On Friday, January 26, fans of Kannada cinema will get to see two small, beautiful films Koli Esru and 17/18 (earlier titled Hadinelentu) on the big screen. At a time when the market for indie films at the box-office is shrinking, this release has been made possible by a novel initiative by the filmmakers concerned through paraspara.live, a website that was created for this purpose but which will stay active as a platform for other indie filmmakers.
Kannada cinema is not just about the big-ticket tentpole films that are meant to strike gold at the box-office, but also about these films made with heart that seek a cinema-loving audience. However, because no one really knows how these small films will fare at the box-office, they usually fall by the wayside, either waiting for a very long time for a theatrical release or finding themselves without a screen after hardly a couple of days’ run on the big screen.
On the one hand, you have filmmakers seeking an audience and on the other, you have an audience yearning for quality content. A little more than a month ago, at a Spaces discussion on X on this topic, many viewers agreed something on the lines of Paraspara was the way forward. They suggested there should be screenings for a dedicated audience, which would pay and watch and encourage indie films.
For this initiative, director Prithvi Konanur, who made the award-winning Railway Children, Pinki Elli, and 17/18, teamed up with award-winning director Dr Champa Shetty of Ammachi Yemba Nenapu and Koli Esru fame. Tickets for their works 17/18 and Koli Esru were bundled on the newly created paraspara.live where people could pay Rs 400 (or in multiples) for tickets to watch both the films. They could also donate a sum if they wished to. They could also choose the city (in Karnataka) and the date of watching too. Based on the response, the teams of both films would book tickets in theatres once the shows opened and share them with those who paid. The website will stop receiving money towards tickets a day or two before a film’s release.
What such a system does is assure for the filmmakers a definite paying audience and give them the confidence to approach theatres for a good listing. Theatres too are assured of a certain footfall. And so, these films might get a better time slot than they might have otherwise.
As many as 600 tickets each for both films were sold, says Prithvi. “We need to do much more to make a dent, but for starters this is good,” he adds.
For Dr Champa, whose Ammachi ran in Bharath Cinemas in Mangaluru for more than 30 days, this idea works as a boost for them to know first-hand how many people are interested in their films. “Using these numbers we can negotiate with theatres with a little more confidence,” she says.
Both filmmakers agree that while tickets sold on paraspara.live will give them an initial push, it is a much-needed thrust that might help the film continue in theatres for longer. Six hundred tickets might not seem like much, but break it down and it translates into decent occupancy for at least a week or slightly more.
Prithvi says the idea of Paraspara has been appreciated by indie filmmakers and that quite a few of them in Karnataka have evinced interest in having their films work with Paraspara. “I’ve also got some enquiries from Gujarat,” he says.
If this works out, it will give indie films a great way to get an audience for their film and also fulfil the audience’s desire for quality cinema. For filmmakers, Dr Champa says, this also means a reduction in the marketing outlay since two teams share the cost for publicity, premiere shows, and more. Also, both filmmakers have an audience of their own due to their previous work and they can introduce them to the other’s creation.
Subha J Rao is an entertainment journalist covering Tamil and Kannada cinema and is based out of Mangaluru, Karnataka.