QUEEN'S ROAD: Chennai-based filmmaker Vaishnavi Sundar has made a Kannada short film, and says her style is inspired by the Iranian masters.
The Catalyst, written, directed and produced by Vaishnavi, stars Sharath Kumar, Nirmala Channappa, Sardar Sathya and Vasudev Menon, among others. Nirmala had won the state award for best actress in 2013.
The film tells the story of an auto driver who struggles to make ends meet. One day, he finds himself in possession of a fortune and faces a dilemma about whether to spend it or not.
The group shot the film in five days at New BEL Road, Mathikere and around the HMT Watch Factory.
Vaishnavi says, "My aim was to bring in the neo-realism characteristic of Iranian cinema into this film. I tried to get as close to reality as possible."
Sharath Kumar, the boy who plays the auto-driver's son, was someone the crew met on the streets. "He was a cheerful kid who was walking back home with his schoolbag. We struck a conversation with him and realised that he was our best shot," explains the filmmaker, who didn't go to film school to study the craft.
"I quit my plush corporate job last year to start shooting my first film in Tamil and Malayalam, Pava (Doll), which has travelled to five international film festivals so far. I have also been part of over a dozen theatre productions and have directed and acted in plays at various cities in India and the UK," she says.
Despite her limited proficiency in Kannada, Vaishnavi had little trouble shooting the film. "I wrote the script in English and took the help of my cinematographer to translate it into Kannada. And as we started shooting, the actors improvised. I was able to communicate with them in a mixture of English, Hindi and Tamil," she says with a chuckle.
Vaishnavi goes on to add, "It all comes down to how committed the actors are. In that respect, I can say we chose the best. The cast worked hard to understand the script and played their roles to perfection."
The funds for the film were collected through a website that Vaishnavi created. "I didn't want to rely on online platforms like IndieGogo or Kickstarter, as there are a lot of problems with the mode of payment. So, I made my own website with an online banking option," she says. And instead of asking people to pitch in by herself, she uploaded videos in which members of the film fraternity talk about the film.
"I also provided a break-up of the required sum of money in order to tell people where exactly the funds were going. I wanted to make sure that those who could only make small contributions were not dissuaded," she explains.
The team managed to collect the required sum, which was a little over Rs 2 lakh, in a couple of months.
People can still donate for the film, says Vaishnavi, as sending it to film festivals and organising screenings is expensive.