The Interview with the producer of the widely controversial film 'Sexy Durga'. This interview brings insights into the film maker's life, his technique, his views on God and his struggle as a filmmaker. This interview is from our Issue 8, called 'Our Gods-part 1'
Subscribe to Umbra to read the full interview of the filmmaker and his views on 'Sexy Durga'.
Congratulations on winning the Hivos Tiger Award. This is your third film, and it is quite a streak. How did you get into filmmaking?
Thank you. To be honest, from the moment I started thinking about my purpose, I thought of a profession that gave me not just money but also a little dignity, like a doctor or an engineer. My father was very eager for me to become a doctor, but he was also an ardent fan of films. He used to take us to the theatre near our village almost every Friday to watch a new film. We were a poor family, with my father as the only earning member, yet he would manage to take us to the theatre. I remember watching my first film at the age of three.
I later expressed my interest in films, but that upset him so much that he suddenly stopped going to watch films. He really wanted me to become a doctor since I had polio. His experiences with the doctors at that time made him think highly of the profession. As I grew up, in school we played some games, enacted some movie scenes, and I was convinced of becoming a filmmaker by the time I left high school. This led to some troubles with my father, and he made me take the medical entrance exams which I failed. He told me to write the exams again, and I got into a degree college promising him that I would write the exams again the next year. So three years passed and I was a graduate who couldn’t pass the medical entrance, after which I told him that I was going to Pune to learn filmmaking, which infuriated him. He asked me to leave and never return home. I was scared and not confident if I could survive alone without my family’s support. So I changed my plans and decided to study law just so that I could get some job, and perhaps when I was more confident, pursue filmmaking. I told my father about becoming a lawyer, and he was almost okay with that. While I was studying, I was also thinking about making films, and by the time I was in my final year in law college, I went to assist a filmmaker on his film so that I could learn. It was my first film as an assistant, and it turned out to be his last film. It was called Mankolangal. I continued trying to make films, writing scripts and approaching producers whom I had got to know by then, but nothing seemed to work out. That is when I got together with some friends, and we decided to start a film society. The Kazhcha Film Forum was established in 2000-2001. Soon we were making some short films. The first one I made was with the help of those friends, and it was a sort of crowd-funded project. But the film did not get any success, and no money came back, so I felt like I was cheating people since the film did not make money, nor did it get any acclaim.
I kept meeting people, actors, producers, but no one seemed interested in the films that I wanted to make. This was a difficult time and about six years later, in 2006. I gave up and left Kerala, came to Delhi looking for a job, anything that could help me financially; I was willing to give up on all my ideas and ambitions. A year later, I found a good paying job in Saudi Arabia, and I thought: this is it, everything is settled.
What was your job in Saudi Arabia?
I was an administrator in a construction company [laughs] Not law, not filmmaking or anything that I had studied, but it was peaceful — I had an AC cabin, comfortable living, and a steady paycheque. I was feeling better. Soon I started writing a blog which also became a source of little happiness. I thought I could bring my family, too, and settle down. I uploaded the short films that I had made back in 2000 on the blog. It garnered some attention, and people started talking to me about films, poking me with questions like why don’t I go back and make films, almost as if pushing me to quit my job.
Then one day I met Manikantan, who asked me if I could make a film from his script. He was willing to fund it along with his friends. That was a good enough offer and I decided to quit the job and go back to Kerala to make the film. It was called Parole. Back in Kerala, after this film, things again became dull and nothing seemed to move. I started doing some translation work to sustain myself and I wrote about 8-9 scripts in this period between 2008 and 2012, but I could not find anyone to fund any of it. Then in 2012, one guy approached me to make another short film with him as the central character. He had some money, so I wrote a script for him and sent it over, and once he read it, he quit; he did not like it at all [laughs, then turns serious]. It was a very frantic time. I was trying to do a lot of things, hoping that something would work out. But I wanted to work on the script that I had written, so I contacted some friends and shared it, almost begging them for help, and they did. With a fund of forty thousand, we made this short film called Frog. It turned out well, and I received the Kerala State Award for the film. That was the turning point; people started recognizing me, and they started to offer help if I wanted to make films. This was the starting of Oralpokkam (first feature) which became a big project, again crowd-funded, and Shaji Matthew became the chief co-producer. The film managed a production budget of twenty-five lakh rupees.