The write route to films
P. Seshadri, the winner of three national awards, has also won this year's state award for his film, Beru. The young director, who started out as a journalist, believes in a style that is easy and reaches out to a large number of people
Photos: Bhagya Prakash K.
BIG LEAP P. Seshadri: `Awards in a way are reassuring, because they guarantee some money. A release in the theatres for my kind of films doesn't ensure any money'
With three National Awards in his kitty, one can quite imagine what's happening to P. Seshadri. Producers queuing up and subtly pushing their agenda: to dish out yet another award-winning film, of course. Pressures are running high, but the hat-trick achiever resolutely stands on terra firma, unimpressed by all that fawning. "I straightaway tell them they shouldn't pin too many hopes on me," avers the director who makes a film only when he is convinced of the story.
Incidentally, Seshadri, the maker of films Munnudi, Athithi and Beru, never set out to be a filmmaker. He wanted to be a journalist. During the mid-'80's, he took up a sub-editor's job with Suddi Sangaati. Even as he was on the film beat he had a fascination for the visual medium. Clearly he was in awe of the big screen's potential. "I would go out of my way to meet people, interact with them. Never did it merely as duty." Those 10 months on the beat was bliss. But how long could one survive on cerebral pleasures? Keeping the hearth burning on a salary of Rs. 1,000 was tough. "Also, it was a killing routine. A gruelling eight hours with hardly any productivity, and sometimes humiliating too. I longed to do something path-breaking."
Friends stood by him, urged him to follow his instincts and take the plunge. Seshadri started working as film director Nagabharana's assistant. In this altogether new world, playing a new role, he did have problems. "It was like I went through a demotion. As a journalist I commanded so much respect, but on the sets, an assistant director is almost like an errand boy. People are giving you instructions all the time," he recalls. There was a lot to learn and he didn't resent it. He worked in every department, from direction to production, and grasped the nuances from up close.
Like many bright talents in the industry, Seshadri's learning didn't happen in the classroom of a film institute, watching the best of films and reading the best of film literature. All his learning was happening on the sets. Nevertheless, he was watching a lot of cinema and formulating his own thoughts, though he did miss someone with whom he could hold intelligent discussions. But he has no regrets. "When I did my journalism course, I thought I was prepared to work as a journalist. Eventually, I realised that my formal training had nothing to do with demands on field." He extends the same logic to his filmmaking. "When you see my films you realise that I'm not in any groove. My style is very individualistic and don't stick to a formula."
His leap to filmdom did come with plenty of caution about the big bad world out there. More so when one comes from families that have straightjacketed notions about the "right" careers. "They came in plenty. But what stood me in good stead were the values of sincerity and discipline my father, a schoolteacher, instilled in me. I haven't had major letdowns so far," observes Seshadri, even though, interestingly, the central theme of his film Beru is how individuals become victims of circumstances.
With a few like-minded friends, he started Mitra Chitra, a film co-operative. The group started making films which had social issues for their theme. Their films were low budget, a sum they could recover. "Awards in a way are reassuring, because they guarantee some money. A theatrical release for my kind of films doesn't ensure any money," Seshadri rues.
The recent trend of violence in Kannada cinema distresses him, and he is startled by the huge turnout at theatres for such films. Still, he doesn't believe in simplistic bifurcations of a good film and a bad film, and believes that a film promoted well does well.
Seshadri, who loves making films based on works of literature, prefers an easy narrative. He doesn't rely on images because he says films are meant to reach a wide audience. This talented man, who has worked on several teleserials and short films, is now looking forward to the release of Tuttoori, the film he has directed for Kannada actor Jayamala.
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