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Breaking barriers – Indian film Lucia

Breaking barriers – Indian film Lucia

About to release Kannada movie, original in many ways as director talks of new directions…

BANGALORE is a world city – at the very least many people have heard of it.

But despite this, and it being an important global tech hub, films made there and in the local Kannada language rarely ever reflect this or travel…

Step forward ‘Lucia’, which won the audience award at the London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) in July and is being released in India on September 6.

It’s not a film about Bangalore as such, but ‘Lucia’ is made with a global sensibility – one shaped by the city and its cosmopolitan character – and it could translate anywhere and should be heartily applauded for a bravura piece of filmmaking by actor/director, Pawan Kumar.

The success it enjoyed here in London has helped it to secure a wider India release this Friday (September 6) – and not just in Karnataka, where Kannada is the official state language. In other parts of India it will play with English subtitles

It’s the first independent Kannada production ever made for a popular audience and was crowd-funded through the British firm, Distrify, raising about about Rs50 Lakhs/£60,000 (at earlier exchange rates) – enough to make a very well-shot (parts in black & white) film.

Kumar, in London for LIFF in July, told www.asianculturevulture.com : “Usually (Kannada) films are backed by individual producers.

“I did meet a few of them, but it’s a very difficult story to narrate and very difficult for a businessman to read and understand…and they wondered, will the audience get it and if they don’t, no one will watch it.

“People who are passionate about films will understand it.

“This is the first time a gang of filmmakers, actors and artists have come together (in Kannada filmmaking). Probably this is a first.”

The film has been compared to Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’ for the way it plunders ideas about dreaming.

It isn’t as radical or as self-consciously intellectual, but ‘Lucia’ has a lot going for it and it’s definitely a lot funnier.

It’s a sign that even Indian local language filmmakers are making films that can work for a global audience.

At the heart of ‘Lucia’ is a sweet romance and there are many wonderful, contrasting juxtapositions between the life of a cinema torch shiner in a crumbling Kannada language movie house and a big local movie star looking for true love.

At times, it’s not the easiest film to follow, but the central performance by ‘Satish’, who gets his first starring role and is a better known thespian and supporting film role actor, holds it together and is a revelation, especially as the more humble, dreamy drifter (to whom we can all relate).

Through Distrify, Kumar was able to make the movie, attracting 110 people to invest in it (as of July).

Those individual investors shouldn’t be disappointed with the end product and should be rightly proud that they have backed a winner that was rapturously received in London, especially with expats from Bangalore.

Kumar is more fortunate than most, perhaps, in that he has a solid career of filmmaking already behind him.

He’s been an actor and writer in Kannada cinema, appearing in eight films, and scripting four and the last one was a commercial hit – but even though Lucia has song and dance sequences in it, and is a romantic comedy, it has no big stars and most of those involved in it are not well known outside the Kannada filmmaking fraternity.

“Many of the actors are from the theatre, it was an opportunity for them to do something different,” explained Kumar.

At a post ‘Lucia’ discussion at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London, he revealed that the person who composed the songs (and they are good for anyone with an untrained ear or any sense of the language), is a software engineer, while their singer had performed only at weddings and had never sung for films.

Of course, some of these artistic decisions were taken because Kumar did not have much of a budget and needed to be wise about spending his money.

The impetus to be creative can lead to inspired choices, he revealed.

Shooting part of the film in black & white was not in the original script and came about because of discussions about the colour scheme and differentiating the dream sequences.

“It not only helped with the look of film, suddenly it’s elegant, you don’t feel it’s a low budget and it’s added a completely new dimension to the film,” said Kumar.

Different too is the satirical element of ‘Lucia’, which exposes the dumber aspects of popular filmmaking.

“I wasn’t making fun of the popular genre,” said Kumar to ACV. “When I wrote the film, I was only writing from the view of a star, I have met some of these stars, they’re not really the kind of people who enjoy what they do.”

Money talks as it does everywhere. That’s the hard reality – yet there’s a new hope in town.

Let’s call it ‘Lucia’. It’s opened a door others will surely also follow through and Kumar is a pioneer, at least when it comes to Kannada filmmaking.

He appreciates that it’s a small space but with good filmmakers like himself and good fortune, it might be the start of something.

“There have been a handful of Indian films crowd-funded but they have been community-based or art films.

“The really big masala films are still made and they make lots of money – I am not trying to say you’re all stupid – you’ll survive, but let us all co-exist.”

Indeed.

Let’s hope it ushers in a new era and the world takes notice.

Pictured (inset): Siddhartha Nuni and Pawan Kumar in London

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture

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