Pawan Kumar On How His Theatre Experience Shapes His Work

“I don’t spoon-feed or say things directly. I like to leave them open to interpretation,” says the director.
Pawan Kumar On How His Theatre Experience Shapes His Work

Director Pawan Kumar has stepped into the OTT space with Leila and Amala Paul-starrer Kudi Yedamaithe. In this interview with Baradwaj Rangan, he speaks about why the OTT space is great for a writer while also being more challenging, his early film influences, and his take on remakes. Edited Excerpts…

Most of us outside of Kannada cinema would know you as the person who made Lucia which blew everyone's mind. Before that you made Lifeu Ishtene. What is your sensibility? What movies and subjects are you drawn towards?

People think I know too much cinema. It's actually not true. I started out with theatre. What fascinated me there is that there's a thought that's then wrapped in many layers. You get to peel the layers away as the audience and get to the deeper meaning. That's what fascinated me as a viewer and a storyteller. Even my work in theatre is similar. I don't spoon-feed or say it directly. I'd like it to be open to interpretation. People will have different ways of interpreting my thoughts. I was always drawn to that kind of cinema. 

I was also drawn to emotionally moving films. I hadn't seen any World cinema before Life Is Beautiful. It really moved me. Some of the first films that strongly influenced me were the well-made popular genre films, like Schindler's List, Fightclub, Philadelphia. I became an instant fan of the films of Tom Hanks and Spielberg. I was also a big Jim Carey fan. It was a mix of these things. 

There's the surface layer of the story that people usually get. When people come up to me to speak about some of the little things that I really enjoyed doing, it makes me really happy.

You like to challenge yourself and your viewers. So, what joy do you get out of remaking U Turn in Telugu and Tamil? Do you try little tweaks? How do you make it fun for yourself?

I did a remake only once just to try it. The reason I jumped at it was that when I made U Turn for the first time there were huge restrictions, financial and logistical. I couldn't shoot so many things I had written because we didn't have the money for it. Samantha saw the trailer and helped promote the film. I felt I had to return something to her and insisted that I'd do a remake only with her. She was also so keen on doing the film. 

Also, I come from the theatre where we do a show but it's never really over. There's a play I've done forty times already. So, when I put on a show after fifteen years, my performance has evolved with me. I wanted to see if that happens with cinema, too. I took it as an experience and the process never felt stale. I had a completely different set of technicians. U Turn was fun to shoot. 

Do you find the OTT space a happy space to be in?

Depends on who's running the show. I think the space offers an amazing platform for a writer. When I was writing Dvitva, I had to constantly tell myself that I shouldn't write more than 130-140 pages. There's so much conversation in a scene but there's also a limit. When you make it a web series, the flow is free. The characters expose themselves to so much more drama. So, as a writer it's a great thing but it's also very challenging. Movies are far easier to make.

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