Interview Kannada

Every day on Shivamma brought new challenges, says Jai Shankar

The Kannada filmmaker is making his feature film debut with this project.

Sonal Pandya

Filmmaker Jai Shankar’s previous project, the short film Lacchavva (2019), was part of the anthology Katha Sangama. The short received a special mention in the Best Short Fiction Film category at the 16th Mumbai International Film Festival last year.

Lacchavva review: Heartwarming tale of a lost woman’s adventures in Bangalore

Now the young filmmaker has added another accolade to his list. His new project, Shivamma, is one of five chosen for the Film Bazaar’s 2021 Work-in-Progress Lab which was held virtually.

In an exclusive conversation, Jai Shankar said he was happy to be a part of this edition of the lab and the feedback from his mentors on Shivamma was really helpful to change it for international audiences. The film is currently in the rough-cut phase.

Lacchavva was written in a day, says Jai Shankar A

The Kannada filmmaker is making his feature film debut with this project. Like Lacchavva, Shivamma is also produced by Rishab Shetty. “Once I had completed the idea of this film, I went and narrated it to him. He liked the idea and wanted to back the project,” Jai Shankar said on a telephone call.

He finished the screenplay last year in January. “I quit my job and went to the village to make my film happen, but because of the pandemic it got delayed for several months and I shot the film in December 2020,” he said.

“It’s a completely new project. In terms of style, I have updated [it] and followed the same kind of treatment, a realistic [style] of filmmaking, like a documentary,” he added.

This time, too, he has employed non-professional artistes to tell his story. They are all from his native Yarehanchinala, a small village in Koppal district of Karnataka. Shivamma is the story of woman working as a cook delivering mid-day meals in a government school. Jai Shankar also mentioned that the film follows “her choices of odd jobs to come out of poverty”.

He went on to say that working on a feature-length film was a new experience for him. “It took almost two years of planning and time for [the film] to happen, too much of preparation, and too many things to give thought to," he said. "There was a lot of room for error.

"Luckily, my team was experienced, my DoPs [Saumyananda Sahi and Vikas Urs] and sound designer [Shreyank Nanjappa], they were FTII [Film and Television Institute of India] graduates. They helped in the production aspect. It was a little easier with their contribution.

“Every day, there were new challenges,” he continued. “Because of the non-professional actors, there were more challenges. For them, this is just a project. Their regular farm work is more important. To convince them to come for this for two months was [difficult]. Money didn’t matter to them; it was not an issue.”

Jai Shankar now has a better plan to finish up Shivamma with some reshoots after the Work-in-Progress Lab. “The plan was there before Film Bazaar,” he clarified. “I wanted to reshoot a few more scenes which I was not so happy about. After the feedback, I got more clarity on what [needs] to be reshot. We are shooting a few scenes again next month. The movie will be ready by February or March.”

The filmmaker is hoping to have a theatrical release for his work after it does the rounds of the festival circuit. Meanwhile, Film Bazaar’s main event, the Co-Production Market, will be held from 20 to 25 November at the International Film Festival of India in Goa.

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