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Making a mark in a man's world

From print journalism to television serials and short films Buvana has done them all. MALATHI RANGARAJAN meets the filmmaker whose first commercial feature film is awaiting release.



Buvana and actor Seetha ... a scene in discussion.

FILMMAKER BUVANA is the gritty, persevering kind, determined to prove herself in a completely male dominated industry. Busy as she is with the post-production work of her first feature film "Righta Thappa," which she plans to release after Deepavali, Buvana is keen to dwell on her new project.

" `Righta ... ' is a film for the entire family — a commercial venture with a strong message," she assures. Buvana is not new to filmmaking. Her short films — "Ayeesha" and "The Search"— have won laurels at film festivals the world over. The latter was recently selected for screening at the Mumbai Film Festival (MIFF). Buvana began her career as a journalist before the urge to take up social issues prodded her into making television serials and later, short films. From print journalism to docu-features she's done them all. "When an incident or social malady affects me I am unable to relax till I give voice to it through a film. Till now it's been through shorts, now I've decided to go the full length," she says.

The changeover

Given the murky scenario of film production at present, it could be a risky proposition ... "Many tried to dissuade me. In fact the first thing a woman filmmaker faces is discouragement. But once I make up my mind I never allow people to talk me out of it. Otherwise I could have never got even this far," she laughs. But she could have continued with her less onerous short film projects ... why does it have to be a feature film this time?

"Frankly the market for short films, and their reach are very limited. Most of the time recognition stops with awards and accolades at film festivals — prestigious all right but not paying. And the theme of "Righta Thappa," is very pertinent. It has to percolate down to every segment possible. And no short film can achieve that ... "

"Righta ... " deals with the menace of eve teasing. "Ayyappan, a vernacular journalist, narrated a true-life incident. I took the knot alone and wrote the story, screenplay and dialogue." Buvana worked on the script of "Righta ... " for a year, before she was ready for the shoot. All her ventures so far have been produced by her VB Filmmakers. "It is not easy for a woman director to find a producer. `What can she know?' is the idea. So I turned producer for this feature film too. If my "Righta ... " shows that I can deliver the goods, then I could get offers from outside. But for that I have to first prove myself with my money," she explains. In a way, the runaway success of a film such as "Autograph," has raised the hopes of filmmakers like Buvana. They are now confident that good, clean films if well made, stand a great chance. "Except Cheran, `Autograph' had no known faces. Nor did it have item numbers to see it through. Yet it surged ahead ... " she smiles.

The cast



Ramana and Uma in "Righta Thappa" ...

Buvana feels the casting for her film is apt. Ramana, the hero, is actor Vijaybabu's son. He has acted in five films in Telugu. Also seen in the Tamil flicks, "Style" and "Jore," he is doing the lead in "Meesai Madhavan." "Righta ... " should prove a meaningful assignment for Ramana. Buvana is all praise for the young man. "I was taken in by his impeccable behaviour and co-operation throughout the making of the film. I wanted a soft face and he filled the bill. He has come out with a commendable performance," she says.

From the time she conceived the story, Buvana had only actor Sumitra's daughter Uma in mind. Somehow she wasn't able to contact her and reluctantly decided on another heroine. But Buvana believes in Providence. "I had made all arrangements to begin shooting. Just for a change, the previous evening I had been to Sathyam theatre to watch "Vasool Raja MBBS" and to my surprise met Uma there. I told her how I had tried contacting her for my film, and narrated the story during intermission. She liked it a lot, went home and called me back to say that she would do the film," Buvana recollects. According to her another perfect choice is Seetha, who plays the mother.

"Righta ... " has a sober subject ("But it is not a heavy film," Buvana hastens to add) that has songs tuned by Karthik Raja. "Karthik has worked with me earlier for a short film. Our rapport is excellent. He has given me three worthy songs, of which one has been sung by Karthik himself." P. C. Sriram's associate Mahesh Muthusamy, has handled the camera and Suresh Urs who has also worked with Buvana earlier, is the editor. Quality wise she is confident that she'll score. "My film has all the commercial elements ... but without compromises," she says.

The making of this film has helped Buvana learn the business of cinema production in and out. "If more women technicians come into the field it will set a healthy trend. Generally women are a conscientious lot. We would never waste time, especially when we know that every second is money. Today I know the economics of filmmaking that I can guarantee a well made product without wastage on any front," says this mother of two.

Buvana has slogged night and day for the past few months and she is very happy with the outcome. "This project has been like a penance for me ... Banks should come forward further to help sincere filmmakers. The timely loan assistance from the Central Bank of India has been of immense help ... `Righta ... ' is an honest effort and I'm sure it will reap dividends ... If my film reforms even four youngsters I will be glad ... " Buvana's conviction and confidence ought to see her through.

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