To be or not to be. The very same existential question that vexed Hamlet in Shakespeare’s timeless eponymous play is what troubles 10-year-old boy Sidda, albeit in a somewhat different avatar. Having been forced to bid adieu to the pristine beauty and serenity of his village, the young boy is confronted with the inevitability of having to choose between the chaotic and alienating hustle of the city to which his family has shifted, and the quiet embrace of the village. Sidda’s conflictual reflections not only reveal to him certain harsh realities of life; they also raise important questions of sustainability and urbanization.
Yes, Kannada film Neeli Hakki by debut director Ganesh Hegde invited film delegates attending the 52nd edition of the International Film Festival of India to share in Sidda’s internal turmoil and get creatively troubled by these pivotal questions of our shared present and future. The film has been screened at IFFI, in the Indian Panorama Feature Film section of the festival.
Addressing a press conference on the sidelines of the festival yesterday, November 26, 2021, the Director said: “It is a great pleasure to open this movie Indian audiences at IFFI 52. The film had its world premiere in the legendary New York Film festival this year. It was also officially selected for Melbourne Film festival. An independent movie from remote southern parts of India getting recognized by the viewers give us huge confidence to work better.”
The film was shot with a very small cast and crew, in and around the Director’s home-town, “The only effort was to tell an honest story and to express what we feel. It was tough and yet a beautiful journey to make this film within the constraints.”
This film has been backed by noted South Indian actor Vijay Sethupathi. This came about in an interesting way, narrates Hegde, who has also written the screenplay for the film. “During the COVID-19 lockdown, everyone was sitting at home and wanted to watch new movies.
Somehow, Vijay Sethupathi Sir came across our movie, without our knowledge. He really appreciated our efforts, he was able to relate the story to his own life. So he himself offered to be a part of the project. We shot in a remote village of coastal Karnataka and Sethupathi is a southern superstar. So, we were really honored when he offered his helping hands. When such superstars and big production houses give a pat on our back, it gives us more power.”
Hegde shared his thoughts on the collaboration between OTT platforms an independent filmmakers. “When OTT platforms were launched a few years back in India, we hoped it will curate cinema, but instead, it started curating mainstream cinema. We are still looking for a platform to launch our cinema. Being from a regional language and bearing the tag of festival cinema, we will always be neglected. Independent cinema or small stories is not just for festivals, it is for everybody. Hopefully, in future, we will have no mainstream or independent cinema, but just cinema.”
He requested the OTTs to bring such films to the masses in India. “Cinema is an art form. It is hard for small filmmakers to recover the finance; we are not looking at multi-crore successes, we are just here to make honest cinema. So all of us who are struggling to tell small town stories, we are just trying to reach people.”
The debut director explained the relative advantage of OTT platforms, in expanding the access of cinema across time and space. “We understand how the entertainment industry runs, but I am not making cinema for myself. I am expressing my art through my cinema. Hopefully OTTs will give us a way to reach more people. Festivals are for 10 days, but when the film is on OTT, people can watch anytime, that is the biggest advantage. This year, the official Oscar entry being a Tamil independent cinema, we are very confident that OTTs will support independent cinemas in future.”