Newsmakers Of 2017: Sexy Durga’s Sanal Kumar Sasidharan
The film-maker is in the news for his latest film, Sexy Durga, which deals with the evils of patriarchy and was shot, interestingly, without a screenplay.
Sexy Durga is an uncomfortable film to watch. A couple plan to hitch-hike at night and are given a lift by two men in a minivan. What follows is a claustrophobic sense of impending doom, something that the Indian audience, especially women, can easily connect with. Like the film’s Variety review says — “The incessant misanthropic nihilism offers no glimmer of hope, and feels designed mostly to elicit a sense of revulsion. Add claustrophobia, successfully conjured via the confining nature of the minivan and the disorienting penumbral lighting, and audience suffocation is nearly complete.” The country needs more film-makers who portray the grime and discomfort of reality, and Sasidharan has, thankfully, joined the tribe.
Congratulations on the buzz around Sexy Durga. How does it feel?
Thank you. Actually it is very refreshing and a hope-giving buzz. While I am very keen on people having anticipations and expectations from my forthcoming films, I consciously keep them out of my mind and move ahead, without any burden of satisfying anyone’s expectations.
What drew you to the subject of Sexy Durga?
Sexy Durga is a dark thriller. It was shot almost completely at night. It is about life after sunset in Kerala. How the wildness in men works when there is little light, which provides an opportunity to invade someone else’s freedom. It also talks about how the power in society works against powerless people.
What was the scripting/ ideating process like?
I work without a script. Apart from my first film Oraalppokkam, I did not have a concrete script and screenplay for my other films. I used to play with the actors in the given situation at the location. I give them freedom to express and later try to shape it in the way I want to. Most of the time, I have only a basic idea about the scene, apart from its politics and philosophy. All the dialogues and the movements come when we start shooting.
How do you react to the current condition of the Indian indie cinema space?
Indian indie cinema is growing very fast. After the popularity of the digital medium, many people are suddenly becoming capable of making films. A lot of material is being created, and while most of them may be without any relevance, a few are quite noteworthy and inspiring. Films such as Court and Thithi have given us hope that there is a bright future for the Indian indie sector. Film festivals across the globe also are very keenly observing what is going on here. I believe that more powerful works will happen in the near future.
Which is the last film you saw and loved, or hated?
I don’t hate any film at any point, because every film, be it bad or worse or even not good enough to be called a film, has some value. It documents life. It may be distorted or manipulated, yes, but underneath every manipulation we can see an element of human life. So I can’t say that I hate any film. The film I most loved recently was Afterimage  by Andrzej Wajda. It is a strong political movie, which I emotionally connected with. I am stunned by the abilities of a 90-plus-year-old master.
What are you reading these days?
I am trying to read Something like an Autobiography, by Akira Kurosawa.