Kannada Roundtable 2021: Directors On How They Define Good Cinema, Film Companion

Exploring the idea of what constitutes good cinema, these Kannada directors give different and personal definitions to the term. They also talk about various films that have influenced them as a filmmaker and why. From watching films in childhood to the experience of watching a film in the theatre feeling like magic, they say it all in this roundtable discussion with Kairam Vaashi. 

Kairam Vaashi: What is your definition of good cinema? What films have left the biggest influence on you as a filmmaker? 

Roopa Rao: A good cinema is when I come outside the theatre after watching the film, it should move me. Something should happen to me. If it gets erased from my memory by the time I’m near the lift or escalator, that’s not a good movie. It should haunt me.

I was born and brought up in Kolar so growing up I was watching more of Telugu cinema. So, K Vishwanath sir’s films used to move me more in my childhood. When I grew up I realized that his characters and stories were based on real-life drama. So, his movies have stayed on. It has also aged well. When I watch it even now, it has a similar effect.

Kairam Vaashi: Is it because it has aged well, that’s why it moved us?

Roopa Rao: I think so too. Because when I watch thrillers or other films, it doesn’t move me much. A character might move me but the story might not have. But his films are different. Just last week, I was re-watching Swathi Kiranam. Whenever I get some free time, a K Vishwanath film festival happens at home. I still get goosebumps and tears watching his films. So close to reality, yet so wonderful. 

Mansore: Cinema that travels with me is good cinema. It might be a mass movie. Because I have seen many mass movies frequently. I have seen many films at festivals that have traveled with me. Majid Majidi’s Baran are the first names that come to my mind. One of the greatest love stories. There are many films in Kannada also. I watch every kind of movie, but I watch very few repetitively. So that’s good cinema. Rang de Basanti is a good cinema. Yuva is a good cinema. I like Baran more than Geethanjali. Films which I can connect with my life are good films for me.

Kairam Vaashi: You’re saying that there must be relatability.

Mansore: It must connect with my life. It might be about the books I read, songs I listen to or the things I see in the environment. There’s a place called Bettadapura in Kushalnagar which is cold in all seasons. Whenever I go there, I always listen to A.R. Rahman’s songs. So I like films which bring me this kind of connectivity.

Kairam Vaashi: Which films inspired you, Tharun?

Tharun Sudhir: For me, I usually see cinema in two ways. One, where I connect to the film and see myself there. I’ll be traveling with the movie. Two, I just completely enjoy myself where I know that the person is not me; someone else is doing something big. I enjoy watching them. These two are my patterns. There might be a superhero or a hero who may dance, but he must get me emotionally. I may connect or enjoy but it must be driven through emotionally.

The film that influenced me most was Shawshank Redemption. I watched it very late in life but that film stuck with me for a while. Then there is Munna Bhai MBBS. It’s a mixed bag of good content, comedy, emotion and action. The film that I enjoyed the most was Baasha. I was happy watching that movie. In Kannada, I enjoyed watching Om. Mungaru Male is the film with which I personally got connected. You don’t cry watching the film but you’ll get choked. That may be the reason for the film’s biggest success. For me, I like films which are filled with emotions and enjoyment.

Hemanth Rao: When you asked this question I recalled the film called Mank, which was recently released. In that film, they said that filmmakers don’t have a guarantee of what they are selling and taking. As an audience, sometimes we take a journey of a character with us and other times, the complete story. It should feel like I have used my time effectively. It should entertain me. I get disappointed when my time is not valued by the filmmaker. 

The film that influenced me the most is Terminator. My parents would watch this film at home and I was not allowed to. But I remember one shot where everything breaks down into pieces and then the pieces get joined and a character comes back alive. When I was watching it as a kid, I would think, “What is this? Magic!”

I was very happy when I first saw a movie in the theatre. My father had taken me to an evening show. When we entered, there was light, people were walking and shops were open. When we came out of the theatre, it was raining and the shops were all closed. It felt like I had travelled to another planet and came back. Watching a movie in a theatre is a different experience. The feeling of traveling elsewhere while watching the movie is a magical experience for me.

Suni: If I like the film then it’s a good movie otherwise it’s not. In terms of definition, if a producer gets his investment back with a profit and technicians get advance payment for their next film because of that film, then it’s a good movie.

Kairam Vaashi: Which are the films that you like?

Suni: I enjoy every film. Sometimes I read a review and wonder why they are saying that because I thoroughly enjoy the film.

Kairam Vaashi: Are there any films which have disappointed you?

Suni: There are many. Sometimes even films that have gotten a lot of praise, don’t connect with me. I go to the theatre like a proper audience and watch cinema like a cinema lover.

Kairam Vaashi: So there must be entertainment.

Suni: Not like that. I enjoyed every scene in Ulidavaru Kandante and Garuda Gamana Vrishabha Vahana. When we watched Titanic, as kids our seniors had told us there were some intense scenes. We went and started shouting and cheering when the film started but eventually I actually started watching the film. After coming out of the theater I realised it was mesmerizing. That is when I started thinking about how films are made. So, my movie journey started like this. 

Pawan Kumar: It is more about subconsciously what moves you. Whichever film, you may know the language or not, when you are emotionally engaged with it. As a film-maker, film-making is an art form for me. I look at it as we are creating art and then we are showing it to the audience.

Life Is Beautiful, is the first non-Indian language movie that I saw on the big screen with subtitles. Until then I had not seen a movie with subtitles. On a 14 inch screen, pirated copy – I watched Schindler’s list. Though I had seen Jurassic Park, Titanic had its effect on me as an audience. These two films shifted me over.

Watch the full interview here for a discussion of all things cinema.

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