Girish Kasaravalli On Capturing The Lifeless Beauty Of Urban Settings In Illiralaare Allige Hogalaare

In this conversation with film critic GP Ramachandran, filmmaker Girish Kasaravalli speaks about the inspiration for his new film Illiralaare Allige Hogalaare that was screened at the IFFK 2021 in the Kaleidoscope section, the film’s politics and also weighs in on whether he thinks OTT could benefit parallel cinema. Edited Excerpts…

You portray boldly the intricacies of our caste-ridden society in Illiralaare Allige Hogalaare. How did you come to such a story?

The second part of the film is based on a short story by Jayanth Kaikini. He has won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature in 2018. I’ve always wanted to make a film based on that story but it was too short for a feature film. So, I thought I’d add some more elements. I added the first half and I had two stories in two time frames. The first is set in 1960 when society was still agrarian and the other is set at the beginning of the new millennium.

The title means ‘neither can I be here nor can I journey beyond’ which is by the sixteenth century saint-poet Purandara Dasa, on the eternal conflict in the mind: it’s neither here nor there. I wanted to know what the root cause was: it was our need for dignity and craving for comforts. I wanted to base my film on these themes. The first half is about things like caste and the hierarchical order of society; the protagonist earns money to move out of that place. Once he is a successful entrepreneur in the city, he longs for the intimacy of the village atmosphere. I wanted to discuss these ideas in the film.

The main character in the first part of the film, Naga, is a victim of caste and class. But he becomes the oppressor in Bengaluru once he is successful. 

That’s what I wanted to highlight. Once he transcends his economic status, he forgets the humiliation and suffering he went through. He employs a boy who is exploited in the same way that Naga was in the first half. I wanted to highlight the cycle of life. 

I’ve employed glass extensively in the second half. All the memories are in photographs. It’s one way of freezing our memories, which is lifeless, in a way. Even the reflection in a mirror is lifeless, but it looks beautiful. In an urban setting, in many cases, the setting is beautiful but lifeless. I wanted to highlight this through such small details. 

Modernization and urbanization never solve the root problem of caste and poverty. How did the audience react to your depiction of society in the film?

I am not able to gauge the response because it hasn’t been released. I am very keen to know how the audience reacts to this film, especially those who were oppressed in their childhood and later became successful entrepreneurs. I’m curious to know if they might do some self-analysis after they watch the film. 

Are you planning your next film?

(laughs) The scenario is quite depressing right now. I’m not sure what’s going to happen to the filmmaking fraternity after the lockdown. I don’t know how long it will take for our kind of films to come back or when I’ll be able to make my next film. It’s a bit uncertain. 

I had a lot of hopes with OTT. But it’s not economically viable. The producer looks at it from a different perspective and we look at it differently. I understand the producer’s problem too, having invested so much money and needing to recover it. OTT is not as lucrative as it sounds.

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