Director Hemanth M Rao has made huge waves with his two-part romantic Kannada saga Sapta Sagaradaache Ello. The sequel, which was released last week, stars Rakshit Shetty, Rukmini Vasanth, and Chaithra J Achar. The director crashed into the scene with 2016’s Godhi Banna Sadharana Mykattu and has been one of the few filmmakers to actively propel the Kannada new wave movement. In this conversation with Film Companion, the director lists five favourite directors who left a lasting impression on him.
There is a place in Bangalore called Suchitra Film Society, which is a cinephile’s paradise. You could pay ₹250 and watch 15-20 films from all around the world. So, purely from an economic perspective, I joined in. One day, I just blindly walked in and it happened to be a ‘Truffaut Retrospective’ event. The first film they played was The 400 Blows (1959). I saw it and I was like, ‘I’ve never seen something like this’. It is so different from what we see and I felt very moved and connected to that kid. In many ways, I felt like I was lost and nobody understood me, you know? Instantly, a huge connection happened. I reverted and saw other films made by Francois Truffaut.
The films that Shankar Nag sir and Ananth Nag sir made together during the early eras were almost like an alternate film industry. Their work, like Minchina Ota (1981)nand Puttanna Kanagal’s works, really spoke to me because they were commercial and also had a story. It had an arc and felt very personal. I believed that you could tell a story with a certain voice due to their films. There is no doubt that if Shankar Nag sir were alive, the direction of Kannada cinema would be different. During the '90s, there was a hard break on those kinds of films because there was real-estate money coming into the business and many remakes were being made. When you see in hindsight, the films that Shankar Nag made seemed to be unreasonable. But if he was here, the type of films they wanted to make would have blossomed.
When I saw Jurassic Park (1993), I wanted to know who made this film because it was such an experience. I wanted to know what else he had done. As a filmmaker, when I went back and saw the films of Steven Spielberg, I was amazed at how he could do everything. He could do an action film or an emotional piece like Schindler’s List (1993).
One of my biggest influences apart from Francois Truffaut is Martin Scorsese. He manages to make you, as an audience, go into the character’s mind. I become the character. Taxi Driver (1976)and Raging Bull (1980) were two films that had a huge influence on me. For two days after the film, I felt like the protagonist. I could hear Travis Bickle’s mind-voice and I was forming thoughts in my head. There is a certain madness that Scorsese brings.
I love Brian De Palma because of his use of the craft. I can’t remember the name of the film, it is a psychological thriller with a secret murderer, but in the shot, there is a railing and you see a hand coming in and you see the person pulling a leather glove onto his hand. The camera moves up and at a distance, there is a house. In a matter of two seconds, a hooded figure enters the house. So the man was here and after the camera tilted up, he was there. Instantly, you are shocked and you go, ‘Wait, he was just here.’ It is just camera trickery but the emotional response that it creates within the viewer is underscored by the music. For me, De Palma shows how you can manipulate the craft to make you feel in a certain way.