Prithvi Konanur speaks to OTTplay about his approach to a sensitive subject, the idea behind defining his film as a thriller and more
Last Updated: 05.02 PM, Jun 02, 2023
In 2020, Prithvi Konanur caught the attention of film festival juries with his layered feature Pinki Elli?. As the title, which translates to 'Where is Pinki?', suggests, the film is about an eight-month infant girl named Pinki who goes missing one day and how her close ones, including her young mother, embark on a feverish search for her through the chaos of modern-day Bengaluru. On the surface, Konanur's film is a thriller that uses several recognizable elements and tropes of the genre but when you dig deeper, you will find that the core is a social drama that derives inspiration from a form of well-known organized crime. In order to preserve the sanctity of his thought, the filmmaker rids his approach of all embellishments and instead captures all the drama and disquiet in a fly-on-the-wall manner.
After nearly three years, Pinki Elli? has finally arrived in cinemas and OTTplay spoke to the director to touch upon myriad topics such as his expectations from the theatrical run, the filmmaking style and more. Here are edited excerpts:
1. The film was made in 2020 but why did it take so long for you to release in theatres?
The first reason (for the delay) is COVID because of which we lost almost 2 to 2.5 years. And then, when we decided on releasing it finally, things initially did not go according to plan but after all deliberations, we decided that June 2 was the right date to release.
2. In an era where every film is categorised into 'theatrical' or 'OTT', your film perhaps fits in the latter. Wouldn't you say that releasing directly on OTT is a more viable option?
That may be right but we all have had the strong intention of releasing the film in theatres. In fact, more than me, the team has always wanted to see the film on the big screen so a theatrical release had to happen. As far as OTT is concerned, it's a matter of a different entity owning the international rights to the film.
3. What are your expectations from the theatrical run?
The film has a limited release in Karnataka with only multiplexes currently on board. But I certainly hope that the word of the film spreads and it reaches a much wider audience across the country. The OTT medium has its own access and reach but if there is a good turnout in cinema halls then the theatrical run can be extended. That will add to the credibility of the film. The story of Pinki Elli?, moreover, is universally relevant and audiences from every region can connect to this film.
4. Let's talk a little about the film now. I know you have spoken about this in the past but just to refresh everyone's memory, how did you get started on this idea (of an infant going missing) and how was it developed?
I had come across the real-life incident several years ago but developing and giving it a shape took a lot of time. You could take the same event and take it in any desirable direction, maybe even turn it into a full-scale thriller. But the issue with an approach like that is you have to use several cliche elements that come attached to the genre. That is why I was keen on rather bringing in a sense of realism and a social drama - even though the film is still a thriller, I feel what sets it apart is its originality and authenticity.
Originality is found in the details and not just the basic idea of the film. And authenticity, which you always struggle to achieve fully, is in how the characters speak or function in the film just as they would in real life. A police officer or a lawyer, for example, are not as animated as in other films but extremely close to reality. When you watch them in film, you must feel they are part of your real life.
5. Neo-Realism in a way?
I would say it's slightly different from neo-realism because that style of filmmaking has a few defined ideas attached to it. What we saw in Italian cinema or our own (Girish) Kasaravalli sir's work, those films are not heavy on dialogues or the spoken word. But I break those rules and try to keep things in a more 'realism' kind of space where the characters have a lot to say throughout. This way I am able to achieve the authenticity that I just referred to.
6. That authenticity you speak of, doesn't it also come down to the filmmaking style and just how you execute technically?
Yes, definitely. If you notice, Pinki Elli? has a lot of handheld camera work for that immersive feeling and the sound is recorded completely on location (sync sound). Even though I am not someone who is bent on a particular filmmaking style, there has to be an approach to have things seem close to reality. We would have a lot of rehearsals with the actors but they are not bound by anything except the general idea of that scene or shot.