Published: 26th June 2019
Why Kannada film Gantumoote should be on your must-watch list
Roopa Rao talks about her new film, Gantumoote, which is doing the rounds at international film festivals and why she believes parallel cinema will always have an audience
When Roopa Rao directed the Kannada feature film Gantumoote, she never thought that the film would be screened at the New York Indian Film Festival 2019. That was in May. In June, the film was screened internationally for the second time, this time at the Ottawa Indian Film Festival. And this is a remarkable achievement because Gantumoote (meaning 'baggage') is the first ever Kannada film to be screened at this festival. It is a coming-of-age art film where the lead character is a 16-year-old girl who thinks that life is very similar to what they show in movies. But it all unravels one day, when an incident leads to the truth of reality. "There are very few female-centric movies in Kannada. This story focuses on the teenage girl and her transformation into womanhood. It also deals with pertinent topics like academic pressure, bullying and teenage love," says Roopa and adds that as the movie is set in the 1990s, she also threw in a few references of Hum Aapke Hai Kaun as well as Kannada actor Upendra who was a superstar during those days.
Roopa credits her success to the script, lead actors — Teju Belawadi and Nischith Korodi — her team who worked hard to make the movie more relatable for the audience. Talking about the actors, who both come from a theatre background, she says, "I found Nischith, who is from Shimoga, when I was conducting a few workshops in Nagathihalli Chandrashekar's Tent Cinema Film School. I liked the innocence in him and I felt that he would be perfect in Gantumoote. And Teju, who plays a 16-year-old, is actually 22! Youngsters these days know and understand everything spontaneously and we as directors need not put in much time making them understand acting."
Action Camera and Lights: Roopa explaining the scene to Teju Belawadi to be enacted during Gantumoote
Backed by her own production studio, Ameyukti Studios, Roopa says, "Since I wanted to have creative control over all my movies, I founded Ameyukti Studios with my friend. The money invested in the production company, however, is collectively by our friends and families." Apart from being screened in different film festivals, they are also looking for film distributors to screen Gantumoote in various theatres across Karnataka. This young director, whose film won the Best Screenplay award at the New York Indian Film Festival 2019, believes in learning and improving every day, "Storytelling and filmmaking are both crafts and they improve gradually. When I look back at my skill set while shooting my first web series and how I have improved during Gantumoote, I notice a huge difference. I learnt a lot while shooting Gantumoote because I had to work with young actors and keep up with their energy level. There was a process of learning and unlearning while shooting this movie. For me, making a film itself is like a pilgrimage."
Not from a film background
Gone are those days when people assume that success in the industry goes hand-in-hand with nepotism. Roopa was a corporate stooge from Bengaluru for six years, with no familial roots in filmmaking, before she decided to call it quits and venture into filmmaking. She pursued a course in film direction and production from the Asian Academy of Film and Television in Delhi and subsequently, went to the UK and assisted documentary directors. "I am a huge movie buff and grew up watching films in different languages like Kannada, Hindi, English, Tamil, etc. So, when it comes to filmmaking or storytelling, I try to tell stories in the local language that the audience relates to. Moreover, the film industry needs more women in more diverse roles other than actors and singers and I see that changing these days," says Roopa, who worked at Infosys after pursuing a master's degree in Finance.
Proud moment: Gantumoote film team won the Best Screenplay Award at the New York Indian Film Festival this year
Returning to India, she first co-directed a Kannada film called Vishnuvardhana staring Sudeep and a Tamil feature film titled Kurai Ondrum Illai. The young director then ventured into shooting a web series titled The Other Love Story in 2016 which earned her a lot of criticism. The series was about two college girls who fall in love with each other and face many challenges posed by society and their families. They are separated by their families who think that it is a psychological disorder rather than accept the same-sex relationship. Roopa hopes that she will continue to create content on more such sensitive subjects to convey a message to the society.
Though she was criticised for the web series, it has scored over six crore views (and counting) on YouTube. Roopa's most earnest fans are now waiting for the next season of the series, which was crowdfunded. Soon after the first season, she started writing Gantumoote and today, it is going places and winning awards.