Ganesh Hegde’s directorial debut Neeli Hakki (Blue Bird) will be among the three Kannada films to be a part of the virtual screening at this year’s New York Indian Film Festival, to be held between June 4 and 13. For the first-time director, screening his film at the NYIFF is a huge opportunity. “Films like Ondu Motteya Kathe, Lucia, Gantu Moote were screened at this festival, which later opened up avenues for commercial success. We hope to follow suit,” says Ganesh.
The director intended to debut with a simple and honest storytelling form, and the result is Neeli Hakki. The movie traces the journey of a 10-year-old boy who chooses his roots over his parents’ greed. “Globalisation is a very small part of the film, which is highlighted from the perspective of a 10-year-old. It discusses the kind of freedom or the rights given to a child,” says Ganesh.
The film has Aman S Karkera playing the lead with Gopal Krishna Deshpande, while Nidhi Hegde and Naresh Bhat are in the supporting cast. Considered a social drama, Neeli Hakki brings together a 30-member crew, including cinematographer Vishu. The entire film was canned in and around the green belt of Sirsi for 25 days. The project was shot just before the first lockdown in 2020 with post-production work done remotely. The crew comprises music director Gagan Baderiya, sound engineer Nithin Lukose, and editor Prashanth.
The film, which got a ‘U’ certification from the Censor Board, will now see a world premiere at the NYIFF. The film also has Ganesh taking responsibility as producer, along with his three other friends, Suman Shetty, Vinay Shetty and Yogesh. The project, made under Monsoon Talkies, also has the Katheyondu Shuruvagide heroine Pooja Devariya coming on board as executive producer and anchoring the whole film. Interestingly, this film is presented by well-known south Indian actor Vijay Sethupathi. “In Jan. 2020, I had the opportunity to talk about the project to Vijay Sethupathi sir, who resonated with the storyline and connected with certain scenes.
He offered to contribute in any way and came on board. It was because of his encouragement that the film moved forward despite the pandemic,” he explains. Ganesh wants to work on films that have strong regional and cultural roots with relatable storylines.
“Apart from Kananda, there are other languages like Konkani and Tulu which many independent filmmakers want to focus on,” says Ganesh, who has previously worked on Rakshit Shetty’s Avane Srimannarayana.
“I was a part of the writing and direction team. Rakshit, who has always been fond of independent films, watched Neeli Hakki and appreciated it,” he says. As for the release, Ganesh hopes to bring the film to theatres. “But the situation is not in our favour, and we are not in a position to decide anything at the moment. We don’t want our film to get into the bracket of an art film which will restrict the kind of viewers. However, we are not ruling out on an OTT release,” he says.