PRAKASH PARAYATH meets K. N. T. Shastri, director of `Thiladanam'.
The Seventh IFFK, which concluded recently, gave film buffs some invaluable moments. The `Indian cinema now' section had an impressive menu. K. N. T. Shastri's `Thiladanam' was one noteworthy film in this section.
The film depicts the tragedy of an orthodox Brahmin priest whose son Raghuram takes to Naxalism. For a debutant, Shastri has revealed restraint in treating such a sensitive theme as this.
"The film stresses the role of money in modern society and it shows how the lack of money drives people to despair. The movie has many layers," says Shastri, a film critic-turned-director.
Shastri feels that there is no scope for serious cinema in his home state, Andhra Pradesh. "There is absolutely no encouragement. I envy Kerala for the offbeat films being made and encouraged here, with thousands of film enthusiasts watching such films".
Shastri had written the script for the award-winning Telugu film, `Daasi', in 1988, and directed some documentaries. One such documentary, on a nomadic theatre group, won him the National Award. He has also made documentaries for the Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT).
"M.T. Vasudevan Nair and I were members of a panel to select films for the Indian Panorama. I told him about the paucity of serious themes in Telugu films.
Then he suggested a Telugu story he had read. That was how I got the story for `Thiladanam'.
I wrote the screenplay and NFDC produced it. It was a very short story and I had to expand it. The flashbacks you see in the film are my additions."
Sunny Joseph has cranked the camera for the movie, and the filmmaker is all praise for the cinematographer's commitment and involvement.
Quite unexpectedly, `Thiladanam' ran into censor problems.
"Some members of the Censor Board opined that my film showed Brahmins in poor light. I was shocked. I was only trying to depict a social reality, the sorry plight of some priests," says Shastri.
Shastri blames TV for "corrupting public taste". "Watching a film on TV can never give you the satisfaction of seeing a film on screen."
As an ex-critic, how does he view film criticism?
"Constructive criticism is always welcome. I was pleased when a foreign delegate at IFFK told me that he found my film comparable to the Iranian one, `The Circle'. Some people in Andhra Pradesh were not kind to `Thiladanam', as though they were retaliating to my reviews on their films! At the same time, I paid attention to the criticism that the background music was loud in some parts.
I am planning to tone it down before sending my film for foreign festivals.
Does a serious filmmaker hold any chance of survival in Telugu cinema, which is still dominated by glitz and glamour?
"I still hope I can make a mark with some offbeat films. My next venture will be a children's film," says Shastri.
Send this article to Friends by