It was only a couple of days ago that we heard about this Indian Film Maker Sreedhar TN who had just one film to his bio and now has embarked on a rather ambitious venture, a film called TAILGATER for an International audience. Further digging into this and we realized that it was rather a clever move, where he was trying to bring the audience of independent cinema and the audience of online cinema under a single roof and this really was what made us get in touch with him. I was assigned this task of interviewing him and to my surprise I found him to be very approachable and he was genuinely surprised that the Post would be interested in him. Though there was considerable time zone difference between us, he ensured that he was available to speak to me unmindful of the rather uncomfortable time schedule he had to go through. The following is the no holds barred conversation I had with him.
How did you go from working in a call center in India to making films?
My family and close friends never wanted me to be in films even though they knew it was my passion. They were of the opinion that I was not the kind of a guy who would be able to handle the stress that goes with it. My family especially thought that films are not a good career option and I need to get into something which would help me make some money. So, to get them off my back and also to pay my bills, I chose A career in call centers. Since my job required me to work nights and I had the days completely to myself to pursue films. So, it was mainly a guy who wanted to make films that were working in a call center and not the other way around.
You utilize newbies and not mainstream actors in your film. Are newbies natural actors in your opinion?
Mainstream actors or stars (as they are known in India) are not really accessible to newbie directors as they are in Hollywood. Plus when you decide to work with a mainstream actor in your film, you are supposed to make some compromises in the script to suit their “image”, plus the wait, I recently tried reaching out to a mainstream actress in India, sent her a copy of my first film, her manager contacted me and said she was interested and I was given an appointment which was supposed to be after 7 months. I don’t know what I am doing tomorrow, forget 7 months. I was told that if the meeting goes well, she would be available to shoot in 2018. This is one of the reasons I opt for newbies. The best part of working with newbies is you do not have the date hassles and they do not charge you astronomical fees, they do not have a pre-set image notions and they are willing to go the extra mile for you which the mainstream actors do not.
Do you feel that something like online cinema is going to overtake the traditional movie system or will Independent cinema just integrate into online cinema and merge the two?
Tectonic shifts are happening in the way we consume media so that’s a really interesting question. I doubt online cinema will ever overtake traditional cinema since the need for a “collective experience” is not likely to cease to exist from our DNA, but I do believe that bridges will become wider and tighter. Hell, filmmakers like me are trying to do just that — bridge the two. The people who are bankrolling my film “Tailgater”- Sravanthi Media House in India are hoping to achieve the same. But then it’s too early to make a statement on it.
You’ve already begun production on a second film — what juicy details do we get to know about that one?
We are in the pre-production of a feature film which, on one hand, is aimed at both connoisseurs of online cinema and the audience of traditional cinema. Tailgater is a thriller set in India which is a kind of attempt to erase the memories of India created by “slumdog millionaire” and “city of joy”. We are trying to introduce a kind of urban India to the western audience. The movie stars “newbies” Meenaz Banu, who has done television earlier and also theater, Chaithali Halder from theater and Mohsin Mo from theater again. The movie is being bankrolled by Mr. Shyam Bandugula, the CEO of Sravanth Media House, who has his professional roots etched in Hollywood…So all I can safely say I have a bunch of good people working together with me on this.
Is there a reason you choose to make Tailgater in English as opposed to Janaaza which was in Urdu?
I wanted to reach out to a larger audience, so I decided to make it in English. We do have an Urdu/Hindi version “Khush-amdeed” exclusively for the Indian audience. We would be filming both the versions simultaneously.
What are you hoping that audiences will take away from seeing the film, in regards to perhaps a message or life lesson?
Entertainment and freedom from their mundane life for 100 mins is what they would get and nothing else. If I wanted to give a message, I would have become a preacher and not a filmmaker.
What are your other projects apart from Tailgater?
Well, currently Tailgater is taking most of my time, but yes I do have a thriller in English lined up for pre-production, the moment I finish this one, irrespective of how it does at the B.O. All I can reveal is that my third film will have a cast of Indian and International actors in it.