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August 17, 2016

Indie Director Avinash Arun on Making His Debut Film ‘Killa’

Text by Tanisha Choudhury. Photograph by Prateek Patel

The film-maker talks about making his indie gem and taking the film to Berlinale

A cinematography graduate from FTII, this 31-year-old’s directorial debut, Killa, came about without much planning. With frames that are awash with lush greenery of the Konkan region during the monsoons, the story is a touching coming-of-age tale of an 11-year-old boy. It premiered at the 64th Berlin International Film Festival, where it won two awards amid unanimous acclaim. He has also shot festival favourite Masaan (2015), which made news when it bagged awards at Cannes.

“We shot Killa in 28 days. Since the seasons and the passage of time played such an important role in the film, we were constantly fighting against the weather. There would be no rain where we needed it and it would rain when we didn’t want it to. Time was always a problem, especially with the tight budget.”

“After the first screening at Berlinale I was in tears. It was amazing. I had never dreamt of such a thing — my first film getting such a warm reception at a prestigious festival. It was a completely new experience, especially winning the two awards.”

“Ultimately, Killa made almost 11 crores at the box office! The National Film Award and Crystal Bear award (by the children’s jury at Berlinale) definitely helped. How else would audiences even know of a Marathi film about children? It was because of those awards and all the love and support that people showed us at festivals that Killa had such a successful run.”

“It touched people from all age groups because so much of Killa came from my childhood memories. I was apprehensive of how kids in Berlin would receive it, because while it’s about children, it’s not exactly a children’s film. But the way they reacted to it was fantastic.”

“Regional cinema is getting a wider and warmer reception in India. Killa has worked, even commercially. Sairat has set a new benchmark. I think everyone has to make good films now. That’s the only way forward. We can’t say that only a certain kind of movies works in Bollywood. Wherever good films are being made, audiences are watching. The time for formula films is slowly passing, because of the way the audience is evolving.”

“The Marathi film industry is not a star-driven system. If I were to make a Hindi film, I’m not sure I would have the same creative freedom that I have when I make a Marathi film — we just want to tell our stories, and people come together to celebrate them.”

“I will always cherish what Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf said to me. After he saw Killa, we spoke for a long time and he told me about his approach to screenplay writing and how he calculates the attraction of a particular film for its target audience. He told me, ‘Avinash, you’re almost there. Just keep at it, don’t lose your honesty and you’ll get there.’”

“I know that the Marathi audience is quite evolved but I didn’t target them specifically while making the movie. If your film and your story have a good cinematic form, then you can reach not only a local audience but an international one as well. But it’s not something I actively thought about while shooting — that was a very intuitive process.”

“A sense of nostalgia is what I wanted people to take back from the film. Our memories are directly proportional to the intensity of the experiences we have. These core memories are based on very strong experiences and feelings, and that’s what I wanted to tap into.”

“I wanted to relive my beautiful childhood through this film. I used to move around quite a bit, because of my dad’s job. Going to a new school used to be such a sensitive affair. I was a very shy, introverted kid. Every time we moved, I used to wonder if I’ll never meet all these wonderful friends I’ve made ever again. And it’s true — I’ve forgotten their names and faces — but the times spent with them and how they made me feel have stayed with me.”

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