Published: 01st May 2019
How filmmaker Athithya Kanagarajan made his 'Dreams' come true and is travelling the world with his film
Athithya's film titled 'Dreams' is the story of a young paper boy who aspires to meet Abdul Kalam and has been screened at over 120 film festivals across the world
When Abdul Kalam passed away in 2015, many people said that they grieved for him like they would if somebody in their own family had passed away. Almost every other person shared that sentiment, so did Athithya Kanagarajan. He had spent the previous year reading biographies and fell especially in love with Kalam's Wings of Fire. So when it came to making a short film around that same time, he knew it had to have a Kalam connection. Today, that films boasts of being screened at over a 100 international film festivals and winning almost 20-30 awards.
First Frame: A scene from Athithya's first film which he made about a leaning disability
Athithya's film titled 'Dreams' is the story of a young paper boy who aspires to meet Abdul Kalam. In the last two years, Athithya has managed to send the film to over 400 film festivals and it was selected to be screened at nearly 120. He managed to win about 25 awards in major festivals as well. While some entries to film festivals are free, some charge quite a large fee, about 30 percent of his award money went into paying the fees for his other entries. "Most young filmmakers make their short film with the intention to eventually show it to future producers while making a feature film pitch. Not many realise that they can actually travel all over with their film and get a large range of audiences to watch it," he said.
Since his film's trailer was released, several young directors have reached out to him to ask he was able to enter so many festivals. "A student did an interview with me where I discussed how I promoted the film and after that several people reached out to me. The thing, there isn't much guidance on how short filmmakers can market their films. I spent almost a year, just finding film festivals. Just randomly googling them or researching on platforms that can help with film entries," he said. He managed to find a platform called "Film Freeway" which gave access to over 8000 film festivals, "So I sat down and found out the categories that would suit by film and sent it in," he said. He didn't pay more than 20 dollars per entry, "In the coming month, the film is going to be screened at adages film festival and one in Armenia too," he added.
Drawing Inspiration: Athithya said that one of his favorite films is 'Stanley Ka Dabba', one of the films that inspired him to make 'Dreams'
But how did this all start? Athithya, who is from Cuddalore,first decided to become a filmmaker in 2006, when he was in the tenth standard. "After I watched Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu, I decided I wanted to become a director. Instead of studying for my board exams, I started to write scripts and became very interested in screenwriting," he said. When it came to choosing course for college,Athithya was keen to pursue visual Communication but his parents wouldn't have it. So just like every other teenager, he chose to do engineering. After that, he decided he wanted to become an assistant director to either Gautam Vasudev Menon, Mysskin or Selvaraghavan, "Along with a friend who was an aspiring actor, I would spend hours outside director's offices. Nothing materialised and I didn't like the whole process. So I decided to dive into short filmmaking," he said. And so, Athithya made his first film - Scribbling, which he made as part of a competition. "We had to make a film about mental disabilities and so I made a film on a young child struggling with 'Dysgraphia'," the young director said. He won the competition and then his parents became more confident in his capabilities. So he continued to participate in other such competitions and then dabbled with different types of filming like a short film with just music, a film shot entirely on his mobile and such concepts.
In 2017, he enrolled in a competition which was seeking ten minute scripts. "If the script was selected, we would get two and half lakhs to make our film," he said. And, guess what? He managed to win, yet again. With the money, he made 'Dreams'. Athithya remembers his mother telling him to make a film on Kalam as soon as he had passed away and he took the idea seriously and wrote the script for 'Dreams'. "I wanted to make a film on par with international standards but its not easy and at a point when I was really feeling hopeless, all my friends came out to fund my film and help me out. I will always remain grateful to them," he said.
Beyong boundaries: Athihthya during one of the interactions at a film festival abroad
Since both his films have child protagonists, I ask him if it was a conscious decision, "Yes, I really like children's films. Dreams was inspired by Kakka Muttai," he said, adding the 'Children of Heaven' was his all time favourite film. "I cherish all my school days and even my next feature is a children's film," he said.
Talking about the advice that he would give upcoming filmmakers, the 27-year-old said that he thinks its better to actually get into filmmaking and make short films, "It is good to work under directors and maybe they can do it for one film but it really helps to just keep making short films," he said. He is still awaiting the results of two film festivals and then he plans to release 'Dreams' to the public.
Watch the film trailer here -