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I am overwhelmed by the support for Thithi: Raam Reddy

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Raam Reddy’s Thithi has fetched him a rare renown. Critics have hailed this Kannada film as a unique experience, the kind one gets to experience very rarely in Indian cinema. Subhash K Jha spoke to the film’s director .

A remarkable achievement like Thithi happens once in a while. Did you expect the film to make such an impact?

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Never once while making the film did we expect it to receive such wide-spread acclaim as well as audience acceptance and appreciation. Making the film itself was such a tremendous challenge, that all our focus was on managing to just complete the film to our satisfaction. We always intended to make a “warm” film that was realistic and observational, but at the same time cinematic with a humour that was particular to the world we were trying to create. I believe it is this playfulness that is at the core of Thithi’s national and international success.

Tell me about its genesis?

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The film began in an unorthodox way, with the decision to make a film in the particular place, the village ofNodekoppalu, being the seed of the film. Nodekoppalu is the home town of the primary writer and casting director of the film, the very talented Eregowda. Eregowda and I have been friends for 15 years. It was our relationship that was the core collaboration of the film; an insider and outsider combination that eventually lead to a nuanced authenticity with stylistic particularity. We also took the unorthodox decision to cast the three main actors before we came up with the story, and then, once we spent time with them and got to know them well, we used all our research to write a script for them.

How difficult was it for you to gather the funds for the project?

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I am lucky in this way because the primary production company that backed the film, Prspctvs Productions, was a production house started by my father, Pratap Reddy, and myself. The film was fulfilled by funding from Prsptctvs, and later from the support of Sunmin Park and J. Ethan Park, veteran Hollywood producers from Maxmedia based in California.

How did you get a foreign producer interested in the project?

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Sunmin Park (Producer of the The Others starring Nicole Kidman) came on board the project as a producer at Film Bazaar in Goa in 2014. She was one of five international mentors in the Work-in-Progress Lab where filmmakers present a line-up or rough cut of their film and receive invaluable feedback on how to shape the film towards its completion. She loved the film, and came on board right after seeing it. Her brother, J. Ethan Park, also came on board as Executive Producer.

You’ve received tremendous support and attention in Mumbai. How did that happen and do you think that support bolstered Thithi’s lifespan?

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Absolutely. I am overwhelmed by the support for Thithi from industry leaders in Mumbai. Key supporters have been Anurag Kashyap, who was one of the first people in all of India to see Thithi. We met at the Locarno Film Festival, and since then he has been a wonderful champion for the film. I also had the immense honour of sharing the film with Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao about ten days before the release. I was lucky to meet Kiran Rao when the film was screened in the International Competition section of the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival. Kiran Rao was incredibly kind to organise a special screening of Thithi, where key people who helped push the national release watched the film. Also, an unforgettable moment in this journey is when Aamir Khan wrote five overwhelming tweets about Thithi; an honour that is hard to describe in words for a first time filmmaker like myself.

Who are the filmmakers you admire?

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I admire so many filmmakers that it is hard to list a few. I learnt the language of filmmaking mostly from watching the world cinema of masters like Michael Haneke, Wong Kar-Wai and Emir Kusturica. At the moment, I have great admiration for many filmmakers from my generation such as Gabriel Mascaro, Emin Alper and Chaitanya Tamhane. I also have immense admiration for David Simon, the creator of the television show The Wire.

Thithi features actors who don’t act. How did you get such natural non-performances from the entire cast?

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All our filmmaking techniques were geared towards aiding performance. Eregowda’s relationship with the people and the place was key in creating a comfortable and familial environment. As a crew, we were extremely flexible and had to be highly reactive. We often did a lot of takes, and re-shot scenes some times. In my treatment of film, I decided to eliminate blocking to help the non-professionals be more focussed on their body language and delivery rather than physical positioning; therefore, when an actor moved, the camera moved with them at the same speed. Then there were a lot of direction techniques that were tailor made for each actor depending onEregowda and my reading of their personalities.

Patriarchy and property paranoia are predominant in your plot. Do you see rural India as being governed by these two aspects?

