Cinematographer Avinash Arun has several reasons to rejoice. For one, two of his Hindi films released back to back, the critically acclaimed Masaan and Drishyam. The cinematographer also turned director with his first Marathi film Killa, which released on June 26 this year and ran strong for four weeks. When Soumita Sengupta caught up with him, the young cinematographer-director found it hard to choose between talking about Masaan, Drishyam and Killa. But since he is an experienced cinematographer but a new director, we decided to talk about his new baby, Killa. Excerpts from an interview…
Killa ran successfully for four weeks. How does it feel?
It feels great as it was my first film. Such films definitely take time to spread awareness but what makes me happy is that people came to watch it, first with friends and then with family so we had a repeat audience. And it’s not just the Marathi speaking viewers but also the non-Marathi audience who watched Killa. So the word of mouth publicity was strong and I am happy that everyone wanted to watch it.
So have you been offered to remake Killa in Hindi?
(Laughs) No, Hindi producers don’t think this film has got a market and that’s why such films are being made in Marathi. But I have no complaints because I know my audience will come and watch what I make as long as it’s a good film. Today audience won’t come to watch a bad film.
Was there any struggle initially to get producers on board?
I was quite lucky in that sense. I happened to meet a few people who were looking for fresh stories to be produced but in the regional market. I told them I have an idea which they loved and that’s where the entire process of writing screenplay and drafts began. But they have been very supportive and gave me the creative freedom with which I wanted to make my film.
Killa talks about a boy who loses his father and his journey on coping with the loss. How did you crack the idea?
A lot comes from my personal experience. My father was in State Government so we used to travel a lot to other places because of his job transfer. So I happened to make friends but then move on. So I made lots of friends who left a very strong impact in my life. You learn something good and some mischievous things too but you don’t forget them. So I had a thought to which I gave a visual treatment. My initial days were spent in Konkan which is why I chose it as my film’s backdrop and then developed the film. When we lose someone we initially cry but then later through our body language we behave in certain ways which shows that we miss them. This can be through any expression. It’s not always necessary that we show or tell how much we love someone. So the love for someone, especially when we lose them, comes across through our expressions.
Tell us about the film’s backdrop.
From my travel experiences, I wanted to show the sea as the backdrop. I remember in Murud how I could hear the sea’s sound at night. But because Murud today is a travel destination and tends to get crowded, I chose Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg to capture the scenic beauty of trees, sea and nature. That’s why in my film Killa, the sea is integral to the story.
The film ran successfully for four weeks. What kind of business has it done at the box office? Also, do you keep a tab on the collections?
Of course, I have to. If I want to make my second film I need to know whether my first film was successful and whether my producer made some money or not. I have been working in the industry for very long now so I know most of the departments of filmmaking. I know how to budget a film. So while directing my first film, I looked into every department. Killa was made on a budget of `1.5 crore and we did a business of `10 crore plus. The good part for our regional films is word of mouth publicity and leveraging the internet as a marketing platform so that we don’t have to spend huge amounts on publicity. So now I know that my producers have made money.
What is funny today is that even the common man is talking about how good or bad has a film’s business been. So they are speaking exactly what they are reading. Do you read about any businessman saying that his company has had a turnover of `4000 crore? No. Then why are we talking about films making `100 crore? Is that how we judge a film? Films should be made for longevity, for future generations. The trade obviously should talk about the business to see how the industry is growing but everyone talking about it does not make sense.
Has knowing cinematography helped you in directing your film?
It helped a lot. I didn’t have to spend time explaining to someone else how to capture a scene. I knew the budget, I knew what to shoot. We finished the film in just 28 days. We did an intense workshop with the kids so that while going on the floors we didn’t face too many issues. Everyone knew the script.
But I will also highlight that initially when I decided to turn director even my friends said, ‘Cinematographers don’t make good directors’ but why would you say that? Anyone in this industry, who is master of his art, can direct a film because his art will rescue him. Obviously one needs to have the best script, that’s the most important aspect. My aspect is capturing a vision but when I am directing I am not only looking at the frame, I am also capturing the emotions.
Your film featured kids and it’s very hard to shoot with them. How did you manage to do it?
While shooting, I realised one has to be very prompt because you don’t know when you will get the required expression from a child. They are moody and sometimes they get scared. So I first made them comfortable. Parth Bhalerao was already in my mind as I had seen some of his work. But during the audition I chose kids who asked me more questions. I realised how much they understood my script based on how many questions they asked me. So we auditioned in Pune where I got my main character Archit Deodhar as he understood the story. Killa is a not a children’s film but it’s about children, which Archit understood.
With films like Fandry, Killa, Time Pass doing good business how much has the Marathi audience evolved over the years?
These films are faring well because audiences are coming to watch the film. One thing which has changed majorly is earlier we only had the middle-aged audience but today young people are also coming to watch films. We have people who are coming to watch films after 25 years, and they had not even stepped out of their homes in all these years. The youth plays a very important role as they get their parents to theatres to watch a good film. I personally feel be it Marathi, Bengali or Malayalam films, because all these languages are very rich in culture and have great literature, they have always made good films. Yes, there were dud times but at the end there have always been good films. The Marathi audience is culturally ahead and they always watch good films.
Two of your films as cinematographer, Masaan and Drishyam released back-to-back. What are you feeling?
Masaan’s reviews are outstanding. I am very happy that everyone is appreciating the film. The film is based in Benaras and the audience needs to support this film. Filmmaking has only one language and that’s audio-visual which is why we also enjoy watching world cinema. So if a film is good, the audience should appreciate it.
What is interesting in my resume right now is Killa, which is a regional film, and it did well. Masaan is totally different from Killa and is receiving good reviews. Then I have an out and out commercial film Drishyam starring Ajay Devgn which again has its set audience. So all three films have different markets and are for a different audience.
So does direction now take precedence over cinematography for you?
No, currently I am happy doing what I am doing. If I get a good script or thought I will surely direct another Marathi film. But I would definitely like to push Marathi cinema.