Sruthi Hariharan, is a woman of varied talents and needs no introduction. She has been receiving critical acclaim for her roles right from her debut Kannada film Lucia, that released in 2012, and the Filmfare award for Best Actress in a leading role in Kannada films, that she won for the film Beautiful Manasugalu is testament for her acting prowess. She has been up the success ladder by also taking up roles more than acting. Like in 2016, she founded a production house called Kalathmika Productions that was started with the sole intention of creating art that can drive change.
The production house has produced two short films: The Last Kannadiga which was released last year and has won critical acclaim and awards. The second short film Rita is set for public screening on 7th July 2018. And, a feature film Tesla is currently in the making alongside.
In our conversation with Sruthi, she shares more about her venture into production and the upcoming short film Rita.
Why did you decide on taking up film production?
About two years ago I got an opportunity to produce a short film –The Last Kannadiga. Madan Ram Venkatesh, a friend, and a director shared the idea about a film on the Kannada language, which was based on his personal experience. He realized that in the capital city of Karnataka, there are no customers for a Kannada newspaper. From that thought, the Last Kannadiga short films idea emerged. Vashistha Simha, Raghu Dixit, and few others were kind enough to come forward and collaborate in order to make a film like this. So that was the first time I invested in a project. Though a small investment, the movie was something I did purely out of love and instinct. The prospect of bringing people on board for a common idea and the process of being behind the camera really excited me. After Last Kannadiga, the director of Rita – Rachan Ramachandran came to me with the script and I really liked the idea of the film. Since I couldn’t commit to the project as an actress I decided on producing the film. That’s how the film came by.
Your first film as producer, The Last Kannadiga fetched good response from the audience. What is your expectation for the second film – Rita?
The film had a good response, while it also led to a lot of conversations and debates. A lot of people felt the film was Xenophobic and were of the opinion that ‘how can you say that the Kannada language is having a slow death’ and ‘who are you to say that’. Of course I’m nobody to say that the language is dying, but unfortunately, the people who have to safeguard and help the growth of the language aren’t doing that was my only point. Since that fostered a lot of interesting conversations, I thought Rita will also foster some conversations since the film is about how the IPC doesn’t criminalize domestic rape. In rural areas in our country domestic rape is a very common thing and women think it is a prerequisite in marriage. The law doesn’t sufficiently put the man behind bars for it and that is a huge problem. More than audience response, I really hope that at some level the government takes a step up and have a look at it. I think the challenge is to make them notice something like this. Let’s see how that happens.
Can you walk us through the journey of the film Rita?
Sure, Rita turned out to be a passion project for everybody who contributed to the film. I’m very glad that Anup Seelin came on board as the music director. He added the necessary soul for the film. Everybody who came on board did it for the love of it and that’s a good consolation. The director is a very passionate and talented young man. He has also been receiving a lot of praise for the trailer of Rita. I hope he goes on to make a feature film. He already has scripts ready. The cast, especially Shreya Anchan, who plays one of the leads, I’m a huge fan of her. There is a screen presence that you just can’t ignore about her. Apart from that Karthik B Mallur, our cinematographer has done a phenomenal job. I think his biggest job was to shoot the movie in just one house. One house is painted and repainted and that’s the set of the film. Kudos to the team for doing something like that and that’s what low budget film-making is all about – you really push your creative boundaries. I’m glad that they managed to do that as young filmmakers. Overall the journey was short. But we are glad we made a good product.
Your career started as a dancer, then an actress, now film production. Honestly, is direction also on cards?
Of course YES. I would love to tell my stories; I intend to. Some projects are playing in my mind. I think as a director the 1st thing that you need is a story and the 2nd thing is the guts to be a leader because you will be taking an entire team and making them believe in what you created and what is there in your head. And one of the best leaders that I have seen is Pawan Kumar. So I think I’m stuck in the 2nd part – Guts. Especially as a woman, it takes more efforts and I think we do lack female directors and a female perspective, especially in Kannada cinema.
Tesla is the 1st feature film from your production house for which a teaser was also released. Do you have any updates on it?
We are still working on the script and once it is done and we all believe in the plot of the film, that’s when the film will be made. Tesla is a science fiction thriller. The very genre it’s highly experimental. I am hoping in that way it will be driving change.
How do you pick your projects?
Very truthfully, some films that I do, are for the food on my plate and some I do for my creative satisfaction. I have always tried to maintain that balance. Frankly speaking as actors you are always going to be selfish. Selfish of how you want to be seen on screen, what do you want to be seen on screen as, you really want to stand out. But again there is a huge gap between what you want and what you get. And as a female actor, we have been struggling with that. The commercial project which pays me well, I treat that as a business prospect. At the same time, I am lucky to be part of honest films like Godhi Banna, Urvi, Beautiful Manasugalu and more. Everyone there, are compromising, sacrificing because they want to do the film. And that high is something else and that creative space I really enjoy. That creative freedom also I really enjoy, because in such films you have the freedom to explore and improve. I do a bit of both genre.
You have stood out in your choice of roles, especially for a female actress. What is your comment on women in the industry?
I really wish more of that happens – more women-oriented movies are made. I really wish we women come out of our cocoon and really make a mark as a woman out there. Patriarchy exists everywhere. I think it is unavoidable in the situation we are in, especially in Indian society. In the film industry, I do agree that it is male dominated and it is so, because surprisingly in a film the ratio of women is low. It is very rare that we see women as assistant directors, editors, technicians, cinematographer. The only thing I would say is, we need more women in the film aspect and it is not going to be easy to combat the male dominance. Its become a system and for you to change the system it takes time and patience. We, women, need to come together and be smarter in our choices and we need to raise voices against anything that is sexist and derogatory. Apart from time and patience it also requires a huge amount of sensibility and courage for women to speak up.
You said that your production house – Kalathmika productions was initiated to create art that can drive change. Can you elaborate on the type of movies you are aiming at producing?
I believe that art apart from entertainment can really move people. It is a strong medium of communication. There are enough people making art just to entertain. But I believe change comes when you do it consciously and of course subtly; you do not want to be like the moral preacher. I’m hoping that the content we make at Kalathmika, do have an underlying socio-political intent and have good questions to ask or at least have people ask the right questions.
Sruthi’s first release of this year would be as a producer for the film Rita. The screening of the film is scheduled for 7th July 2018 at 4.30pm, at Karnataka Chalanachitra Kalavidara Sanga. The event is free and open to the public.
Written & Directed by – Rachan Ramachandra
Produced by – Sruthi Radhakrishna & Deepak Gowda
Starring – Abhinav Raj, Shreya Anchan, Roopa Nataraj
Music – Anoop J Seelin
DOP – Karthik B Mallur
Editor – Pradeep Nayak
Executive Producer – Karthik Ranganath