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‘Governed’ is a strong word, but I do think they play a significant role in the rural social milieu. That is something we experienced first hand while we were in our creative exploration period. All said and done, we did not attempt to make any political statements through the film; the core of the storytelling for me was to compare three generations of characters, two who are materialistically driven, and one who has transcended materialism. This for me is the spiritual core of the narrative, and the primary intention.

How easy/difficult was it for you to shoot on location in such a village where basic amenities were not available?

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We had a wonderful local productions team lead by Eregowda who looked after the entire crew and cast extremely well. The food on set was made with so much love, and everyone found a family within the community that made the film. We had collaborators from Holland, USA, Mumbai, Kerela and many other parts but boundaries were quickly dissolved. We did have to heat our hot water for baths in big metal pots and we managed with make-shift toilets, but it felt very natural for all of us – perhaps it was beautiful surroundings and clean air – and wasn’t a struggle at all.

What is your next project? 

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I am yet to completely fix on the content of what I am doing next, but it will be a film that is very different fromThithi. I am keen on working in the magic realism genre, and making a film that is bit more personal. That kind offilmmaking requires more creative control over the craft, and for that reason I am likely to want to work with professionals. As an artist, I like to treat each project in stylistic isolation and make every film as original as possible, while keeping an underlying often hidden philosophy and spirituality the common thread between all my work.

Do you think the language(Kannada) limits your vision in any way?

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No, not at all. I love the particular dialect that the film has been made in. It has a musicality that is particular and nice to listen to. Also, with maintaining authenticity being the keystone of our process, the choice of the place was key to the quality of the final product, which in turn is reason for widespread recognition.

Would you like to work with Bollywood stars?

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Casting for me always comes second to the intention and story of the film, I would love to work with any actor who would fit my vision for the film, whether they are a star or not. I think that is the key to making organic and meaningful films. Having said that, there are many amazing Indian actors such as Irrfan Khan and NawazuddinSiddiqui whose work I admire and I would love to work with.

Which are the Indian films  lately that according to you take our cinema forward the way Thithi does.

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Films like Court and Masaan are great examples of amazing debut films by Indian filmmakers that have made a mark on the international level. Also, both these films use realism as a stylistic choice, and this is something that resonates with me personally.

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Aamir Khan’s Sister Plays Shah Rukh’s Mother In Pathaan

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Aamir Khan’s Sister Plays Shah Rukh’s Mother

Ever  since Pathaan released on Wednesday, audiences  have been  curious to know who  is the woman who plays Shah Rukh Khan’s adoptive mother in Afghanistan. The stately lady  with  royal looks is none  other than the late producer  Tahir Hussain’s daughter and  Aamir Khan’s elder  sister Nikhat Khan.

 Nikhat has been  closely  associated with the  film industry  and has helped her father in the production of his  films like Dulha Bikta Hai and  Tum Mere  Ho.

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Nikhat has  acted earlier in the Akshay Kumar starrer Mission Mangal ,  Ajay Devgan’s Tanhaji and  in Sandh Ki Aankh(as a Maharani).

For Pathaan, it was Shah Rukh Khan who suggested Nikhat Khan should play his foster-mother in  Afghanistan who names him ‘Pathaan’. It proved to be  an inspired  piece of casting, as  audience have  loved Nikhat  Khan’s cameo.

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It is  heartwarming that  all three Khan superstars  are  associated with Pathaan in one  way  or the other.

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Anurag Kashyap’s New Film Is About Love Jihad

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Love Jihad, whatever  that means, is  the theme  of  Anurag Kashyap’s new film Almost Pyaar  With D  J Mohabbat.

Debutant Karan  Mehta plays a Muslim boy  in an intense relationship with  Alaya F who plays  a Hindu  girl.Kashyap has spared the  audience none of the ugliness that  such a relationship generates  among  social-media  bouncers, the self-styled  guardian of morality .

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In the hardhitting powerful and pertinent film  a  bigot is heard commenting snidely, “These people first talk about Mohabbat. Then  they talk about Mohammed.”

Happily and  surprisingly,  the Central Board Of Film Certification gave the  film a ‘UA’ certificate  with no  cuts: a  rare non-‘A’ film of Kashyap.

