Director Barath Neelakantan’s story is not your typical from-obscurity-to-limelight journey. It is, in fact, a sign of the changing times of our cinema industry. “I know my story is not like those of the ones who came to try their hand in cinema with almost nothing in their pockets. However, it has been challenging and exciting in its own right,” says Barath, an HR executive-turned-entrepreneur-turned-filmmaker, whose debut film, K-13, is scheduled to hit the screens tomorrow.
“Though I quite liked my corporate job, monotony led me to start my own recruitment company. But then, in an interesting twist of fate, I got bit by the acting bug.” A casting call for a short film caught his eye. “They wanted someone who had a car. I never knew such requisites are put up for acting jobs. My first role was that of a driver.”
The young crew on the short film came as a whiff of fresh air for Barath, who was accustomed to the time-bound, hierarchy-filled corporate world. “The nonchalance and working style of these youngsters were very exciting. It tapped into my dormant artistic side,” says Barath.
With his newfound passion for cinema, he started looking for and finding — thanks to social media — more acting opportunities. This also laid the foundation for his first directorial, a short film titled Sthreepart. “My cinema journey was completely thanks to Facebook. Social media has played an important role in every project of mine.”
Along the way, from Sthreepart to K-13, Barath learnt every step of the filmmaking process on his own. “As an assistant director on a film, it wouldn’t have been easy to learn everything from scratch at the age of 35. I needed to teach myself the basics, and Sthreepart was an important step,” says the director, who is however quick to give due credit to his experience as assistant director on the Arjun-starrer Nibunan for teaching him about planning and execution. “It was a fantastic experience that gave me a lot of insights on how to make a film, and executing a script.”
Though K-13 was not the first film script he wrote, everything, he tells us, just fell into place for it. “The producers, SP Cinemas, and actor Arulnithi came on board within a day of each other.” Considering the Iravukku Aayiram Kangal actor’s affinity for thrillers, will K-13 follow suit? “Any mystery comes from drama, and there are lots of it in the lives of K-13’s protagonists, played by Arulnithi and Shraddha Srinath. I would call it a mystery-thriller garnished with drama.”
With thrillers these days increasingly doing away with songs, Barath’s decision to have three songs, composed by Sam CS, in his film, comes as a surprise. “I can proudly say that we have used the songs properly, and only to enhance the narration. Even during the scripting stage, I had allotted space for them, “ he says, adding it is very important for any filmmaker, especially a debutant, to balance both creativity and commercial requirements.
Though his first film is yet to come out, Barath reveals that he already has a number of projects in various stages of production — a horror film, a sci-fi comedy web series, a dark mystery drama, and a musical family entertainer. “I want to explore every medium that is out there. Be it TV, digital platforms, or cinema, all I want is to tell a story.”