Cinematographer-director Avinash Arun on giving shape to his childhood memories and images in ‘Killa’, a film that charmed the audience at the Mumbai Film Festival.
Ques: You have often mentioned that ‘Killa’ (The Fort) has autobiographical references.
Avinash Arun: My father had a job that posted him in different cities. As a child, I spent three years in Murud, a small coastal town of Maharashtra. Since, I was from the plains, I found living by the coast a very different experience. Though I don’t remember faces of the friends I made there, several images of the people and the place are imprinted in my mind.
I completed the course in cinematography at Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, in 2011. This story, however, was in my mind for nearly six years. Since I was busy finding work as a cinematographer, I never thought it would get made into a movie this soon. I had once narrated it to Tushar Paranjape and he had worked out its treatment. When JAR Pictures expressed its desire to produce regional films, I told them about this story in March 2013. They immediately gave me a go-ahead. Six drafts and four months later, we were ready to roll.
Ques: Locations play a huge role in the film. Was it difficult to find the appropriate ones?
Avinash Arun: From my previous travels, I knew the kind of locations I required. I was confident about finding them. Since Murud has become a tourist destination, we shot in Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg. I wanted to shoot during the monsoon as the sea gets choppy then. Even the trees and surroundings acquire a different character. While living in Murud, I could hear the sound of the sea at night. I used to imagine its volume. In Killa, the sea is integral to the story.
Ques: How did you find your cast, especially the child actors?
Avinash Arun: I was sure about casting Parth Bhalerao as Bandya. I had noticed him while doing a diploma movie in FTII and he was in Class IX then. He is very shy and soft-spoken, unlike his screen character. However, I knew he had the maturity to handle this role — a free-spirited boy who is unaffected by tragedies of life. When I met Archit Deodhar to essay the central character, he understood the story quickly and pointed out that Killa is not a children’s film. His next question was: ‘Do we get to travel if the film does well?’ And we did when the film went to Berlin International Film Festival where it won the Crystal Bear.
Ques: How much did being a cinematographer help you in directing the film?
Avinash Arun: It helped a lot, especially considering the budget I was working with. One has to be practical while shooting and not leave much to the editing table. There were long shots too that could have been difficult since we were dealing with child actors. However, I had most of the things worked out in my head and we finished shooting in 28 days.
Ques: You have shown children using cuss words. Why?
Avinash Arun: In real life, children learn them from adults. It is a part of childhood and growing up. They use it more out of curiosity. The censor board has suggested two cuts and given it a U/A certificate. Though I am not questioning it, I believe that the audience should have the power to decide what they want to watch.
Ques: When is the movie releasing in India?
Avinash Arun: Since it does not have film stars, we are planning to create some buzz by showing it at festivals first. It is likely to release in the second or third week of January.
Ques: Are you planning to go back to direction soon?
Avinash Arun: I recently finished shooting for Nishikant Kamat’s ‘Madari’ that features Irrfan and currently I am shooting for a film in Benares. I have been working on two scripts — one in Hindi and the other Marathi — for some time now. I am not in a hurry. If I get a financier, I can begin the process of making them.