Bandi Sarojkumar
Interviewer : Inian & Daya Kingston | Camera : Ganeshbabu | Text: Daya Kingston
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Young director Bandi Sarojkumar made his debut with Porkkalam. Trained in Thailand, he broke new ground with his film where the high contrast lighting and sensational visuals gave him an identity. We catch up with him to check out what he has in store.

How did you enter films?

When I was in 3rd standard, I watched Ram Gopal Varma’s debut film, Siva. At that age, normally one would not like that kind of films but prefer more commercial films; it was a very mature film and a revolution in the Telugu industry. It was released in Tamil as Udayam. I liked it very much and in that way was very different from friends my age. My friends used to encourage my thoughts as they felt I was creative.

When I was in + 1, I realized that it was time for me to enter the film industry as I was a writer and a cinematographer. I spoke to my parents and decided to equip myself by enrolling in a film institute and researched film institutes. I opted for a course in Thailand as I loved Thai action movies as there is a lot of emotion in the action sequences. I specialized in direction, cinematography and editing.

What kind of training did you undergo?

It is like DFT, a 2 year crash course. Technically, Thailand is more advanced then India. We had good faculty and technically I learnt a lot and that’s why I could make a different film. I specialized in direction, cinematography and editing, that’s why its special compared to other institutions. For a director, the camera has to be his friend. Like a pen is a friend to a writer.

Why did you choose to make your debut with direction?

The director is the king of cinema. He is the captain of the ship. He is the reason for the success of the movie and responsible. Everyone dreams of becoming a director.

The director is the

king of cinema.

If you have creative sense,

visual sense,

you can learn things,
Some directors enter the industry with formal training while others learn the ropes on the job. Do you think formal training is essential?

There is no compulsion that one has to undergo formal training to become a director or even assist someone. Anyone in the 24 departments can become the director, the leader, once he’s in thorough with these. If you have creative sense, visual sense, you can learn things, know the tricks of film making, you can start with short films and become a director. There are no rules, it was proved by RGV who never underwent film training or assisted anyone and is still a legend in Indian cinema.

Is RGV the director who has inspired you the most?

Definitely, I am Ekalavya sishya of him. I like him very much. I love all his films, some may have flopped but still I love them, you can see his touch in every frame. He may have worked with many technicians, several teams but still his input is there. If you just watch a single shot, you know it’s his. He has such an identity because of his consistency in film making and is an inspiration not just for me but the younger generation. Earlier there were rules like one had to work 30 or 40 years in the industry before turning director but RGV broke all those rules.

RGV broke all

those rules.

What was your inspiration for Porkkalam? Was it based on a real incident or was it your imagination?

My intention was to become a director; I did not work as an associate with anyone. However, technically I am thorough and wanted to narrate an exciting story. Porkkalam is planned not from my heart but to prove myself as a good technician. I wanted to make a mysterious film to excite people. Whoever I narrated the story to, even big stars in Tollywood and Kollywood, they liked it, but I had visual differences and came out. When I narrated the story to producers in 20 minutes, I did so in a different way. I narrated the first half in a normal way; they thought it’s a normal commercial film. I then asked them what they expected post-interval. They came up with the regular trend - like he falls in love with the girl in the photo or some flashback. When I told them, the hero was blind, everyone was shocked then I explained. It excited them. That was a plus. I worked on the script for 4 years as I wanted to make a mark. It’s a delicate script, you can’t do in 78 days; it needed thorough pre-production which I did. The result is that the film has a look that is double the budget we used.

You have used a lot of high contrast lighting. Is it justified?

the technical process

made Porkkalam


The whole film is shot in high contrast lighting. The lenses were mostly wide and extreme lensing like extreme wides and no medium lenses. We mostly shot in high speed and overcame 48 frames, 72 frames and so on. For the flashback, I under cranked, 6 frames, 4 frames... Everything has specific reason as a lot of detailing was necessary. If I had only done it for the hero, the audience would catch the suspense. Many intelligent people, critics and others who saw the film never expected this kind of suspense; that is the plus point in the film. It would have looked awkward if I had done it the regular way and would have been unbelievable, the technical process made Porkkalam believable. There is a mysterious feel right from the beginning. Another reason for using high contrast is budget constraints. If I need to establish a room for instance, I need all properties but if you see my film, you will see the hero in dining table where only the dining table and TV and small properties are lit. The frame does not look compromised and gets a Hollywood look.

In Kollywood, people like well-lit interiors and bright colors, however you have taken a risk by desaturating and almost bringing it to B/W. Were you not scared of the risk?

