories about what makes a film successful are just myths actually. When I take up a subject, I should be sincere about it. Factors like seniority of a filmmaker are irrelevant.
There are people who know my work and will come to watch my films but at the same time I have to appeal to a whole new set of people who have not watched any of my work.