Prithvi Konanur’s latest Kannada-language film, Hadinelentu, follows a teenage couple caught in a whirlpool of societal and legal complications. When a sex video gets uploaded online, Deepa (Sherlyn Bhosale) and Hari (Neeraj Matthew) must confront situations that expose their naïveté and threaten to ruin their careers. Recently, Konanur and I discussed the various creative factors that went into constructing such a riveting and intense drama.
Dipankar Sarkar: In Hadinelentu, an intimate video of two college students stirs the hornet’s nest of prejudice and discrimination among the authorities. What was the inspiration behind the story?
Prithvi Konanur: Incidents like these are common and have remained in my mind for a period of time. I definitely wanted to explore the various repercussions of such an act of indiscretion. The question was, “Where do you take the story from here?” Do you want to explore the families or just their personal struggle? Or do you want to take the conflicts into an area that hasn’t been explored until today? That’s when Anupama Hegde, who was also a consultant on my previous film Where Is Pinki? (2020), came into the picture, and both of us began writing the screenplay.
DS: How did the collaboration help you structure the Hadinelentu screenplay?
PK: Being a high court lawyer and former chairperson of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), her vast knowledge and experience helped me navigate the intricacies of various legal complications and where they could lead. I felt that this was what was going to make the story original, authentic and juicy. Luckily, Anupama’s interest in films helped. Also, she was able to guide me superbly with open endings to conflicts that would open up new conflicts. She also plays the character of the judge in the film.
DS: Like Where Is Pinki?, Hadinelentu touches upon the theme of ordinary people caught up in troubling situations that reveal their moral compass. What attracts you to such plot-driven tales of human trials and tribulations?
PK: Look at the society we live in. And then look at a small process that involves society, government and other players. Now imagine in detail all the trouble you went through. Now try imagining it as a story with added conflicts, and you’ll have a great story to tell. It becomes great purely because of the originality and authenticity. We live in a complex country, and there is so much uncharted territory in terms of the stories that we need to tell. We don’t need flying cars or flying people to make them interesting.
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DS: Deepa is a brave, athletic and progressive Dalit woman. Her hair is colored, she wears modern attire and does not prefer to use cloth as a substitute for a sanitary pad. At the same time, Deepa does not belong to a well-to-do family. So, is it because of her self-assertiveness or her socio-economic background that the system has been unfair to her?
PK: Unfortunately, we have in our society a system that’s way too complex and way too dysfunctional. Society is unfair to both the privileged and the underprivileged. But the difference is that its impact is a lot harsher on the less fortunate. That’s heartbreaking. How many talented kids have I seen, with so much potential, getting wasted because there is no support system for them? And when things go wrong for whatever reasons, the less fortunate cannot get out of it easily. They don’t have second chances in life.
DS: On the other hand, Hari is academically strong and belongs to an educated and rich family. He reveals to Rani that, in a moment of foolhardiness, he has shared the video with an unknown Facebook friend. Further, he also promises to stand by her. But during the moment of confrontation in Hadinelentu, he backs out. So, being from the privileged class has made him an irresponsible individual?
PK: Being irresponsible has nothing to do with privilege. It’s their age and their tendencies, and the video was made by both of them. However, when you are privileged, you can deal with a difficult situation because you have a support system. When you falter, you will be lifted up.
DS: The college’s board president makes his authoritative presence known over the phone. His face never appears in Hadinelentu. Similarly, the leaked sex video isn’t shown, but rather the repercussions. What was the purpose behind these choices?
PK: An audience shouldn’t be distracted from the story by showing a video. That’s why [it] was never going to be seen by an audience. Regarding the board president, I would definitely like an audience to have his/her own interpretations behind this idea.
DS: When Mr. Badri, the principal of the college, finds himself entangled in the complexity of the matter, he decides to retire. Vice Principal Seetha takes charge of the post. After being surrounded and gheraoed by an angry mob of students, she resigns from her position. What was the reason behind depicting them as vulnerable adults in Hadinelentu?
PK: Extraordinary situations make us all vulnerable. My intention is to give that vulnerability to each character in my script. In some cases, it reflects better on the screen, and in some cases, it might not. Hopefully, in my future writings, I will take better care of it so it reflects equally well in all the characters I depict.
