English, Features

Preview: His Father’s Voice

“It all began looking at the plight of children torn between parents, who can no longer get along and are forced to pay a heavy emotional price for no fault of theirs…” begins director Kaarthikeyan Kirubhakaran, an alumnus of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune talking about his maiden feature film, His Father’s Voice. The film, in English, has just finished its first round of screenings in America and Malaysia is all set for its Indian premiere shortly on June 23rd in Chennai. Talking about the film’s title, he continues, “Perhaps it’s because I am myself a father and the film itself is an expression of my love for my children.”

“Once I began work on writing the film, a lot of it was, in fact, done on my phone, on the Final Draft mobile app. The script grew slowly around the central core of a father’s longing to be with his son. The scenes came together, often at the oddest moments while I was in the midst of other activities. But I knew that the inspiration would pass if I did not surrender and write in that moment. It was, to put it simply, like the call of a child that you cannot ignore. You have to put aside all else.” says Kirubhakaran.   “The screenplay of the film that you finally see today was written over a period of six months. But it took a little over twenty years for the writer of this film to come into being. I am speaking of myself here. Life had to create me before I could create life. It all began with my first experience of loss of a loved one at the age of fourteen. ‘Could there be a purpose to life if it can all end so suddenly without taking into account, any of our plans for it?’ I asked myself.” reminisces Kirubhakaran.

“Coming to its actual making, the first requirement when you want to bring a project like a feature film to life is to be able to pitch it well to those people who can help the manifestation of your film on screen. Usually, these are extremely busy people with even shorter attention spans. I found it incredibly difficult to pitch my story to them in just a few words in a limited time period. I would find myself talking a little too much about the ambience or the setting than about the main story itself. That certainly didn’t help. Practice makes perfect they say. I think with each session, my pitching skills improved .” says Kirubhakaran on his initial efforts to get the film rolling. “But that didn’t make raising money for the film any easier. So ultimately our family’s savings went into financing our dream.”

On talking of getting his actors together, Kirubhakaran says, “The entire cast of the film is from my circle of friends and family. And all of them were first timers with the desire to act in a movie! Once I was reasonably sure that I could get a performance out of the one I was thinking of for any part, I would then cast that person. I would then write the dialogues, keeping this specific person in mind. And I spent a good two months with my cast in workshop mode before we actually began filming.”

“Filming was spread over 47 days.” recalls Kirubhakaran. “Scenes that I thought would take forever actually wrapped up quickly. While what I thought were relatively simple scenes sometimes took much longer to film. The most enjoyable part though was working with the children. They were excellent actors and without any of the barriers or baggage that adults come with, were extremely quick on the uptake. In terms of the shooting style, naturally, it was dictated by the subject. The film, looking at a gifted male dancer, who separated from his musician father in childhood, must now return to him to be able to dance again, is set in a dance school, where a production of Bhavabhuti’s Uttararamacarita is in progress. The story of Rama’s separation from his sons, becomes the counterpoint for what happens to the characters in the film’s narrative. Music and dance become key triggers for the release of long suppressed emotions. So, classical dance and music set the pace and rhythm of the narrative along with my own desire for a long and deep breath.”

As he saw the film taking final shape, Kirubhakaran recalls, “Once I reached the point of being reasonably pleased with the edit, I showed the film to my mother and to my brother, also my co-producer. I was happy to see that they weren’t disappointed with the film. It was quite a blissful moment! Now that the film is ready, I am often asked whether in hindsight I would have made any different decisions? Fortunately, I would say I have no regrets. I’m aware that I might do things differently in the future under similar circumstances. But ultimately, I try to do my best at the time and that is all that matters. The current ‘me’ has only gratitude for the old ‘me’, because the old ‘me’ willingly dies, to make place for the current ‘me’.”

Speaking about the film’s screenings, Kirubhakaran says, “His Father’s Voice finally premièred at the Arena Cinelounge, on Sunset Boulevard, in Hollywood, on the 19th of April this year. It ran here for a whole week, during which time I would constantly hang out there to see the kind of response the film was getting. It was heartening to see many people, who returned to watch the film a second and even a third time. Around the same time, it was released online on Amazon Prime, in the US, Canada, UK, and Australia. The next première was at Kuala Lumpur, on the 19th of May to a dream audience of a little over two hundred people. The response was absolutely fantastic! The film had touched so many people. We have also been getting some truly energising reviews and ratings, on Amazon Prime, IMDB, and elsewhere.”

“Now that one has made the film, I’m often asked on what advice would I give others who are trying to make it into this industry. I reiterate here,  ‘Don’t try to ‘make it’ in the film industry. It is better to fail finding your own voice in the process than to succeed as a parrot!” ends Kirubhakaran.

To know more about the film, visit http://hisfathersvoice.film

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