Girish Kasaravalli has won the Golden Lotus Award, Indiaís highest film award, four times
Umashree as Gulabi in the film. She won the Best Actress Award for her role as an expert midwife leading a lonely life in a village of fishermen
diminutive, now grey-haired and low profile filmmaker from
Karnataka who has grown into an international name, keeps
evolving and growing in his own, reclusive way. His Gulabi
Talkies, premiered in the Indian competition section of the
10th Osianís-Cinefan Festival of Asian and Arab Cinema, won
the Best Film prize. Umashree, the leading actor who played
Gulabi in the film, got the Best Actress award as well.
Kasaravalli is one of the best pillars ó and also the most
neglected ó among Indian filmmakers. The indifference to his
work in parts other than his home state does not seem to bother
him because he continues to express himself through his films.
He has a masterful command over the medium of his choice. From
pharmacology to cinema has been a long journey indeed. But
Kasaravalli has made it meaningful and significant for all
lovers of good cinema across the country. He has won the Swarna
Kamal or the Golden Lotus award four times. He talks about his
filmmaking in general and Gulabi Talkies in particular,
in an interview.
Let us hear
about your journey through cinema
As a filmmaker,
my journey, from my first film Ghatashraddha to my
latest, Gulabi Talkies, has been a continuum. I believe
that a film should reflect some facet of life. Take Ghatashraddha.
It is based on a U. R. Ananthamurthy short story I read when I
was in high school. The story left a deep impression on me. When
I made Ghatashraddha in the 1970s, I was already a
product of the Pune Film Institute. When I was in my final year
(1975), I had assisted B.V. Karanth with the making of Chomandudi.
Ghatashraddha was an attempt to look at life from the
point of view of a person whose struggles were largely because
she, a widow, happened to belong to a lower caste in a highly
caste-conscious society. Incidentally, both Ananthamurthy and I
are from Thirthahalli. I am from Kesalur, a village close to
even from mainstream Kannada cinema, are very natural, stripped
off their starry glamour and spontaneous in your films. How do
you explain this naturalness?
mainstream Kannada films are excellent artistes. They do not
worry about looking good on screen. They do anything to give the
best shot. They place full faith in the director and are not
worried about fans. If Soundarya looks little glamorous in Dweepa,
it is not her fault. For the first time, I worked with make up
artists and costume designers from the mainstream Telugu cinema.
actress who played the title role, is a comedienne. What made
you pick her up for a character that is against her grain?
Umashree has an
interesting history. She entered films as a comedienne but later
switched over to character roles. Through the 1980s and 1990s,
she was seen in every second film in Kannada. She entered
politics in the 1990s and was Member of Legislative Council for
one term. She began with amateur theatre. I had seen her on the
stage. She was brilliant in essaying any role she was given. Her
portrayal in Krishna Murthyís adaptation of Odalala
(The Fire Within) by Dalit writer Devanuru Mahadeva was
incredible. She played a 70-year-old woman looking for her lost
hen, the hen being a symbol of hope.
is based on an original story. Tell us something more about it.
I had read this
story penned by Vaidehi, a major woman writer in Kannada, a long
time ago. It remained embedded in my mind. Then, a few years
ago, I had to prepare for a lecture on the politics of imaging
by an organisation in a remote Karnataka village. As I began
preparing for this lecture, I happened to watch the image of
Saddam Hussain on CNN when the US forces had captured him. I
somehow felt that the image was doctored.
cropped up. Are we now willing targets of the media who, under
the veil of delivering news, are actually forcing their opinions
on us? Would it be right to conclude that the media today was in
reality, either manufacturing opinion or acting as an agency
instead of delivering news? Were we looking at something
immediate through glasses tinted by so-called information
technology when we should actually be looking at things from an
understanding born out of experience? Vaidehiís story came
back to me but I reworked on it. I changed the setting to a
fishing village and converted Gulabi to a Muslim woman though in
the original story she is Christian. I introduced the characters
of Musa and a kid. As we reworked and redrafted the story,
issues like loneliness, the craving to belong, desire and
disappointment, hopes and aspirations, global, national and
local harmony wove themselves into the script.
film, including the indoor shots, seems to have been shot on
All my films
are shot on real location. Gulabi Talkies is no
exception. I located a spot that suited my needs. I asked my art
director, Ba Su Ma Kodagu, who is a graphic designer and theatre
director to construct a hut with removable thatched walls. The
story demanded a rock by the side and a series of boats lined up
along the shore. My unit members were surprised at the way the
spot matched the descriptions in the script so precisely. The
locals in Karnataka are always very cooperative.
affect you one way or another at this stage of your career?
Yes and No. Yes, because a
committee consisting of filmmakers and critics gives the awards.
They do not go just by the storyline. They go into all aspects
of the film to bestow the award. No, because the audience is as
important to me as the jury members. I will be happy the day my
films can generate as much enthusiasm with audience as they did
with the jury.