Srinivas Sunderrajan recounts the experience of making his first indie feature film, The Untitled Kartik Krishnan Project. Needless to say, its making was as interesting and strange as the film itself
Tell us about yourself. When did you decide to become a filmmaker?
I majored in science and spent a year in IT. And then I did my Bachelors in Mass Media from Mumbai University. When I was in college, I made a short film which won quite a few awards. Honestly, I never planned or decided to become a filmmaker. I just ended up being one.
Whom do you consider as your major influences on your work?
I don’t have a particular influence as such. I keep watching all kinds of films from different languages. There’s so much to learn from so many different filmmakers that it’s difficult to pinpoint whose work influenced me the most. Filmmakers like Basu Chatterjee and Saeed Mirza made some fabulous films in the 80s which explored the existential dilemma they were in, Charlie Kauffman’s films explored the surreal and meta things in our lives and Wong Kar Wai is a master at creating moods through the audio and visuals in his films. The list is endless.
Existential dilemma seems to be a common factor in your work so far. Does this topic interest you a lot?
We all go through an existential dilemma and I believe we all try to figure out our purpose in life all the time. You can never reach the answer and you begin to look at everything in life from a distance. After a point of time, you begin to question everything and some of the best stories come out during this phase of our lives. Two of my short films Tea Break and Vaapsi have a protagonist who’s always in an existential dilemma. Even in The Untitled Karthik Krishnan Project, the protagonist goes through a similar situation. The film is about a guy who wants to make a short film and in the process several strange incidents begin to occur which have a deep impact on his life.
You met Kartik Krishnan and several other people who supported you throughout your journey so far on Passionforcinema.com, which was shut down last year. Did it hurt you since the website played an important role in making of your film?
Of course it did. It was the only forum which was dedicated to indie cinema. You could get all the resources and talk to directors directly. But as it progressed, it wasn’t the same anymore. There are some blogs now like moifightclub and madaboutmoviez which talk about indie cinema; however, most of them are from a certain individual’s point of view.
You made the film on a budget of around Rs.40,000. How difficult was it to make the film at such a low budget?
I never wanted to make a zero budget film and I didn’t have a fixed budget in mind. It’s very difficult to not compromise at some level while making an indie film. The original plan was to shoot the film in 27 days spread over three months, but we ended up shooting for almost a year. Since most of the cast and crew, expect me, had day jobs we could work only on weekends. Getting permissions for various locations was a big hassle. After completing 60 per cent of the film, the building where the protagonist lives collapsed. It was quite frustrating and at one point I wondered what I was doing.
Your film sounds almost like an autobiography, after listening to the ordeal you had to go through while making the film. Is that true?
It was supposed to be fiction, except for the part where I meet Kartik Krishnan. However, the problems I had written for Karthik were the same which I was facing while making the film. I could never point out the difference between reality and fiction. I had to change the script to shoot the remaining 40 per cent of the film. I would say 80 per cent of the film is an autobiography.
Your films were screened in quite a few film festivals. How has the response been so far?
The response has been great so far. Everyone wants to make a good film but there’s always a dilemma whether the audience will understand our perspective. If you are going through a creative process, you begin to hallucinate. When the film was screened at MAMI in Mumbai, people understood the film and the response was similar in New York. Newspapers like Wall Street Journal and New York Times wrote about the film. In fact, the response abroad was better because it was not a typical Bollywood film. Struggle is struggle no matter where you go and I think that’s what clicked with most people who could relate to the film.
Now that your film is finally releasing in theatres, thanks to PVR Director’s Rare, what would say was your biggest learning experience?
One thing which I have learnt is that you can never be sure of anything. There’s always a chance that your dream of making a film might collapse if you haven’t gotten all your things in place. Technically, you are paying an actor for his time more than his talent and that’s a precious commodity while making an indie film. You have to compromise somewhere. Nothing will go as per the plan.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Hemanth writes primarily about Telugu cinema, although he finds inspiration from the works of filmmakers like Woody Allen. Apart from writing, he spends most of his time on Twitter discussing about cinema, travel and life in Hyderabad.