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Metaphor, in many ways

FROM HIS student days every one of Girish Kasaravalli's films has won awards. A master of the subtle and the suggestive mode, he has bagged India's highest national honour for Best Film (the Swarna Kamal) four times — for ``Ghatashraddha," ``Tabarane Katha," ``Thai Saheb," and ``Dweepa." Excerpts from Kasaravalli's talk with Gowri Ramnarayan:

``I am so glad my cinematographer (H. M. Ramachandra) got the national award. The film was shot at peak monsoon time and maintaining continuity in the lighting, to simulate the same effects indoors was a real challenge for the camera. Yes, `Dweepa' or island is a metaphor to imply that every man — and even more every woman — is an island. The central metaphor is of drowning. Not just in the physical sense. What about the submerging of history, culture, faith... the confidence of an entire race? How can that be compensated, ever? As in all my films I take up a social issue in `Dweepa' and see how it trickles down into the smallest unit of the community — the family.

``The story is about the flooding of a village due to dam building. Man and nature prove equally hostile. The focus is on a family — the father is a Bhoota cult priest with all his faith rooted in the past. The son is unable to act without the father's approval, the visitor escapes instead of grappling with disturbing situations. Daughter-in-law Nagi has no belief in the past nor is enamoured of some rosy future. She is an existentialist with her eye on the present, her main concern is how to make the best of the situation.

``My favourite scene is of the crisis. Hasn't the father seen how the legend of the invincibility of their sacred village Sitaramabeta, the home of Rama and Sita during their forest sojourn, is proved wrong? He chooses to die rather than face his faith being put to the test. The husband refuses to budge, he would rather await death shrouded in a blanket, with the waters gushing in, a tiger outside the window. Nagi's efforts to survive and save others are unrelenting. Finally, when it becomes clear that the village will not submerge after all, her efforts are not even recognised. Everything is attributed to God's will. "Except in certain sections of urban life, that is the plight of women in our society. I changed the community from upper caste brahmin to marginalised bhoota worshippers with the writer Na d'Souza's permission. All my films are based on literary works but I have to put in my point of view, something of myself into the picture.

My favourite among the films I've made? `Ghatashraddha' I suppose. It was my first after all. `Thai Saheba' I liked for its script and `Dweepa' for the excellent acting. Pity Soundarya did not get a national award as I expected. She was wholly committed to this project, cancelled other shoots to extend the dates. The entire cast and crew gave me total support.

``Why do I make so few films? I take a lot of time over the script. Also, funding is not easy for my kind of work, is it? Even if the costs are low. Right now I am working on my first TV serial based on `Grihabhanga', the famous novel of Bhyrappa with an epic span of 40 years. And guess what? Its success is amazing. I have never experienced this kind of popularity in my entire film career! The pace is slightly faster and the narrative has more incidents, but I have maintained my style of film making even on television and yet people like it!" — G.R.

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