There is a Zen-like aura of calm around K. N. Sasidharan. He listens intently to each question and he takes time with each answer. There is no rush to get to the end of the question; the chat is at his pace. This approach might explain the 28 years punctuating his feature films. He directed his first feature film, Akkare, in 1984, and the next year, Kanathaya Penkutty. His latest, Nayana, is slated for release later this year.
The FTII training
He didn’t make feature films, he says, because he was busy with television, making ad films, documentaries, corporate short films…exploring all media training he gained from the Film and Television of India (FTII). A course, he says, which was armed with a comprehensive knowledge of film and television.
It was in the 80s when the wonderful world of television, full of opportunities, was opening up and he wanted to be part of that new medium. This is why he turned his attention to the small screen. He directed a popular telefilm, Mash. And for a generation unfamiliar with his work, he is the man behind the famous tagline, ‘vannallo vanamala’, for a detergent soap, which still has amazing recall.
Relevance of a film, to society, is an important aspect of making movies for Sasidharan. If in the 80s it was Akkare, with its satirical take on the obsession, especially of the middle class and relevant even today, for that job in the ‘Gulf’ (West Asia) this time round, with Nayana, it is female foeticide and the importance of the girl child. Nayana Kadha Thudarunu
Sasidharan’s production company, Sooryarekha Film and Television Producers, is producing the film. This gives him the freedom to put forth his point of view, his way, rather than succumb to external pressures.
In this era of ‘new generation’ films and film-making, marked by a certain degree of narcissism, would a film with a social message work? “That is not how I make a film, by thinking if something will work or not. If I feel convinced about a subject, as worthy of being made into a film, then I will make the film,” says Sasidharan. His is that refreshing, honest, old-world approach to films.
Films were never part of the plan for this son of a headmaster from Guruvayoor. The passion for cinema ‘happened’ with watching a movie club film screening. He was studying psychology at UC College, Aluva, at the time. “It was Ritwik Ghatak’s Suvarna Rekha. I was so taken by that one film. That one film changed the course of my life.” At FTII, Mrinal Sen who was on the interview board asked Sasidharan about his favourite film. “It turned out that he looked up to Ritwik Ghatak add to it the fact that I as a South Indian knew about the film.” After his graduation he and Madhu Ambat made a film Kaneshumary , which was abandoned half-way.
Close to 30 years have passed since he last made a film and the technological advances have been tremendous he avers. “Technology has speeded up things and it is much easier to do things today.” As Nayana gears up for release, his appetite for feature films whetted, Sasidharan is already working on his next project.