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Mammoth Tales

Around a year and a half back,when independent film maker Srinivas Sunderrajan was waiting at a bus stop,a funny scene involving an elephant,his mahout and a fruit vendor set the cogs spinning in his head.

Written by Rohan Swamy | Published: October 20, 2012 2:32 am

Around a year and a half back,when independent film maker Srinivas Sunderrajan was waiting at a bus stop,a funny scene involving an elephant,his mahout and a fruit vendor set the cogs spinning in his head. While Srinivas was laughing hard at the poor fruit vendor being harassed by the duo,a thought that it could lead to something big also began running in the back of his mind. “When I got back home,I scribbled a rough draft of a mahout hunting for his elephant that has suddenly gone missing. The kind of people he meets and how they help him out,” says Srinivas. The thought has now translated into a full length 90-minute feature film,‘Greater Elephant’,co-written by Omkar Sane,which was released in the city on Friday at PVR Cinemas. Srinivas,who has also directed the acclaimed ‘The Untitled Kartik Krishnan Project’ says that even though the film was completed earlier in March this year,paucity of funds and unwilling distributors have delayed its release. Currently,the independent movie platform Hamaramovie along with PVR Cinemas have helped them with the release in Pune. “We will travel to one city at a time so that we can focus on the release,” he adds.

The film details the travels of a harrowed mahout who is in search of his elephant who has just gone missing. Incidentally in the process he runs into a lot of people who,under the pretext of helping him,are trying to help themselves. “It is a black comic caper,” says Srinivas,adding,“The mahout runs into a con artist who is tired of dressing up as Lord Shiva. The duo go elephant hunting in the night arousing the suspicions of a constable who has lost his faith in mankind. There are various twists that follow post that.”

The characters themselves have a little larger-than-life connect as Srinivas points out. “There is a vampire in the film too,named Dracula. He agrees to help the mahout in return for getting the address of a dentist. He has lost his teeth and needs a dentist to help him out,” he laughs. The film was shot in 10 days in Pune last year in September. Featuring six characters,the film plays on over a total of two days where they go stumbling from one caper to another in search of the huge beast. He adds,“The entire idea for the film was whether an animal this big could be lost and if yes could a city this big be able to conceal it. Also more than that,it was about exploring the people themselves. The manner in which they change loyalties,and how everyone is out to make a quick buck. This is the real world and no one is interested in anyone’s joy or misery. The only thing everyone is looking out for is money and how to go about earning it.”

Talking about distributor issues,he says that independent films that have good original content die because distributors are scared to take the film. “Big names are a pre-requisite in the industry. But even then we were lucky to have Hamaramovie and PVR on board for the distribution. Unlike most other films that advertise slogans like ‘watch it first day first show’,we cannot do it. For us it is more like first day only show,that is how indie films are usually released. But we are confident of the story. It has a feel-good end to it while at the same time it prompts us to reflect on who we really are as a society.”

Even though the film will travel city to city and release everywhere individually,it has quite a few feathers to adorn its hat. From winning the jury award for Best Feature at the South Asian International Film Festival,New York,to being the official selection at the Film Festival of Hope,San Fransisco,USA and Indian Film Festival of The Hague,Netherlands it has a lot to boast about. “That’s what has kept us going. Encouragement from these unknown quarters,support on the website and social media. If anyone wonders why we make movies against such enormous odds,then this is it. This is the reason why we do it,” he adds emphatically.

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