Meet director P Seshadri who is celebrating his latest success —winning a national award for the seventh consecutive time and also under tremendous tension since his seventh film Bharath Stores is set to hit the silver screen on April 5 at nine centres across the state. It would be a record by Seshadri since no art film was ever released in nine centres so far in the annals of Sandalwood. In a brief interview, Seshadri, who brought laurels to Karnataka at the national level, explains to Y Maheswara Reddy about his journey from being a journalist to a filmmaker
Congratulations for achieving this rare feat - winning national award for the seventh consecutive time. How do you feel about it?
It is quite natural to be happy. As a director, winning the national award gives me immense pleasure. I give this credit to all the artistes, technicians and producer Basantkumar Patil. It is all these people who had supported me to achieve this feat.
Your USP is that you had made it with your very first film Munnudi. Who were your inspirations to make the film Munnudi?
I began my career as a journalist. The weekly Sudhi Sangaathi, in which I had worked for a few years, was shut down due to financial crisis. And then I started writing scripts. Gaurishankara was my first film as a script writer. No one has inspired me to direct the film Munnudi. It is me who took the decision to handle the megaphone for film Munnudi that won national award in 2000.
What was the audience response to Munnudi film?
It was economically viable for us to release Munnudi at a theatre in Mangalore. It had succeeded in drawing more crowd for a few weeks. Inspired by the response in Mangalore, I made arrangements to release it at Kailash theatre in Bangalore. On a Friday morning, I came all the way to Kailash theatre from Kathriguppe on a scooter. My joy knew no bounds when I mistook the serpentine queue of people as the crowd for film Munnudi. It was the queue for an English film Snake Lady that was being screened at Tribhuvan theatre. Kailash and Tribhuvan theatres are situated at the same complex. I was shocked to know that only three cine buffs had bought tickets to watch Munnudi at Kailash theatre.
What did you do when you realised only three people had bought the tickets for Munnudi?
I approached the people standing in the queue to buy tickets for Snake Lady. I told that they could watch the Kannada film Munnudi, but no one had come forward to buy ticket for the movie. A few of them told me that wall-posters of Snake Lady looked attractive and they found nothing impressive in Munnudi wall-posters that had the leading lady Tara fully clad in a saree.
Why do art or parallel cinemas attract only a particular class of the audience?
I agree that there are two sets of audience. I also agree that art films, despite having potential to cater to the needs of class as well as mass audience, fail to attract the audience to theatres due to various reasons. The issue of success or commercial films is open for debate since it will be difficult to categorise a film as commercial and parallel.
Is there any attempt to draw audience to theatres for watching art films?
Attempts are being made through media to create awareness about art films. It is a continuous process but in vain. For example, I want to recall a discussion between an auto rickshaw driver and me. I was going in an auto rickshaw after attending an interview with a private TV channel. The auto rickshaw driver asked me about my profession. I told him that I am a film director. He asked what are the films I had directed. I told him about my films. He had asked whether these films were released at theatres. I told him all of them were released and my seventh one is also set to hit the silver screen on April 5. Then, he asked me who the hero of the film was. I told him that Dattathreya was the hero. He asked me who is Dattathreya. Tell me what do you expect from such category of audience. He told me that he has been watching all Tamil, Telugu and Kannada films that are aimed at providing entertainment for the mass audience.
It seems you were trained under director Nagabharana in the direction department. You are also inspired by director Girish Kasaravalli. Who is your favourite between them?
It is a difficult question to answer. I accept both as my teachers, but consider Nagabharana as my teacher of practicals (direction) and Girish Kasaravalli as my psychology teacher.
Do you have the script for making a commercial flick?
I have a script but I want an artiste who wants to follow the script instead of the script following him. It is difficult to make films with established artistes since half of the budget amount has to be spent towards their remuneration. We can complete a film within Rs1 crore with artistes who do not give importance for remuneration. For example, Prakash Raj acted in my film Athithi without taking remuneration. I am not asking the artistes not to take remuneration, but it should be within a budget.
Your son Prathama had also acted in films Thuthoori and Gubbachigalu. Are you contemplating to promote him as an artiste?
Yes, he has the talent to become an artiste. He has also acted in a few films, but I want him to focus on education. He got a chance to act in the film Teenage, but I did not send him for the audition. As of now, Prathama is set to write his SSLC exam on April 5 and I am preparing for my seventh exam as my film seventh film Bharath Stores is set release on the same day.