After having gone through different levels of bureaucracy, social media outrages and self-censoring, these filmmakers of Kannada cinema have no doubt that the only way out is to keep making films. They discuss what drives and motivates them to do so and how they would like for things to change by 2025, in this roundtable discussion with Kairam Vaashi.
Kairam Vaashi: After all that you go through, right from the bureaucracy to the inevitable process post making a film, what still drives you to keep making films?
Pawan Kumar: I think there are two drives, according to me. One is the creative drive where you want to tell your point of view. That is why you become an artist, to share how you look at emotions and stories. Another drive is that this is the business you know. Which one is a priority might vary from person to person. Usually, a writer-director comes from the idea that they want to make their point of view seen.
Suni: Everyone has a dream but only a few of them succeed. But, us filmmakers get to showcase our dreams. We reach so many people and have a space where we enjoy what we are doing. When a film releases, I turn my chair around and only look at the audience to see how they are reacting. That is a kick!
Roopa Rao: I started my journey with the question of “why” — why films and why this story. I am a product of cinema. We grew up watching all kinds of movies and stories. Cinema has moved me so much. I like working with an actor, a lot. Some kind of magic happens on the shooting set. I love the process of a film being made, right from creating a world around the story to fleshing out its details. Ultimately, it is for those moments. When the film is made and I’ve watched it on the edit table, my work is done.
Mansore: I like learning. I like to be in the learning process and I like to live in that process. Filmmaking satisfies all these needs. Movie making is hard and tiresome. The business and marketing aspects of it that come after will make you tired even more. Sometimes I want to just be done with it all. After all that tiredness and deciding to give up, suddenly something will strike your mind. Then we start thinking we have to make a movie about this. There’s a josh, that only films can give you.
Kairam Vaashi: According to all of you, what is one change that the Kannada cinema industry needs or you would like to see?
Tharun Sudhir: Our industry needs more writers than directors. They should be given more respect and more remuneration. Earlier, a film director would provide a visual interpretation of a script. Now, we write and direct films ourselves, which definitely takes a lot of time. There are only two inspirations then — we either refer to life or look at another movie. The culture of bringing writers to a team has just begun. Another problem is we don’t know where to find writers.
Hemanth Rao: One important point that Tharun has mentioned is about payment to writers. One can value something through money. People need to start believing that they can lead a life and depend on their writing, financially. I believe a lot of people who currently have jobs in banks or IT, will take up writing as a serious career. So, how producers value writers should change drastically. Today, when a director walks up to a producer, it is understood that I have come with my story. There is no value for that story in itself. When the story gets value, then a writer will get more attention too. That will be a development which will help more people to come up with interesting stories.
Pawan Kumar: I think the bigger problem is distribution and sales. If I am a producer, I will say I don’t want to not give money to a writer but where will I earn that from? That is why they are mostly cost-cutting. The business is calculated down to the point of if this is how much I invest, what are the different avenues to earn that back. I think that system has to first be fixed. For the longest time, I have felt that we need to be independent with distribution.
Mansore: In my words, if we are able to create an environment where a producer will make a profit on his investment without a film having a star, then everything will change. For small films it is difficult to find producers. Even if they do, no one on the project gets paid properly.
Roopa Rao: Writers are there. Quite a lot of them. After Gantumoote, I am interacting with eight different writers to see how I can work with them. A common audience has no idea of all the aspects and skills that go into filmmaking. They mostly only see the actor and the director. Awareness of these various things one can do in the process is important. In some forum, people were discussing openly about downloading pirated films. Someone even directly asked me to send them a YouTube link for them to watch. People aren’t even thinking of taking an OTT subscription to watch a film. In the next two or three years, it’ll be great to see people becoming more aware of these things.
Suni: I feel like there has to be an increase in small screen theatres in more remote areas. We are not able to reach small cities like Kustagi, Kolar, Chikkaballapur and they’re also staying far from us. So if we are able to increase the number of screens, then we will be able to reach a bigger audience.