The film took over my life: The Untitled Kartik Krishnan Project director

By Nandita Dutta • Published on August 2, 2011
The film took over my life:The Untitled Kartik Krishnan Project director

Srinivas Sunderrajan

[W]atching Srinivas Sunderrajan’s The Untitled Kartik Krishnan Project (2010) is like traversing a labyrinth; it is a meta film-about a film-within a film.

What it really signifies is an independent filmmaker’s challenging journey of making a film, his obsession with his art and the influence of uncanny extraneous factors on the film that he set out to make.

Following a screening at the Transilvania International Film Festival in June, the film was recently presented at the Naya Cinema Festival in Mumbai. Sunderrajan, all of 26, answers a few questions about the making of The Untitled Kartik Krishnan project.

What was the original idea of the film when you started? What did the original script comprise?

The original idea behind making the film was to collaborate with people I knew (in whatever capabilities they could) and make a product that would help us evolve creatively. I called up KK and asked him whether I could use his name for a film called “The Untitled Kartik Krishnan Project”. He agreed and later I asked whether he would want to play the lead character. KK wanted me (the real me) to help him make a short film – which we could never complete. So I thought what would have happened if we would have completed his film. And so having this ‘real life possibility’ as the starting point I weaved a script about KK and SS (fictional) who collaborate on KK’s short film idea and just when things start going smooth -all hell breaks loose.

How did it become a film-within a film- within a film; as opposed to a film- within a film that it set out to be?

It became a film-within a film-within a film when all hell broke loose! (Read: Location breakdown, Actor unavailability, Financial crunch etc). 60% of the film was shot and the remaining 40% was integral in solving the puzzle that I created in the first half! So the only way I could solve the puzzle (imperfect as it seems) was to add another layer of ‘meta-film’ in it!

Tell me more about this guerilla style of filmmaking?

When you go about trying to get your scripts made into films by meeting various financers/producers/production houses – you seem to slowly take on the form of a monkey jumping from one tree to the other looking for food. When you don’t find food, the hunger (read: anger) transforms you into a gorilla. Ashamed that you’ve transformed into a hideous form, you start hiding from the world. That’s when life gives you a camera and you just start shooting everything in sight – oblivious of constitutional permits and system related red-tapism! This is the real definition of Guerrilla style of film-making!

How much of the film is autobiographical and depicts your mindset: film is larger than logic, obsession with the script, permissions hassles, etc.?

As mentioned earlier, it starts off from my personal interaction with KK and then takes on a fictional journey. It’s a journey that every creative individual goes through when he/she is engrossed in work. The work slowly starts to take over the person – making him/her question the ‘existence of logic!’. In my case, the film took over my life because as I was trying to piece everything together I became Kartik Krishnan – a budding filmmaker trying to finish his film! Obsession with the script and permission hassles are all part and parcel of the entire process. As mentioned, guerrilla film-making breaks the boundaries of ‘location permits’ etc!

What were the practical challenges you faced while making this film? Why did the process stretch over a year?

Everyone had a day job. I didn’t. I had to wait till the weekend to shoot a particular scene. I couldn’t get locations for the entire day – couple of hours were possible. So I had to shoot, say 4 scenes in that much time. Bribing people in order to enter their house and shooting a film with whatever lights were available. Later on, the location collapsed. Day jobs gave way to week-long assignments and jobs. Calendars were messed up with X and 0s and various other graffiti made by a furious mind. And then the Monsoons in India! The shoot happened for 27 days spanning over a year.

What was the budget of your film? How did you spend the money?

I was actually ripped off around 40k in making the film. I wanted to make a zero budget film but the powers that be couldn’t help me realize it. I had to bribe my way throughout – right from dance bar waiters to production/location finders! The cast and crew survived on cutting chai and vada pavs. And for days where I could save the bribe sum – I took them for some Subway ‘sub of the day’. Food, conveyance (on few days) and sad joke sessions were taken care of by me.

And just when I thought I was through making the film – I again got ripped of almost the same amount by Fedex, DHL, Sony Digibeta, Censor board etc. etc.!

Of late, I spent some money in getting some film merchandise like the “life is larger than logic” badge – the profit returns of which will probably take care of my life post 60 years!

Though the film is low-budget, how do you plan to recover the costs of the film?

I doubt if I’ll ever recover the entire cost of the film lest some big production company buys the film straight off and then safely stores it in their vaults of unreleased films thereby acquiring a cult status for my film! I’ve further invested in some film-related merchandise like t-shirts and badges.

I’m working on releasing the DVD of the film through our indie production house, Enter Guerrilla Films. Your film needs to be seen by people for you to move on. So what better place than here, what better time than now!

So as a young filmmaker, how do you see the journey of making a film? What are the qualities you would say helped you sail through the journey successfully?

The journey of making a film is evolutionary. You NEED to evolve with every step you take. Keep your head focused, talk less, work more!

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