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DS: The joyous moments from bygone days between Hari and Deepa are shown through a montage towards the end of Hadinelentu. What was the purpose of using it at such a moment of emotional crisis?
PK: I felt that gave a good contrast, especially when juxtaposed against the darkness in everyone’s life at that moment in the story. There are simple things in life behind something so heinous.
DS:Where Is Pinki? ends with Bindhushree (Akshatha Pandavapura) traveling in an auto rickshaw, while Hadinelentu concludes with Deepa standing on the witness stand and replying to the prosecution’s questions. Both of them are unaware of their futures. Are you drawing similarities between the plights of these two women?
PK: Not particularly. Because in Where Is Pinki?, it’s a conclusion and may not be a resolution. It’s up to the audience to decide whether it’s happy, sad or appropriate. But in Hadinelentu, it’s about the dark future that Deepa stares at. Here, there is no conclusion to the story. In fact, the conflicts are only becoming deeper and wider as the film comes to an end. So, it’s important that I lead the story in a direction before drawing the curtains. What better way to end it than by showing a glimpse of the huge mountains that Deepa, and possibly others, have to climb?
DS: Family plays an important role in Hadinelentu. Even Mr. Badri (Ravi Hebballi) wants to spend time with his family after retirement. But we do not know anything about the family members of the two supporting characters, Seetha (Rekha Kudligi) and Jesse (Bhavani Prakash). Why is it so?
PK: This is more about the constraints of moviemaking. You can only explore so much in two hours. This is why web series are able to do a better job of exploring complex characters and their surroundings.
DS: You mostly used handheld shots to define the visual space of Hadinelentu. What thoughts went into this decision, and what sort of experience did you want viewers to have?
PK: Both Where Is Pinki? and Hadinelentu have 100 percent handheld shots. A handheld shot brings the audience closer to the characters by giving a sense of being present on the spot. My intention was for an audience to feel like they were a part of the happenings rather than just watching them on screen.
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DS: Hadinelentu’s narrative follows a linear pattern and creates an even pace and rhythm. During the climax, students confront Seetha, Deepa and Jesse at the home of Hari. What was the purpose behind the juxtaposition?
PK: It’s purely the craft of screenwriting. We have multiple conflicts happening in parallel in this story, and the two main conflicts that needed focus had to happen in two different places. Hence the juxtaposition.
DS: Hadinelentu is propelled by sustained performances from the actors, who bring sensitivity and verisimilitude to their roles. The profound expressiveness of the primary and supporting characters greatly enhances the film’s realistic tone. How do you choose your actors, and what are your briefs?
PK: Actually, I stick to the basics. After the writing, I spend most of my time casting and acting. This time, however, COVID helped me. It was during the second lockdown that we did video auditions. None of the auditions took place physically. All those who wanted to try made videos in their homes and sent them to me. And I think it was only because most of them had a lot of free time on their hands that I had the chance to choose the best out of a lot of talented [performers]. I think there were easily 500 interests from all over the world and at least 100 auditions.
DS: You also love appearing in smaller roles in your films. Please comment.
PK: [Laughs] No comment.
DS: How does participating in film festivals help you as a filmmaker?
PK: It helps a great deal because not only do you get to watch great films and learn from them, but more importantly, they help you network better and look for potential collaborations in the future. And because I have a lot of ready scripts, I’m always looking for collaborations.
DS: Lastly, as an independent filmmaker, how do you distribute your films and continue to make one after another?
PK: To be frank, that has been the real challenge. Where Is Pinki? became profitable almost immediately after the rough-cut stage due to international sales. It is currently available on three major international airlines, as well as on Channel 4 (UK and Ireland). We are very keen on bringing Hadinelentu to an audience soon through OTT, satellite distribution or even a theatrical release. We are talking to some people to make this happen. In addition, we are looking for the best timing and opportunities to make it available to everyone.
Dipankar Sarkar (@Dipankar_Tezpur) is a graduate in film editing from the Film and Television Institute of India and currently based in Mumbai. As a freelancer, he frequently contributes to various Indian publications on cinema-related topics.
Categories: 2020s, 2023 Interviews, Drama, Featured
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