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Filmmakers must build their own audience to push creative boundaries: 'Daredevil Musthafa' Soghal

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Bengaluru, Feb 8 (PTI) We live in a time where it is possible for a filmmaker to build an entourage of their own passionate audience to bank on, if they are true to their craft, said Kannada filmmaker Shashank Soghal.

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His debut film 'Daredevil Musthafa', a surprise hit of 2023, is a study of how a low-key movie can be made a huge hit if the audience is invested in it, Soghal said.

"It is very useful if you build your own audience. In the Kannada film industry, the perfect example for this is Rakshit Shetty. He has his own audience who really appreciate his craft. So, he does not need to do masala films to be a superstar. In my opinion, every filmmaker or actor should have their own audience base so that they can make the films they want to," said Soghal.

Soghal said he got lucky in his journey as a filmmaker because things changed a lot in the Kannada film industry after Pawan Kumar’s ‘Lucia’, a path-breaking cult classic released a decade ago.

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"To be fair, there were terrific Kannada films in the 1980s and 1990s. Maybe after 2000 we floundered a bit, but even then there were gems. But it was ‘Lucia’ that made many young minds, who would have otherwise stayed an engineer all their lives, to start dreaming of making that cult classic themselves," said Soghal.

Incidentally, Soghal himself is a software engineer who moved from Mysore to Bengaluru to pursue a career in his chosen academic field when fate played the ‘Lucia’ card.

According to him, what helped him make 'Daredevil Musthafa' -- a film that highlighted how fragile the balance is when it comes to Hindu and Muslim dialogues -- a success is his belief that films have to be entertaining no matter how difficult the subject is.

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"You see, some people will choose the festival path where they want to do very artistic films. Some people will go the commercial way, and then go overboard with ‘masala’. Some, like me, do what I call ‘bridge’ films which find a balance between both," said Soghal.

It is ironic, he said, that a film draws in audiences only if the director is not chasing the audience. "The filmmaker must stay true to the story that he wants to tell — instead of adding in bits and pieces aimed at various kinds of audiences. When I am doing a film, I do not do it for an audience for the simple reason that I don’t know who the audience is. But I will definitely make sure I find it entertaining. Of course, underlying it is a hope that there are a lot of people like me who will like it too," said Soghal.

Like ‘Lucia’, ‘Daredevil Musthafa’ also went the crowd-funding way. This way, it was possible for him to stay true to the story, Sohgal said.

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"The film is based on Poornachandra Tejaswi’s short story from his 1973 short story collection, ‘Abachoorina Post Office’. So, when we could not find a production house to back us, about 80 of us, fans of novelist Tejaswi, got together to tell the story anyway. Because we believed it is as relevant today as it was then," said Soghal.

It turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to him as a filmmaker, he said. It gave him the creative freedom to do justice to a story that required him to be subtle and restrained.

"Now, after the movie, people ask me to make more such films. I've got calls from good production houses. I've got calls from individuals who want to produce such films. Personally, I would love to do more of such group-funded projects, because there is no ‘put a fight, put a song’ kind of pressure in these," said Soghal.

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Seeing the response to such films -- from the audience as well as from those who want to make such films -- Soghal said he is thinking of streamlining group-funded films.

"I am looking for ways to make this model — where people as a group come forward to produce the film — more sustainable. For instance, there are a lot of people who are interested to buy the rights of their favourite stories and make a film on them," said Soghal.

According to him, all the questions that arise — how to go about it or how to adapt a novel or short story into a screenplay — can be tackled in a systematic way. "I am planning to make this knowledge accessible to all. There is a growing interest for Kannada films as well as Kannada literature. So, why not take advantage of it," Soghal said. PTI JR JR SDP KH

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