Girish Kasaravalli is an Indian film director, in the Kannada film industry, and one of the pioneers of the parallel cinema.Known internationally, he has won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film four times, Ghatashraddha (1977), Tabarana Kathe (1986), Thaayi Saheba (1997) and Dweepa (2001). In 2011, he was awarded Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award by Government of India. He was here at NITK, Surathkal with us for the film appreciation event and screening of his movie ‘Dweepa’ at the 27th National Convention of SPICMACAY (June 2012). Excerpts from an interview with the director:
Nithesh.S: It’s a great pleasure to meet a film maker of your calibre sir. Could you tell us about how you got into the cinema world?
Girish Kasaravalli: Initially I was not at all interested in cinemas I had a notion that cinema is not at all an art form. Slowly my perceptions have changed after having many interactions and new thoughts. Over the years I’ve realised that good cinemas can be a great piece of art. I later joined FTII (Film and Television Institute of India, Pune) and learnt the nuances of movie making. My interest in cinemas grew at FTII. After that I’ve pursued a career in movies.
N: What is your idea of ‘good cinema’, sir ?
GK: A good movie is one which alters our perspectives and widens our horizons. If a movie strongly relies on the emotional layer, then I wouldn’t rate it very high. A movie is built on several layers, it could be emotional, the emotional layer or the narrative layer or the theme. It must make the audience to think and question about socio-political economic or developmental issues, rather than simply support or oppose issues.
N: How was your experience at the FTII sir?
GK: FTII was a place where everybody discussed about cinema all the time. It was analysed as a performing art. We thought and discussed beyond the storylines and themes. It was a place where I developed a taste for good cinema.
N: Movies these days are devoid of values or relevant issues that instigate thought in the audience. Still such second rated movies get the attention and money. What is your take on this sir?
GK: One can appreciate good music /art only if he/she is exposed to good art music/art forms. If you know nothing about classical music and sit in a concert, you will complain that the performer is screeching some random tunes. It is the same with literature as well. Even I can’t follow some Kannada authors. Their content is too intense for certain readers. The story is not different when one talks of poetry. For example, Gopalakrishna Adiga is not everyone’s cup of tea but the impact of literature or poetry on the readers cannot be assessed accurately and instantly. The thing about cinema is the reaction of audience is spontaneous and visible .Mere statistics does not decide the quality or worth of an art form, be it cinema, literature and poetry. So, the audience for pure cinema is limited and consists of people with a taste for good cinema.
N: Sir, but still moviemakers must find some way to strike a balance between entertainment and serious issues to reach out to the general audience.
GK: No, such compromises can’t be done easily. When it comes to movie making, the industry has always emphasized on monetary returns. The movie maker is answerable to the producer(s) and the producer in turn to his bank balance. As a result of this, quality of cinema has taken a backseat in our film industry. The quality of the audience also is considered a deciding factor while making a movie
What according to you is the reason for this situation?
GK: The problem is related to our education system. People have a better idea of literature than cinema as you can find significant references to poems and stories in your school syllabus. What about cinema? You can almost say that cinema is completely ignored in the school syllabus. So an individual cannot make an informed choice as far as cinema is concerned. You might have a chapter on Satyajit ray in your textbooks, but still a student does not get a good idea of what good cinema is.
N: K V Subbanna, the great theatrical personality was a close relative of yours. How did he influence your opinion on cinema?
GK: Dr. K V Subbanna was the person who taught me about the nuances of cinema and its artistic beauty. He widened my horizons as far as movies are concerned. Dr. Subbanna had taken a course on cinema; even I wondered why a theatre person is doing a course on cinema. Later he suggested me to read a book on cinema. After I finished that book, I developed an interest towards cinema. He made me understand that filmmaking should be realistic and not an escapist art form.
N: What would you have become if not a movie maker?
GK: I would have become a pharmacist. I had done a pharmacy course in Manipal before I went to FTII
N: What are the ends that you are trying to achieve through your movies? What is your ultimate aim?
GK: I want people to ‘see’ my movies. According to me, seeing is different from just looking. Cinema is an art form where time and space condense; you get to understand the difference between A & B. When I travel from Surathkal to Mangalore, I don’t see the difference between the two, but when you portray the same in a movie where time and space are limited, you get to see the difference. I want my audience to think and read between the lines of the story.
N: It was a pleasure talking to you sir, Thank you very much.
GK: Thank you