Sekhar Kammula's Love Story with Naga Chaitanya and Sai Pallavi released theatrically on September 24. The director talks about why he can never make a love story that doesn't have pain, the ideologies behind Love Story, and his definition of a 'Sekhar Kammula film', in this interview with Baradwaj Rangan. Edited Excerpts…
You recently posted on Twitter that there's pain around but there's also hope, and that is Love Story. How would you define love?
I don't know if I can define it as an adjective. But liking or valuing someone for the way they are, accepting them with all their anomalies and faults, and respecting their independence is the best part of love.
Do you think pain is an integral part of love? Can you have a love story with just happiness?
No, because it's two individuals, and at any point, they're different. People around you dictate what you can and cannot do. You cannot be just for yourself; you have to be a social animal, as they say. So you have to depend on someone, and at some point there will be likes, dislikes and separation. Also, circumstances and people change. The more you think that you know a person and are sure about them, then something happens that feels like a big thing. If you didn't value the person, it might not even matter. So, I feel love and pain go hand in hand. This is just to do with two people. We also have the whole jargon of society. I have made a lot of films based on just one-on-one issues. But in this film, society dictates their lives.
I was just going to say that one of the nicest things about your films. Usually, external forces cause problems for the lovers but you specialize in the people themselves. And now, Love Story is the other way round…
The greatest fear within me when I wake up at night and try to write is if I'm becoming stale and redundant. Leader was about corruption and I was able to write it quickly, because everyone agrees that India needs to be corruption-free — it's an easy ideology to sell. But, caste is different because it hits you. I had a reference to caste issues in Leader. Whatever I knew about caste, I wanted to communicate. I am not an authority but the feeling I had for the issue was honest.
Also when I went to film school in Howard University my thoughts were brought to life after I was exposed to ideas about racism, feminism etc. I knew the issue of caste exists in our society and I wanted to make a film about it in my style. Post-Nirbhaya, I was caught up in gender equality issues and have been visiting colleges. As a maker, you can't just sit where you are and comfortably keep doing what you know until you die.
What is a 'Sekhar Kammula film'?
I just write and I make films. I actually have to read writings by journalists to find out what they think of as a 'Sekhar Kammula film'. People say my films have strong female characters, sometimes they might even act crazy, the hero is gentleman-like, there are kids, early mornings and coffee — that's the ecosystem. A journalist wrote that Anand is a movie which cannot be defined because it has a silence: like a baby sleeping in a cradle. If you ask me what that means, I don't even know. Probably people have a nostalgia that I can't define. That's a Sekhar Kammula film for me. Also, social issues like 'Nirbhaya' affect me and when I write, it comes out. The knowledge, craft and writing is there, and in a film like Leader, it comes out.