National award-winning director Rajesh Touchriver was always driven by a passion for the arts. Born in Kerala into a Malayali family, and now settled in Hyderabad, Rajesh has won international acclaim for his feature films, documentaries and short films. Local in sensibility, universal in theme and a connect with a global audience has been the essence of his films and art. The filmmaker feels that his education played a huge role in shaping his success as well as helping him grow as a human being.
Rajesh pursued his Bachelor’s in Direction from School of Drama, University of Calicut, Kozhikode, and he says it was an unconventional experience. “Mine was not a regular college experience. We had just 30 people overall and for us it was more like family than a college. We were all very close to each other and treated each other like family members,” recalls the filmmaker, who recently won the National award for the Telugu film Naa Bangaaru Talli. Based on a real-life incident, the film released in 2013 and won kudos for exploring the consequences of sex trafficking.
Elaborating on how different and unique his college experience was, he says, “The reason why I say this is because there were no rules for any of us. We could even go to college wearing a lungi. Nobody forced us to study, and the students were clocking attendance only because they were really interested in the subjects — be it art, music, drama or direction — and we were pursuing our passion.”
Reflecting on a memorable college experience, the filmmaker feels he can’t zero in on a single moment that stood out but explained that there were several incidents that helped shape him as a human being and as a director. “We used to collect mangoes and coconuts from trees, cook and eat them. We used to hang out near the coconut trees and had a wonderful time. The experience was better than what you have in regular colleges. It taught me to survive through art. After that, I worked for a few years at the National School of Drama in New Delhi and then went on to do my Master’s at Wimbledon College of Art in London, courtesy the Charles Wallace Trust Award,” says Rajesh, who has made Hyderabad his base since 2003.
Rajesh, who has directed more than 30 plays in Malayalam, English and Telugu, apart from films and documentaries, also recollects the wonderful rapport he had with his faculty members. “The best part about our college was that we didn’t have just Indian faculty members; there were professors from different countries conducting workshops. They used to stay with us for a good two months and in that time, we developed a wonderful bond with them,” he says, adding that he was a “good boy” and never had to face any embarrassing moments in college.
His filmography besides Naa Bangaaru Talli include In the Name of Buddha, 10-the Strangers and Alex-The Blue Fox. Currently, he is working on The Red Terror.