Kannada independent films need a boost: Abhilash Shetty

The Kannada comedy-drama film ‘Koli Taal’, which has received accolades at various international film festivals, is set to be released in multiplexes in Karnataka on May 27. Director Abhilash Shetty shares with DH Showtime this critically acclaimed film and his journey as a director.


What prompted you to make this film? How was the process of making the film?

I studied for seven years in a boarding school and met my grandparents at Sagara in Shivamogga once a year. Every time I visited their house, my grandparents had a rooster. So I used that concept in this movie. I just added a situation like the rooster disappearing. I finished the script work in September 2019 and shot the film the same year in December. Post-production work took a year because of the lockdowns. The sound and poster designs were made by international professionals. About 10 people worked in production and 40 in the post-production team.

How does it feel to be appreciated for your first film on international platforms?

I just wanted to tell a good story and didn’t think about audiences and film critics. I believe that a story should come from our hearts. I didn’t expect any appreciation, but these platforms serve as a foundation for showing interesting films.

Was it a challenge to play the role of a director and an actor?

I have acted and directed three short films with about four members over the past three years. It was difficult to shoot in a closed environment. Playing both roles in a movie is tough, but my first preference is directing.

What are the must-have traits for a new filmmaker?

Filmmakers must be good writers. Film critics or people at film festivals don’t ask you what camera you used or what places you showed in the film. Even if it takes a year or two to complete the script, it shouldn’t matter. The script is the heart of a film.

What prompted you to become a director?

I don’t come from a film background and I haven’t had any formal film training. I used to watch movies every Sunday at my boarding school. I came across a Vishal Bharadwaj movie called “Kaminey” and watched it about 50 times now. The camera work was unique and the film was interestingly shot during the sunless Mumbai monsoon. I quit my job in June 2017 and started making short films. I took many master classes from Hollywood, French and Italian directors. I was clear that even if I do a local story, it should reach a global audience. Directors like Robert Rodriguez, Vishal Bharadwaj, Anurag Kashyap and Iranian filmmakers like Majid Majidi and Abbas Kiarostami inspired me.

What do you think of Kannada’s independent film industry?

I want independent films to be distributed OTT or theatrically and not end up on hard drives. If you look at the nationally award-winning movies over the last 10 to 15 years, those are just YouTube videos. There are hardly any Kannada movies on OTT platforms. However, there have been some good independent movies like “Pinki Elli” and “Neeli Hakki” in the past two or three years.

Are you excited for the release of ‘Koli Taal? Upcoming projects?

We couldn’t show the film at the Bengaluru Film Festival, so people were waiting to see it. We are delighted to know the pulse of the local public. My next film is based on a crime drama with a bit of dark humor. It could be released later this year or early next year.

How many film festivals has ‘Koli Taal’ screened in so far?

Our film was screened at the 21st Indian Film Festival in New York and the Indian Film Festival in Stuttgart last year. It has also screened at the Indian Film Festival in Melbourne, the Bokaro Film Festival in Romania, and film festivals across Europe, Canada and South Korea. We also had an Indian premiere at Jio MAMI 22nd Mumbai film festival in March this year. Overall, our film was screened at around 13 film festivals. We competed for Best Screenplay and Best Direction. The response from audiences and film critics has been overwhelming.

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