Interview: Srinidhi Bengaluru opens up as his Kannada film Blink creates a buzz

The Kannada movie ‘Blink’ has created a record of sorts, growing from strength to strength due to word-of-mouth publicity and social media buzz. Director Srinidhi speaks to TNM about how the film came to be.
Srinidhi Bengaluru
Srinidhi Bengaluru
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At a time when small, beautiful passion projects end up finding an audience only on OTT, the Kannada film Blink, produced by Ravichandra AJ and directed by Srinidhi Bengaluru, all of 25, has bucked the trend and is still marking its presence in week four in theatres.

Blink has also grown steadily from 30-odd screens in the first week to 80-odd in the third week, and 25 in the fourth week. This is scheduled to go up in the coming week. This is a film that has done well due to word-of-mouth publicity. It helped that Kannada film aficionados on social media kept the buzz alive. Some of them go for repeat watches and write about identifying new topics to discuss — such as the scene featuring a self-respect marriage. 

The time travel story with a protagonist named Apoorva (Dheekshith Shetty) has made a mark primarily because of its nuanced writing that fuses a known story with local traditions and never lets go of the emotional thread. As a result, nothing feels alien. You connect with what’s happening and feel for the characters. It helps that Srinidhi got on board the actors who gave the film their all — think Dheekshith, Chaithra Achar, Gopalkrishna Deshpande, and Suresh Anagalli.

In an interview, Srinidhi speaks about how he wrote the story and its numerous layers, why he expected the audience to engage with his film, and why he felt vindicated when they made the film theirs.

Edited excerpts

Q. Blink is a visually rich film, but not easy to write. How did you manage to convince your producer and actors during the narration?

The first narration did not go too well. In the second narration in 2022, they saw the potential, but everyone wondered if it would translate well into visuals, and pick up well. I was 90% confident when I began the project; there were some niggling doubts, though.

Still from 'Blink'
Still from 'Blink'

That said, I had faith in my target audience. I knew it would definitely reach an audience that liked to engage with such a film, and then possibly through word of mouth, reach the other screens. My script was 175 pages, and after I made the film, we showed it to focus groups and trimmed it to 2.16 hours. We kept the pace tight but allowed the emotions to breathe. That is paying us rich rewards.

Q. What were your influences while writing the script?

I was greatly influenced by Oedipus Rex, and the Kannada Dore Oedipus by the late P Lankesh. Oedipus’ plight upset me a lot. You can’t really think of a greater tragedy. I definitely wanted to root my story in that tale. Time travel was an element I wanted in my film, and I did so using the grandfather paradox. The cow Punyakoti’s story features too. I did a lot of research, spoke to those who have worked in this field, and then fictionalised it. I figured out how to open parallel timelines, the sublayers… Many Indian sci-fi films have failed because they were not rooted in nativity. They all blindly adopted what Hollywood was doing with it. I wanted to avoid that. 

Q. Apoorva’s character is also vulnerable …thoughts?

The character of Apoorva is plagued by human foibles. But, he’s also vulnerable. He’s a boy who grew up without a father. Such children tend to be tender, emotional. If you notice, every time he asks a question and seems to be close to an answer, another question pops up. But he’s constantly seeking the truth. This is why towards the end, he wonders if he should have just avoided some questions. 

He too behaves like Oedipus. If Oedipus blinds himself, Apoorva figures a way out to tackle the guilt and disgust he feels at what happens in the loop.

Q. The climax has been discussed at length by many, and numerous interpretations exist. How do you react to them?

This is not the climax I originally wrote. After two schedules of shooting, I decided I should come up with something better, something that provides closure. I wanted something that would stop the loop, and offer a convincing resolution. But, people seem to be drawing their own conclusions and rewatching it to peel the layers, and I am very happy about that. I am a fan of Stanley Kubrick, and love what he says — that the work of a director is to make films, not speak about it. That is the job of the audience.

Still from 'Blink'
Still from 'Blink'

Q. How does it feel to see your film complete 25 days at a time like this?

Surreal. We were not prepared for this at all. We thought we would get an audience of 3,000 people in the first week, and then use those numbers to find more screens. We managed 10,000 people in the first week. The film has now opened internationally and in districts in Karnataka. I am just grateful for this organic growth.

Q. Sci-fi films never feel like they are homegrown. You’ve managed that. How did you go about it?

I think it all goes back to my growing up years in KR Puram and Chamrajpet in Bangalore, and exposure to fine arts in my mother tongue of Kannada, and other Indian languages. And so, I was rooted in this milieu.

I would often visit our family friend Ravi uncle who exposed me to cinema. Then, I discovered CDs and school plays. Every weekend, I would get a chance to take the stage with skits I wrote at my Ashoka Shishu Vihara school in Chamrajpet. My friend Gowtham and I took on the roles of producer and director and kept coming up with scripts. School and college at National meant a lot of importance and encouragement for co-curricular activities. Our drama teacher Suresh Anagalli showed us so much world cinema. I discovered Rashomon, Tokyo Story, and our Pather Panchali. Doordarshan showcased the best of regional cinema. I absorbed all those influences.

By the time I discovered Alfred Hitchcock, Quentin Tarantino, and Christopher Nolan, I knew enough to admire their craft while being rooted in where I came from. I still watched Puttana Kanagal, Mani Ratnam, and Siddalingaiah. 

Q. You made a mark when still young. But, even Blink’s was not an easy journey, right?

It was not. We wrote and staged plays that won awards, but we could never really finish our films. A friend and I scrapped a survival drama during our degree, due to lack of finance. A web series got dropped just before shooting. A short film was stopped mid-way because a film had a similar timeline. Finally, I got fourth-time lucky. 

However, our team took up various jobs to keep afloat. Finally, during the Covid pandemic, our producer happened to reply to one of my social media posts, asking why there was nothing innovative in Kannada. The Blink collaboration is the result of that conversation.

Q. Now that you’ve created a buzz, what next?

I have about five to six scripts ready. And, there’s so much more to learn. Do you know who my gurus are? YouTube videos. They teach everything from making a low-budget film to achieving certain effects using camera tricks and the hacks of editing software. Till these live on, the learning is constant.

Subha J Rao is an entertainment journalist covering Tamil and Kannada cinema and is based out of Mangaluru, Karnataka.

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