I love risks.

I love risks. I needed to build a unique image for me. Whatever the result of Porkkalam was, people identify me and I have some fans, this is thanks to my making style. I am happy, that’s because I did not come to the industry for money but for passion. So I don’t think it’s a risk and in future also it will be my style, almost similar. Maybe it will change a bit according to concept.

Is the violence in your film justified?

I am an action buff, I love violence. I did not show it in an irritating way, I did not show blood or commercial elements, and I showed violence in an exciting way. Critics say the action was very well made; you can’t see that kind of action in any film. For instance in the first half, there was a street fight in a market set-up but shot differently. I got a call from Manager in Karaikudi where I shot for 20 days. He said he could not find Karaikudi in the film; he was mesmerized with the vision of Porkkalam. I am very happy also for that.

I love violence.

Your film has no softer emotions, only harsh emotions and energy. Have you avoided softer emotions for a reason?

I am a rough and tough guy by nature. I don’t watch romantic films, I watch action with emotion, and it is my genre, my feeling, my taste. Nothing intentional. In future also you can’t expect softer emotional films from me.

How was it working with Kishore? Was there any challenging scene you did?

He is a committed artiste and possesses very good body language. The first film I saw in Tamilnadu was Polladhavan and I loved Kishore’s role. Without him the role would not have the impact. I liked his body language and wanted to cast him in my film. Working with him I found him very nice, punctual and down-to-earth. Even after the film, both of us and another friend went to all theaters to check the pulse of the audience. He is very passionate about films and our wavelength matches. Our psychology is the same, so it’s easy to work together.

I recall a shot in the flashback where I improvised. We were at a construction site with the sea below. I jokingly told him, hold the 2 rods and jump into the sea. He said ok and took off his shirt. I then told him you don’t even know how deep or shallow the sea will be. I was worried what would happen but he jumped into the sea and swam to the shore. I asked him how deep it was, he said 6 to 7 feet but there were rocks. I asked him why he had taken such a big risk but he said you wanted it and I must do it.

Is it possible for a blind person to do what you have shown or is it questioning the audience’s intelligence?

It’s a fantasy script; it’s not a believable script. I wanted to make it believable; I showed him in a natural way. When you see the film, you will see how I made it believable with the technical aspects and style. It is not testing the public’s intelligence, see Jurassic park or Avataar, its not possible but they made it believable. In the same way I wanted to tell it convincingly and I succeeded.

Tamil audiences

are more mature

Why did you make your debut in Tamil and not in your mother tongue Telugu?

Tamil audiences are more mature and experimental films have been successful here. Porkkalam is an experimental script and I felt that Tamil people would receive it better. I am also a fan of Tamil films, especially the young directors. Directors here have audiences and fans, recent films like Aayirathil Oruvan received big openings because of the director, as a director I wanted to get that name.

Tell us about your heroine

She did not have much importance. I am an MCP and work only for my heroes and the heroine is only for the commercial aspect. For a war to be waged there must be a strong reason and nowadays its love. Without that you can’t have such a big fight. If not for that I would have done without a heroine!

What kind of feedback have you received for the film?

Lot of common people appreciated me and even critics. They expected something different from me. I am happy. Maybe there are some reasons for the film not being the big success at box office. 10% of cinema fans saw the film which lasted few weeks as there was little publicity and it was spread by word of mouth only. Whoever saw it is satisfied. They saw the director in every frame.

Is the film to be dubbed in Telugu?

Plans for this are on.

What are you currently working on?

I am working on a never touched concept, a film full of action, a hard hitting film that will be definitely be applauded by Tamil people. I debuted in Tamil and Tamil audiences have received me. I want to release the film within this year.

What genre do you like?

I prefer only action and some mystery that should excite people scene by scene.
I love the vision of a leader and I believe in a good concept backed by good technical values and hope to increase standards by bringing in something different.

What is your dream?

I don’t want to have the generation gap in my films and stay with the generation of the day. Films made by successful directors of the 80’s or 90’s won’t run today because of the generation gap. The audience’s interest must match yours. RGV is very good at catching the pulse of the audience. If the Pentium 6 computer comes in for instance, one must learn and upgrade ourselves to the next generation.

RGV is very good at

catching the pulse

of the audience.

What do you like about Behindwoods?

I usually watch because it’s a frank and bold website like me. I love such people. I read the film news on the site and have found that the writers write very boldly and not under any pressure. News published is confirmed before publishing and I trust behindwoods for updates in the industry.
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