Published: 25th August 2017
A few years ago, he was a security guard. Today, Ere Gowda has penned the script of the National Award winning film Thithi
Ere Gowda's life from a security guard to a film maker is a reminder to everyone that dreams will come true
"If you drink Bengaluru's water you automatically speak English," said Ere Gowda, as he laughed heartily. You wouldn't call his language impeccable, but it wasn't bad. It certainly surprised me - me, who was scouring the recesses of my mind for some Kannada. We know the 35-year-old as the screenwriter of the 2015 national award-winning film, Thithi, but what many of us don't know is that Gowda started off as a security guard. 17 years ago, he was just an innocent teenager from a little village in Karnataka who believed that actors were superheroes. The filmmaker, who was in Mumbai for the post-production of his latest film, always dreamt of making it to page 3 of the tabloids.
"Do you want to hear the entire story?" he asked. "If you've got the time to narrate, I'm all ears," I replied, sincerely.
Dear village, I'll be back
Growing up in Nodekoppalu, a village in Mandya, Karnataka, Gowda had a tough childhood. He attended school but during his free time, he had to take up several odd jobs to supplement his family's income. The final blow came in 1998 when his mother was diagnosed with cancer. He knew that he had to do his bit. In search of new shores, Gowda packed his bags to Mysuru.
No better roof than the sky
At the age of 15, Gowda took up a job as a security guard. Rs 850 - that was his first salary. "I started doing all sorts of odd jobs and to save money, I was staying outside an ATM," said Gowda. For him, saving even Rs 70 was a big deal. But unfortunately, the money didn't suffice for his mother's treatment. He had to find a better option.
New millennium, new city
In 2000, Gowda's agency sent him to Bengaluru to work security for a production company. He would never have guessed that his life would change there. He started earning more money. That was the first time he saw a film shooting. "I wanted to meet all the actors. I was just 18. I thought of them as superheroes who would help me. But then I realised that they are like anybody else," he said.
One day, I'll make a film
Gowda would often tell his colleague, Vittal, "One day, I'll also make a film." But he only laughed at him in response. An obvious reaction, after all, how would someone who couldn't even cross the road properly make a film?
One day, Gowda met Raam Reddy, who was his boss's son. He was just about 12 years old when Gowda started working at his father's company. "We became friends. I don't know how. He didn't speak Kannada and I didn't speak English. But somehow, we managed," said Gowda, who spoke to Raam about his village in his broken English. Soon, a rare yet strong friendship blossomed.
Unusual bond : Raam Reddy and Ere Gowda
All is lost
Meanwhile, his mother's health worsened. He had lost all hope. Discouraged, irritated and insecure, he decided to return. But there was one factor that deterred him - Raam. Raam's mother, Anita Reddy then offered him the job of an office assistant. Unable to leave, Gowda brought his mother to Bengaluru, but seven months inched before she finally succumbed to the ill-fated disease.
New skills, new hope
Depressed, Gowda didn't want to remain idle. He would stay back in the office every night. Computers fascinated him and he wanted to learn the way they work. "I picked up computer skills pretty fast. Soon, I started designing pamphlets and brochures in Photoshop and CorelDRAW," he said. Additionally, he learnt to shoot and edit videos. Let's just say, he was a step close to his dream. All through this, Vittal remained his friend. "I would tell him that having learnt to shoot videos, my filmmaking days weren't too far away. But he would still laugh at me," he reminisced.
Let's make a film!
During his free time, Gowda would tell Raam the tales of his childhood. "After all, he was my boss's son. I had to impress him, right?" said Gowda, cheekily. After years of learning the ropes, Gowda went on the assist Raam in the making of a short film, Ika. That was the beginning. Undoubtedly a good film, Ika was screened at 22 international film festivals.
Raam went on to study at the Prague Film School and Gowda continued to work with Anita Reddy. He even accompanied the humanitarian to the slums to provide relief materials. "She changed my entire perception about life. Why would someone so rich work in the slums and indulge in social work? I began looking at life with a wider perspective. In fact, the years that I worked with her shaped my filmmaking and storytelling skills," said Gowda.
Feather touch: A snap from Ika
The story behind Thithi
A few years later, Raam was back from Prague. Gowda too had grown; he was prepared to make a film. Together, they packed their bags to Nodekoppalu where Gowda took his friend to his uncle's house. Fascinated by his story, Raam and Gowda found inspiration for their film. Along the way, they met a few others - some who were ready to act, while others required a bit of persuasion. The plot developed in Gowda's mind and he penned the script. Six months later, Thithi was made. Directed by Raam, Gowda took care of its story, script, casting, second unit direction and art direction.
Consisting of a cast of non-professional actors from villages in the Mandya district of Karnataka, the film is a light-hearted story about three generations of men reacting to the death of their 101-year-old patriarch. It is an Indian-American co-production, jointly produced by Pratap Reddy from Prspctvs Productions and Sunmin Park from Maxmedia
We won an award!
Having been screened at many film festivals, Thithi won an award at the Locarno Film Festival in 2015. "People would make fun of me all the time and they often ridiculed the name 'thithi'. But the award changed it all," he said. Thithi went on to win several other accolades including the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Kannada in the same year.
So, what did Vittal say?
A few days later Gowda received a call. It was Vittal! "Boss! Your photo is in the paper," he said, sounding more than excited. Gowda did nothing but laugh. It was his goal as well as his dream. What is more satisfying than a dream come true?