BEHIND THE FILM< BACK
Mumblecore (pronunciation: [Mum"ble-k[=o]r]) is a generalized term for filmmakers who use little resources, and an ultra-low budget, to make a film. Some of the characteristics that may or may not occur in a mumblecore film: distorted sound, grainy pictures from a hand-held digital camera, and mumbling, or something like mumbling.
Srinivas Sunderrajan, 26, armed with a Sony HDV Z1 and a meager budget of $1,000 USD, battled India's bureaucracy of permissions and permits to make The Untitled Karthik Krishnan Project, a film, well, about a film. Shot in black-and-white, it follows the retrospective story of two young men who take us along their journey of making a film. For one, it is the story of transitory love, or infatuation, and for the other, it is the story of telling a story. As Sunderrajan told SAIFF in a conversation: “I'm of the opinion that everyone (creative or not) is a story-teller.” North American Premiere.
Srinivas Sunderrajan, 2010, India, 73 min
Interviewed by Sousan Hammad
You shot KK in 30 days, but it wasn't a consistent 30 days. It actually went through the span of a year. How did that work out with continuity and such?
Well, when I started to shoot the film the initial plan was to wind up the film within 30 days. But since most of the actors had day jobs they could only afford to spare the weekend. So I ended up shooting most of the film on weekends.
Also, since I didn't have location permits, we used to sometimes end up without a location for a week, which meant the shoot had to be shifted to the next week, and so on and so forth. A lot of the 'time stretch' happened because of location unavailability. And when location was ready, the actors would be missing!
Not to mention you only had a 3 man (or woman) crew.
Well, yeah on any given day it was me, Dop (Hashim) and the lead actor (Kartik Krishnan), and depending on which location we were in - the secondary character who showed up.
The script was outlined yet completely improvised by the actors. What was the casting process like?
Well, only one of the characters (D Santosh) is an established character actor in Bollywood. The female lead (Swara Bhaskar) had indulged in a few independent films, but they hadn't been released by then. (One of her films released this year in August.)
The other two characters have a background in theater.
Do you think having D Santosh in the film will make for greater buzz?
Not quite. I will need a Shahrukh Khan or Aamir Khan to create a huge buzz in a place like India! D Santosh as a name might pull in his fans, but to pull in crowd for a film – even his name isn't sufficient.
How do you feel about being labeled a Mumblecore filmmaker?
Well, to be very frank, I never knew of the term 'mumblecore'. All the while, I kept telling my crew/cast that we're making a 'guerrilla film or an independent film'.
I like guerilla better than mumblecore, too.
Anything that is 'not Bollywood' is labeled 'independent' in India. Recently, a lot of films have started getting tagged 'indie'.
When SAIFF saw my film, they said "its India's first mumblecore film." I googled it and was amazed at how the definition actually made sense. But in my heart - its still a guerrilla film! And you know - it kind of makes sense to break away from the clutter by having a really cool tag or genre to the film, like “mumblecore.”
I read that Anurag Kashyap helped with the production of your film. Would you say there's a sense of solidarity among India's "independent" filmmakers?
Well, thats actually a funny 'rumor', as i would call it.
Because Anurag saw the film after it was completed at a small screening I had organized. He immediately started praising the film, and that helped the film get a bit of mileage in the press and among his fans. I would say that he helped in the 'buzz' of the film.
And yes, there is a need for unity among the independent filmmakers in India because it's still a niche. Someone like Anurag can make a completely commercial film (like Dev D) and can then make That Girl in Yellow Boots. People like him are pretty rare in the industry: people who know what indie cinema is all about. It's like 'all indie roads lead up to him', because he's the only one who can support and help such films.
Let's go back to your film. Why make a film about a film?
Well, to cut a really long story short - as the disclaimer in the start says – the film is based on true events. I met Quentin Tarantino at a film festival, came back to India and KK called me and said, “I want to make a film.”
So why not make his film? Why turn it into a meta-film? Or was this part of the “existential process”?
The film that you see now wasn't what was scripted. Mid-way through shooting the original script, our main location (the protagonist's house) collapsed. One day the building was there, and the next day the third floor caved in on the second.
And so it was cordoned off, even though we still had around 60 percent of shoot left at that location.
.Well I feel we, too, as viewers, were cordoned off. Most meta-films are just that: a film about a film. But there are moments where you take us out of the film, and put us back in to process it all.
Basically, I had to improvise the film with whatever footage we had shot, and re-shoot wherever required. And so till date, Kartik's film has never been made. And, I personally don't like to make 'films about film-making' – yet I had no choice but to resort to it in order to complete the film.
Is Kartik Krishnan happy with the final piece?
Well, yes, he is happy with the completed film, because he's been there with me right from the start - so in the end, he was happy that I didn't give up.
What projects are you working on now?
I'm working on a screenplay actually. It's still a bit rough, but I'm trying to finishing it as soon as I can. I've also learned from mistakes. Next time, I'll make sure that I don't stretch my limits so much because its taken one year to make the film, and almost another year for completion.
I've actually become "patience personified.”
Will we see you delve further into this mumble-core hype?
Well, if I go to the bank and see my account – I actually become crumble-core and that makes me grumble-core.