September 6, 2023, marked ten years since the release of the cult classic Kannada film Lucia. The indie film was the sophomore effort from Pawan Kumar, who had only directed the Diganth starrer Lifeu Ishtene at the point. The film starred the then-unknown actor Sathish Ninasam and debutante Sruthi Hariharan. They have all become household names now, making a mark in the Kannada as well as other film industries. The team re-released the hit film to celebrate the tenth anniversary, and sat to discuss the decade-long journey they have had since the film was released.
“I didn’t think the film would release itself while making it, re-release is another thing altogether,” says director Pawan Kumar when asked if he ever thought that the film would be re-released ten years later, “I actually have not seen the film since then because I could only see the flaws. So I never knew what the people saw in the film and why they loved it so much. Whenever I saw the film, I could only think, ‘I should’ve chosen someone else instead of Sathish and Sruthi’. But now I realize that we could do it only with them.”
“I strongly believe that a film chooses its people, and at that time Lucia chose us,” says Sruthi Hariharan when asked if anyone other than Pawan Kumar could make the film, which was a cultural milestone in Kannada cinema, starting a new wave in filmmaking practices. Lucia, the first crowdfunded film in India, was financed by as many as a thousand people through a Kickstarter campaign launched by Pawan Kumar.
“I think the crowdfunding aspect really hits hard when people randomly approach me and say that they had invested in Lucia,” says Sruthi. “We would never have seen their face and that is not how a producer-actor relationship tends to be. It was great because nearly thousand people felt that they were part of a film. It is their film as much as it is ours.”
“I have faced many incidents like this,” adds Sathish Ninasam, “I was at an ad shoot and after the shoot, the director suddenly realized that he was also an investor. We had gone to Dubai to play a cricket tournament and there too I met people who invested in Lucia. The film has a lot of debt on us.”
No other crowdfunded film could replicat the success of Lucia in India. Pawan Kumar himself tried it again with a planned project named C10 H14 N2 but it failed to attract the investment. The film eventually became this year’s Fahad Faasil starrer Dhoomam, backed by Hombale Films. “When we started, we were in a very lucky time,” says Pawan Kumar, “Today, the same script and the same enthusiasm won’t work. Because when we started, social media was in its good stage. There was trust, people were talking to each other nicely, and we wanted to make friends. That is not the case today. I feel a lot of things fell in place at the right time. If we had delayed it for even six more months, it would not have worked."
Ten years after the infamous Nikhil took the audience into his dream world, the team behind Lucia has gone to different places. Lead actor Sathish Ninasam is a prominent actor and producer, Sruthi Hariharan has made a mark in various industries across South India and Pawan Kumar has become one of the most sought-after directors.
“In the past ten years, I have been asked about Lucia every time I’ve gone for an interview or during promotions,” says Sathish Ninasam, “I think the film opened up filmmaking to the general public. Many people came into the film industry as directors and actors after Lucia. If I had done this film now, I would still like to do it with the same innocence I had then. There would be no changes. It might be a bit difficult now, but I would still love to do it.”