Sanal Kumar Sasidharan: “There is nothing sexy about Durga in my film”.

Sanal Kumar Sasidharan: “There is nothing sexy about Durga in my film”.

by Jyothi Venkatesh December 2 2017, 9:04 pm Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins, 38 secs

The firebrand director shot to fame recently when his latest film S Durga was banned from being showcased as part of the Indian Panorama section in the 49th International Film Festival of India held at Goa recently. The director, who petitioned against the ban on the screening and won the case and yet the film was not showcased at IFFI, tells veteran film journalist, critic and columnist Jyothi Venkatesh from Australia via phone that he does not like to make films with stars.

Q: What exactly does your film S Durga, formerly titled Sexy Durga before the Censors asked you to change the title, set out to tell?

S Durga is my third film as a director. It basically deals with women’s issues on a larger level. It is about a patriarchal issue in society. S Durga is about fear of darkness. In short it is the representation of women in India.

Q: What is sexy about Durga in your film?

There is nothing sexy about Durga in the film. In my film, Durga is a young woman in her late 20’s who is seen eloping with her boyfriend in the middle of the night. It is about what happens in their journey when they set out to catch a train at the railway station.

Q:In how many days did you shoot your film S Durga? How much did the film cost you?

S Durga stars Rajshri Deshpande who had earlier acted in Hindi films like Angry Indian Goddesses and Mumbai Central. It took me 20 to 25 days to shoot my film S Durga. I made it on a shoe string budget of around just 20 lakhs. I’d say that S Durga is only a concept. My film has already been premiered at Rotterdam Film Festival and does not have any coherent story as such.

Q: Who are the directors who have inspired you?

Though I am greatly inspired by Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Aravindan, I do not follow their styles of filmmaking. In any case, unlike me, Adoor Sir is a staunch follower of the script

Q: Your film S Durga was recalled by the I&B Ministry after the jury recommended that it be shown as part of the Indian Panorama.

Yes. It is sad that after the jury recommended my film for screening at the Indian Panorama in Goa this year, it was rejected by the government petitioned against the screening by the government in the Kerala High Court and won the case as the Kerala High Court heard the matter and overruled the objections raised by the Ministry and has ordered the government to show the film with its Censor certificate at the festival.

Q: What is your reaction to the High court verdict?

I would call it a win for cinema as such and all those who champion the cause of artistic freedom. A lot of people have put in their hard work and time for the film and the court’s directive reinstates our belief in democracy and the judiciary.

Q: You do not make any film with stars. Why?

I do not want to make any film with stars because I feel that if I were running behind the stars, I would not be able to make a structural film. As a filmmaker, I always try to make free flowing films without any structure as such. Though there are some stars like Murali Gopi, the son of the late actor Bharat Gopi who is ready to work with me, most of the stars would not believe me because I have a free-flowing style and my films do not have a story or the script.

Q: Oraalppokkam was your first film.

Oraalppokkam which was my first film was made by me in 25 lakhs totally with online crowd funding and was shot from Kerala to Kedarnath. It was a road movie starring Prakash Bare and Meena Kandasamy

Q: You quit your job as a lawyer to take up making films as your vocation. Was the transition tough?

Yes. I quit my job as a lawyer and started concentrating on writing scripts and organizing funds to make short films from 2001 till 2012. In 2013, I made my debut with Oraalppokkam when Neev Arts, a cultural organization and an art gallery came forward to back me. Oraalppokkam had dialogues more in Hindi and English than Malayalam though it was Malayalam film.

Q: How tough is it for independent filmmakers in India to survive today?

Though I do not at all think that movie making is a tough job if you have the desire and the inclination and one can even make a film in just 2, 3 or 5 lakhs of rupees, independent filmmakers have to struggle to reach out to people.

Q: Hasn’t the advent of Netflix made it easier for makers to reach across the world in one go?

Though now with digitalization we can afford to cut costs, I am of the opinion that Netflix is a personal viewing. The reaction of the crowds in a theater is very crucial for a filmmaker because online platforms are limited like reading a book.

Q: Why do you not set out to drive home any message through your films, whether it was Oraalppokkam, Ozhivudivasathe Kali or for that matter your third and the latest film S Durga?

I do not believe in limiting my films with a message as I believe a lot in spontaneity and organic nature of working. It is one of the reasons that I do not like to have rehearsals for any scene. I feel if I have rehearsals, it will not be organic and the scenes will lack energy.

Q: There was a 17-minute-long scene in your film Ozhivudivasathe Kali. Was it planned to shoot without any cut?

Yes. If there is a cut, you will feel that there is some kind of cheating involved. I want people to feel and believe that something is happening in front of their eyes live as I feel that in reality there is no cut at all. Ozhivudivasathe Kali took 14 days to complete. It had 70 lengthy shots including a 15-minute scene shot in a single day where we improvised a lot. Shaji and Aruna Mathew who had produced Oraalppokkam had also produced Ozhivudivasathe Kali.

Q: What do you propose to do next, now that your film wasn't screened in IFFI?

Just wait and watch. I am not going to lie low and be trampled. It is a conspiracy against the judiciary by the government of India. The jury ruled in our favour and yet the IFFI did not exhibit our film. I have filed a case of contempt of the court order against the IFFI in the Kerala High Court.

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