Kannada film Katheyondu Shuruvagide is the right mix of hope and second chances, love and loss, comedy and yearning glances. The cast and crew are surely going to bag big awards next year for their work. The movie has entered the second week at the box office and is doing pretty well with the urban audiences.
Writer-director Senna Hegde speaks to TNM about his stunning movie, his influences, and why Malayalam movies hold a special place in his heart. Here are excerpts from the interview:
You quit your job in the US and came back to India. Diganth (as Tarun) does the same thing in Katheyondu Shuruvagide. Is that the only similarity between the director and his story?
Well, there are similarities. It is definitely not based on a real story, though. Most of it is fictional, but thereâ€™s some reality that Iâ€™ve borrowed from life experiences. I quit my job in the US, and moved to the Middle East and started working in advertising. I worked there for about eight and a half years. When my dad passed away in 2014, I moved back to India. So, I came back home and made a movie. I think the resemblance ends there.
Pooja Devariyaâ€™s character, Tanya, lies in the beginning. She says that her husband has passed away. But thatâ€™s not true. Does that mean Akash is not there for her anymore, metaphorically speaking?
Mentally, she has killed him. Instead of telling the whole story (that Akash has cheated on her) to Tarun, she tells him that heâ€™s dead. And, thatâ€™s why, at the end of the first half, sheâ€™s seen erasing all his memories (Akash proposing to her with the ring in the cake).
In the film, Swarna (Shreya Anchan) watches Queen on her phone. And your film has a similar theme, where a single woman goes on a honeymoon trip.
If you watch Queen and Katheyondu Shuruvagide, thereâ€™s nothing similar in the structure, or the storytelling. Itâ€™s like an onion, and if you keep peeling and peeling, maybe youâ€™ll find something common at the bottom. When I saw Queen, I thought itâ€™d be interesting to add a little about it because itâ€™s based on similar thoughts. A lot of people liked it and a few people didnâ€™t like it.
Did your early years in Kerala influence you as a filmmaker?
Absolutely! My influences are only two languages â€“ Malayalam and English. Thatâ€™s something I canâ€™t go away from. I used to watch a lot of Malayalam movies and English movies. So, definitely, my film sensibility, if I have any (chuckles), basically stems from these two languages. Even now, I watch more Malayalam movies than films from any other language.
Thereâ€™s a lot of Richard Linklaterâ€™s Before trilogy in Katheyondu Shuruvagide. Are you inspired by the filmmaker?
Yeah! Heâ€™s one of my favourite filmmakers. I dedicated my 0-41* to him. He made a quote saying, â€śGet a camera, get your friends, and go make a movie about your life,â€ť or something like that! And that, kind of, triggered me to make 0-41*. I took a camera, called some friends, and shot the movie in my neighborhood using all the people from my neighborhood. My driver has a prominent role in the film.
Another director I like is Cameron Crowe. His movies are a little more commercial than Richard Linklaterâ€™s. But he also deals with human relationships in Almost Famous and We Bought A Zoo. Iâ€™m also a huge fan of a few Malayalam directors like Sathyan Anthikad, Sreenivasan, and Padmarajan from the '80s and '90s.
Would you call Pedro (Ashwin Rao Pallakki) a man-child?
He is, in a way, a man-child. He hasnâ€™t come out of that shell. Heâ€™s from a small-town. Heâ€™s probably not had a pleasant childhood. Maybe he has those basic amenities, but he hasnâ€™t had the exposure that Swarna seems to have had. Swarna is very practical. Sheâ€™s a go-getter, whereas this guy lives in his own bubble.
In the film, Tarun has had a break-up in the US. And Tanya has also had a break-up. Uncle has survived cancer. Is the film about second chances?
I didnâ€™t really think in those terms. It feels like theyâ€™re all getting second chances. I donâ€™t believe that there are only two chances. Life is full of chances, and my whole perception about this movie was â€“ people come together for four days and have conversations, and something develops between them.
Why arenâ€™t any of the places named in your movie â€“ the beaches, the airport?
That was purposely done. I didnâ€™t want to give it a name as I didnâ€™t want people to nitpick. The airport is in Mysore and the resort is in Pondicherry, and they are frolicking on the beaches of Mangalore. It was almost like a fictitious place. Somebody whoâ€™s been to all these places will be able to put them together.
In your film, there are three pairs: Tarun-Tanya, Pedro-Swarna, and Uncle-Aunty (Babu Hirannaiah and Aruna Balaraj). But Tarun-Tanya and Pedro-Swarna, more or less, belong to the same age group.
When I look at somebody whoâ€™s in their twenties, letâ€™s say 24-25, theyâ€™re still single. Theyâ€™re the most optimistic people. They donâ€™t have a care. They donâ€™t have responsibilities. The world is theirs for taking. They can do anything they want. In the movie â€“ love being the theme â€“ Pedro knows that heâ€™s not good enough for Swarna, but he doesnâ€™t care. Thatâ€™s the youth! They think they can do whatever they want, and can get whatever they want.
Iâ€™ve never heard people in their sixties talk about their future. They always talk about the past. Sorry to say this, but thereâ€™s not too much to look forward to. Itâ€™s always about looking back. For me, the most crucial period is the mid-thirties. Most of lifeâ€™s decisions would have been made by thenâ€¦ because after that, itâ€™s very difficult to change. Thatâ€™s where Tarun and Tanya are. Theyâ€™re in their mid-thirties. Thatâ€™s the age group Iâ€™ve put them in.
Letâ€™s say Tarun is 36-37. Tarun doesnâ€™t have too many reasons to be insecure. He doesnâ€™t have a life partner. There are a lot of those underlying issues. But he looks okay and normal. He doesnâ€™t look like the sky has fallen on his head. And Tanya is dealing with her own insecurities. Sheâ€™s been with Akash for so long, and, now, sheâ€™s on her own and she doesnâ€™t know if she can live without him. Itâ€™s difficult to leave somebody youâ€™ve loved for so long. Thatâ€™s why a lot of people stay back in abusive relationships.
Thatâ€™s what I have tried to explore with these characters. Some people have got it and some people think itâ€™s frivolous.