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So far  Kashyap and his  team have kept the Love Jihad part  of  the plot  out of all media interaction.

But the  cat is  now  out of the bag.

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Samantha Ruth Prabhu to Star Alongside Varun Dhawan in Prime Video’s Indian Original Series , Samantha Speaks

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Samantha Ruth Prabhu

Samantha Ruth Prabhu will be starring alongside Varun Dhawan in the Indian installment of the Citadel universe, the global-event series from Prime Video and the Russo Brothers’ AGBO. The untitled Citadel series based out of India is being helmed by renowned creator duo Raj & DK (Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK), who are the showrunners and directors.

 The local installment is written by Sita R. Menon, along with Raj & DK. The streaming service also confirmed that the production is currently underway in Mumbai. After this, the unit will head  to North India and then onwards to international locales like Serbia and South Africa.

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  Richard Madden (Bodyguard) and Priyanka Chopra Jonas will star in the first-to-launch series within the Citadel universe, which comes from the Russo Brothers’ AGBO along with David Weil (Hunters) and is set to premiere in 2023. Alongside Madden and Chopra Jonas, the first-to-launch Citadel series will also feature Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games saga). Additional local-language Citadel productions are also in the works, including an Italian Original series starring Matilda De Angelis (The Undoing).

  Speaking on  her participation in  The Citadel  franchise for  the  first time,Samantha says, “When Prime Video and Raj & DK approached me with this project, I decided to take it up in a heartbeat! After working with this team on The Family Man, it is homecoming for me.The Citadel universe, the interconnected storylines between the productions across the globe, and most importantly, the script of the Indian installment really excited me.”

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   Samantha  says she is  looking forward  to working with Varun Dhawan  .  “I am thrilled to be a part of this brilliant universe conceptualised by the Russo Brothers. I am also looking forward to be working with Varun for the first time, on this project. He is someone who is full of life and cheer when you’re around him.”

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Bollywood’s Achche Din Have Come

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 Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar

All you doomsday  prophets, the  booms-day  profits  are here.  Pathaan  has  opened the floodgates again for Bollywood’s  bumper  bonanza at the  boxoffice.And now there is  only the achche din ahead  for  Hindi  cinema.

In the  next   two months there are  three sureshot  blockbusters coming up, beginning with Shehzada.  An astute devilishly impish  adaptation  of  Allu Arjun’s  2020 Telugu   blockbuster  Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo.The super-popular Kartik  Aaryan gives  his own  spin to the  character. This  performance will take   Kartik to the  next level of stardom. Kartik’s version of  Ala Vaikunthapurramuloo is  radically different  from  its Telugu  version. Shehzada  takes  the core idea of  the Telugu original  and turns it into a  something  completely different. Kartik’s  co-star in Shehzada  is  Kriti  Sanon with whom he earlier shared superhit space in Lukka Chuppi.

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 Then there  is Luv Ranjan’s ravishing rom-com   Tu Jhoothi Main Makkaar. The director’s   male viewpoint on the chaos  of love relationships  crests to a comic  high in his latest. Ranjan  for  the first time, collaborates with Ranbir Kapoor for the  first time  collaborates with Shraddha  Kapoor  who badly needs a hit.This film should do the  trick. The winsome  lead pair tries  to do one  another  in a  game of Luv This is Luv Ranjan’s Hum…Aapke Hain Con. Ranjan  has in the past used  the romcom  space to  entertain his audience  to the hilt, he  says this  time the stakes are different. It is  not something we’ve seen before.

 Finally  it is   Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani.  Karan  Johar’s first directorial in six years(not counting the one segment each  in Ghost Stories and  Lust Stories). This time he has assembled a dream star-cast  of Dharmendra, Jaya Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Ranveer Singh and  the  boxoffice darling(s) Alia Bhatt.  But trust me, this one is  not about assembling stars  into a complacent plot. The writing in this  zany Romeo & Juliet is so crisp  and engrossing, the experience  is  likely to be   the visual version of a multi-flavour icrecream cone. Colour, choler and karma collide in this tragic-comic love story . Let the  box office dhamaka  begin  from the house  of Dharma.

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