Adarsh Eshwarappa, director and writer, is a man of many firsts. To begin with, he dared to launch a film with no godfather in the Kannada film industry. Secondly, he chose a woman-centric subject for his debut film when his peers were stuck on stereotypes. And eventually, he ended up winning critical acclaim and a noteworthy award for his very first film.
In the early years of this decade, Kannada cinema witnessed the emergence of a new wave of independent filmmakers willing to experiment with narratives and engage the audience beyond entertainment. These filmmakers defied all rules of commercial cinema and sought a paradigm shift. Adarsh Eshwarappa was one among these creators.
His debut film, Shuddhi, released in March 2017 left a lingering impact on its viewers. And his next film Bhinna, a psychological thriller, is all set for release.
Lure of the big screen
Surprisingly, filmmaking was not a childhood dream for Adarsh. “My family and I enjoyed watching one film every week. I never dreamt of making a film someday,” he says. But filmmaking came calling in different ways. While he was studying engineering, he choreographed a dance-drama for an annual event at college. “I choreographed another piece for another event but this time I was disqualified,” he says.
Being disqualified was something he had not anticipated. “Life had just begun to take me on a different path and I could not understand why I had been disqualified. I found myself becoming very philosophical,” he says with a laugh. Not wanting to take the conventional route, he began making short films and tried his hands at a feature film too.
The birth of Shuddhi
He slowly started getting the hang of the language and this spurred him to contemplate his first Kannada film. He began watching more films and did a filmmaking course in the US. He took up a full-time night shift job so that he could pursue filmmaking during the day.
“I was in a dilemma as to what film I wanted to make. For a new filmmaker, back in 2013, the market was not as open as it is today. I tried to write a few commercial scripts but didn’t feel connected to them emotionally and felt as though I was trying to impress somebody else,” he confesses.
During this time, he watched a video related to the Nirbhaya case. It was his turning point. The video touched Adarsh, gave him goosebumps, brought tears to his eyes. And that’s when the idea of Shuddhi was born. There were no second thoughts. “I did about four or five months of research because it involved real incidents, and put in 5-6 months of time into writing the script,” he explains.
When asked if he ever felt scared how a film like Shuddhi would be received, Adarsh laughs, and says, “I was scared when I was trying to write the other commercial scripts. While writing Shuddhi, I don’t know what drove me. I really don’t know if I thought about audience, barely thought whether people will like this or not like this. I think the story drove me. And I had a lot of fun writing the script.”
However, the struggle was not over with the shooting of Shuddhi. Due to financial commitments, Adarsh went back to his regular job. The entire post-production of Shuddhi was done while he held a full-time job.
Bhinna - coming soon
His next Kannada film, Bhinna, Adarsh says, is a psychological thriller. “It’s a contained film. Unlike Shuddhi, Bhinna has been made with a minimal budget and was shot across few locations. The protagonist, an actress, is crazy about method acting. She takes the script, goes to an isolated part of the city, reads it, and simultaneously, her response to it - unfolds as a parallel story. Why it happens and what happens eventually is the core of Bhinna,” he explains.
He is quite eager to find out what the reception to Bhinna will be like, because of its complexity. “It’s five times more layered than Shuddhi. There’s more to Bhinna than what you see,” he adds.
When asked about the readiness of the Kannada-speaking audience towards a complex film, Adarsh objects to such a thought. “That’s the mistake. We should not underestimate the audience’s taste for complexity. Moreover, no matter how complex the subject is, it’s about emotions. That’s how one always feels connected. That was what happened with Shuddhi,” he explains.
When not shooting or writing a film, he can be found watching films or hanging out with his small circle of friends. “I’m not a party person and you’ll find me at home mostly, trying some good food, watching lots and lots of films,” he admits. He calls himself a ‘cinemaniac’, borrowing the word from Steven Spielberg who also calls himself the same.
“It defines how crazy I am about films and how much I want to do the kind of films I want to make,” Adarsh says.