Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Interview with filmmaker Mani Shankar Iyer

Sattham will premier at the Straight-Jacket Guerrilla Film Festival

How did you get into making films? 
I was always  interested in watching movies from my childhood.. It was in my high school days , I happened to see a Tamil film called RHYTHM, directed by Vasanth from Tamil Nadu, India. I got so much fascinated with that film. More than watching the film, I got addicted to that film.. I started analysing all the layers involved behind that film be it acting, Screenplay structure, cinematography, lighting, sound design, background score . I stared learning the process of  filmmaking through this film.. I understood later that I have the ability to act, narrate stories. Eventually I also  realized that the fascination is growing more for films rather than literature or theatre and then the journey of being Filmmaker started..  I joined Madras Film Institute and graduated in Direction and Screenplay writing with a Gold Medal. In my academic career, I made several short films and featurette which helped me to experiment with my style of filmmaking and understand cinema 

What inspired to make your Cinema? 
Sound is always a thrilling experience be it in theatres or any medium.. If you watch a horror film the real anxiety and fear is created not by seeing ghosts alone but it is due to the sound . Same way if you watch Jurassic Park or any action movies the real thrill is through the sound effects.. I always wanted to focus more on sound aspects in my films . When the idea strike to me that what if a man is haunted by a sound and it so happens that only he can listen to those sounds and no one else can, I realized this is my idea and started developing this film. I found sound to be a very intriguing element in storytelling and here, sound itself being a part of the conflict and narration, I was very motivated.. I loved the mystery part of the script where as an audience we are immersed inside deep to know what is bothering the protagonist and why the sounds are audible only to him.. Having said that, it was also challenging for me to design this sounds realistically in order to bring the characters closer to reality. I didn't want to design sound stereotype like in horror films. I wanted to bring a different mood through this sounds where as an audience while watching the film it should be interesting and the same time should convey the irritation the protagonist is going through.. 

How has your style evolved? 
I think the main focus for any film should be the story. The story is the key factor which decides how the film has to be crafted. I don't believe in style. I look deep into the script and decide what justice I can do as a filmmaker and screenwriter. I have watched so many International films and have learnt one thing.  Language is not a barrier for watching a film. Film itself is a language.  Irrespective of language, culture what really works with all set of audience is feelings. If a movie delivers the message honestly and emotionally,. It is conveyed to all set of audience.. Titanic was enjoyed world wide for it's emotion and simplicity. There are so many examples.. MEMORIES OF MURDER, BICYCLE THIEVES, CHILDREN OF HEAVEN, GREEN MILE, SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION..  I follow this sincerely in all my films.  Simplicity and emotion and narrating the story closer to reality.. 

Tell us any strange or funny experience with this film?
It was a big experience making this film.  Honestly I didn't plan to make this as a feature film.. the original script which I wrote consisted of 35 scenes in total.. I planned to make it as a featurette , lesser than 60 mins . We had a very shoe string budget and so we couldn't shoot continuously.  I first shot for five days and my budget was over. I decided to edit the footages and convince my parents and friends to fund further.  But as the process of edit started , I started generating extension off various ideas connected with this script.  I felt I can tell this more interesting and can add few more details.  Finally when I finished the film, it had total 105 scenes including Montages.. Though this practice is not the healthy way to approach a film technically but I learnt one thing that there is always a space for improvisation in all the stages of filmmaking. I finished the shoot for the entire film in just 15 days.  The budget spent for this film was very very very minimum but I could bring the result.  We did all the work ourselves.  We recorded sounds in Sony Recorder and brought the original Foley feel. To add another point as a part of this question. No one from my team charged even a single penny for this film. Everyone are newcomers and passionate.. what really brought us all together is the script and bonding.  I don't know whether I can recreate this magic again, but what magic happened with this film, the true appreciation should be shared equally to all my team members. 

The Misrule Film Movement and Pink8 Manifesto bring what to mind? 
Well.. I think films don't have a classification. It is not like genres- big budget, small budget, commercial cinema, parallel cinema..Film is a film. The budget and the strategy don't decide what type of film you have made. All that matters is the story, the theme and the emotional connection. With the advancement of digital cinema, I believe we have break all the stereotype. We can experiment with new stories, shoot in more real places, bring more reality. All we need is the courage and passion. 

What can we expect from your next film? 
Well. I don't rush myself doing films. The idea and story is what , matters me the most. We might get lot of ideas but they might not materialize everytime.  Something happens with an idea and that will not let you sleep or do anything.  Once I get an idea so fascinating, I will start writing the script . So I don't pressurize myself what I am going to do next.  It will happen itself.  But whatever movie I make , I will really focus that the film has something interesting to say, it has am emotional connection with the audience and it falls closer to the reality