The new age Kannada filmmaker shot into the limelight with his 2013 film ‘Lucia’. Director Pawan Kumar went on to make ‘U-Turn’ in 2016 (adapted in Tamil and Telugu in 2018) and directed the last two episodes of the popular Netflix series ‘Leila’ along with directors Deepa Mehta and Shanker Ganesh. In 2017, he distributed ‘Ondu Motteya Kathe’ that was remade in Hindi as ‘Ujda Chaman’. Now he is all set to make 'Nicotine'. Excerpts from the chat with Pawan Kumar:
Q: Why did you decide to start the ‘Lockdown Tapes’ podcast on Youtube?
Pawan Kumar: I was done with raising funds for daily wage workers and that day I felt I had nothing else to do in life. The whole day I spent thinking about that to do next and at 9 pm I was sitting in my room. I had heard so much about podcasts but never explored it and I thought let me record something for 10 minutes. I felt it was therapy. People were responding and it made me want to share more the next day. I just did the 20th episode. 210 minutes of content came out and it’s at a point where I’ve not even started talking about my films. It’s been a good journey and felt like I was doing a performance.
Q: Do you think your background in theatre has influenced your filmmaking? You make small film that are highly content-drive.
Pawan Kumar: It’s been there. All the people who have done theatre arts have identified elements which are part of the film in the way I’ve staged it or some scenes which are not very realistic but have a very cinematic, artistic blend to it. For example, I play a lot with reflections and mirrors. It’s always been a fascination of the whole ‘man in the mirror’ idea and it’s been part of all my films. In ‘Life Ishtenu’, there was Diganth looking at his dead friend in the mirror and in ‘Lucia’ there was is an exchange of worlds. it’s all very theatrical. I had done a play called ‘The Woman in Me’ and it was staged such that half the set mirrored the other half. This has always fascinated me and it’s part of my films. It instinctively comes out.
Q: Small films seems to the genre you excel at. Would I be right - or wrong - in saying that? When you made ‘Lucia’ after crowd-funding, it was an eye-opener for so many filmmakers and people that you could make a brilliant film and it’s not about the money.
Pawan Kumar: I don’t know about the small and big films. I definitely know that my ideas are not like the ‘Baahubali’ type. I got offered some period/ fantasy dramas but I don’t feel comfortable with that. I like contemporary ideas, character conflicts - larger-than-life is not my comfort zone. It’s not about the budget but more about the content. When I wrote ‘Nicotine’, it was big - not in terms of budget but in terms of canvas.
Q: Your story ideas/inspiration come from your real-life experiences.
Pawan Kumar: Yes, it is something that has stayed in my mind. For example, ‘U-Turn’ was about a real issue and it stayed in my mind. I had written ’Nicotine’ and was trying to pitch it for two years. Our friend Mr Gagan told me look at things around you and the flyover issue was something I identified with. And that was the turning point.
Q: The concept of ‘Ondu Motteya Kathe’ was a concept that was unique.
Pawan Kumar: All credit to the team from mangalore. that was the kind of film I always aspired to do. Highly character conflict driven. I did the distribution for them.
Q: You had said in an earlier interview that you don’t want to remake films. Is it because it drains you creatively?
Pawan Kumar: I definitely don’t want to remake someone else’s films. ‘Lucia’ and ‘U-Turn’ Kannada were written with budget constraints so when the remakes came, I wanted to see if I could make it the way I had actually written it. Samantha came to my office to watch ‘U-Turn’ even before the release and when they approached me to remake it, I said i’d so it only if she was part of the film. I owed it to her. There are so many stories to tell so I would rather look at making something new.
Q: Who would you like to work with?
Pawan Kumar: Post ‘Lucia’, so many people from different film industries connected with me and we have conversations not necessarily about working together but as filmmakers. Fahadh Faasil, for instance, has read two of my scripts as a filmmaker not with the idea of roping him in.
Q: Would you like to work with Fahadh?
Pawan Kumar: Of course. If he likes any of my scripts, definitely.
Watch the entire interview here: