Words in visuals
Over the years, Girish Kasaravalli has come to believe in telling a story that has multiple strands. It doesn’t have to offer conclusions, says the director who has won Osian’s Best Film award for his Gulabi Talkies
Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.
DEMANDS OF THE MEDIUM Girish Kasaravalli: ‘Literary metaphors either look too forced or too literary in films. A film has to find its own metaphors’
The truth of the written word becomes the truth of the visual image only when it responds to the contexts in which we live in. While this is a matter of conviction for the acclaimed film maker Girish Kasaravalli, the process in a way, also works in t
he reverse for him. It is usually the context that takes him to a story. “There are so many issues that are floating around, and my mind is constantly working on these things. Suddenly, a story comes to my mind, and I feel I can make a film out of it. However, it is never the entire text, but a strain around which I weave my own story,” explains Girish, whose new film “Gulabi Talkies” based on Kannada writer Vaidehi’s outstanding story “Gulabi Talkies Mattu Sanna Alegalu” won the Best Film award at the Osian Festival.
Most Girish’s films, in his career of three decades, have their source in a literary work. But that’s only the starting point, he says. “The cultural conflicts, social churnings, political upheavals… there are various things that I want to respond to with great urgency. I pick on a detail and start exploiting the story.” It was during a conversation with T.N. Seetaram on the way children respond to the world around them, that Seetaram narrated his story “Kraurya” to Girish. “The last part made such an impact on me that I decided to make a film,” he recalls.
For that matter even Gulabi Talkies had a quirky beginning. Two years ago, when Girish was at the Osian Festival, the CNN’s beaming of the Saddam Hussein episode came to him; the flowing grey beard, haggard and worn out, and beseeching… were these images real or synthetic? With no way of finding out the truth of it, one comes to believe what one sees. “Everything is manufactured. Why is it that we never ask if that was the real Saddam Hussein? Some 50 people who shout anti-Saddam slogans are brought in front of the camera and they become the representatives of a larger community. It sure is politics of representation. But at some point we submit our intellect to such a discourse…,” observes Girish, even as he transplants these issues into our immediate situations.
The questions on media, representation, communalisation and community… these various possibilities, he felt could be worked out in Vaidehi’s short story. “The story moves from individual to community. There is a personal drama, community drama, national drama and there are dreams, their breakdown… I bring in multiple layers… These days, I’m not too fond of telling any one story. And the many stories that you tell within a story needn’t be taken to their logical, linear ends,” he says.
Most of what Girish wants to say is pre-decided. There are hardly any instances of a character mapping its own path and move beyond his personal politics. “I exercise my control. I fit everything into my faith. But at the level of reason, I leave it open-ended. That’s when you, as audience, go along with the characters,” adds Girish.
The text generates certain evocative images. And Girish follows the images. If you follow the narrative, images become subservient. Hence, once the images are formed, the text is relegated to the background. “Cinematic images come in terms of movement, visual details, image size, colours… all this should happen to me when I read a story. So however good a literary text is, I overcome it.” While Naani says “thoo” as the closing line in the story “Ghatashraddha”, it was consciously dropped in the film. “On the screen it would have transformed into something very contrived. Literary metaphors either look too forced or too literary in films. A film has to find its own metaphors. In “Naayi Neralu” I tried to work with colours… they are true both literally and metaphorically. Composition and graphics can also become metaphors.”
But when stories are turned around, doesn’t it at times alter the politics? Don’t writers to whom it is attributed have a problem? “Not so far. As long as the stories get justice in the visual medium, they don’t seem to have a problem. I don’t expect them to agree with me, all I want to do is convince them about my faith. Ananthamurthy had problems with my take on Ghatashraddha. ‘But if you are convinced of your interpretation, then why not? You have taken my story ahead, you have found new meanings. That’s how an adaptation should work,’ he had remarked.”
Girish feels deeply indebted to these writers, for, without their story, he wouldn’t have his. “It’s nice to call it spin-off stories I suppose. It is true of theatre too. People are always reinterpreting stories, plays and new meanings are found.” The greatest strength in the medium of films is the way it sets a story in time, even as it constantly seeks to transcend it. “If a story is in suspended time, I try and root it in a specific period. It gives me a cinematic idiom for the kind of films I believe in. You cannot discuss social realities in a timeless state. But you cross time in your perception. For instance, when we watch ‘Bicycle Thief’ we know it is set in the post-II World War period, but then it could also happen anywhere at any time. That’s how the human mind works,” reasons Girish.
Women have always been the centre of most Girish’s films. Probably because the fundamental inspiration is literature, he explains. “Also, the world in which I grew up had such amazing women. In our society, irrespective of class and caste, women are victims of more injustices than men. But they never become bitter. There is a grinding monotony that can suck the life out of them, but they have an incredible inner reserve which keeps them going,” he observes with admiration.
Girish’s films are a result of a continuous dialogue with himself. He is the sum of all his films, and wouldn’t wish to be seen in respect to individual films. “Over the years, my stories have now become multi-dimensional. I now don’t keep myself outside of any problem, I’m also a part of everything that’s happening around me… when I blame someone else, I’m also blaming myself,” says Girish, introspectively.
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