Adjusting to a new place can be an emotionally demanding task. Debutant filmmaker Avinash Arun still holds vivid memories of shifting many houses as a child, before finally moving in with his parents in Wakad, Pune. More than two decades later, Arun has transferred his stories of separation, relocation and displacement onto the screen, in the form of a feature-length film Killa (The Fort). The film just won him the Crystal Bear award and a Special Mention at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival in the Generation KPlus category. “I was present for the screening at Berlin. But I left by the time the award was announced because I didn’t think that the film would win anything. It came as a big surprise later,” says Arun, who is also a well-known cinematographer.
An alumnus of the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune (FTII), where he pursued a degree in cinematography, Arun was always interested in making a film about his own life experiences. “From the age of 5-14, I went through a lot of relocations, adjusting to a new culture, making new friends and losing old ones. I somewhere felt the stress of adjusting to a place and meeting new people each time. Since my father was in a transferable job, I moved from Sholapur to Panvel to Konkan, thereafter settling down to Talegaon, near Lonavala. At each place there were new stories and new friends,” adds Arun.
For Killa, he roped in close friend and batchmate Tushar Paranjape to develop his idea into a script. “I narrated my idea to him and gave him a cheque of Rs 10,000 asking him to write a story,” explains the 28-year-old, who in the past has shot for Uday Bhandarkar’s Vees Mhanje Vees (20 means 20) and also assisted cinematographer Anay Goswamy in Kai Po Che. His other projects include Homi Adajania’s Cocktail and shooting for National Award-winning filmmaker Andrea Ianetta’s documentaries.
Though Killa largely reflects Arun’s childhood, he was careful not to make it a mirror image of his experiences. So Paranjape infused some fictitious elements to the 11-year-old protagonist’s (Chinmay Kale) story. The film traces the journey of the young boy who, after his father’s death, has to relocate from Pune to a small town in the Konkan region, with his mother. In this unfamiliar town, he has to adjust to a new life and make new friends. “We had to think of the complexities of the characters and think of inserting elements to the story that would psychologically build an impact on the audience,” says Arun, who also doubled up as the cinematographer of the film. It was also chosen as a part of the National film Development Corporation’s Work in Progress lab in 2013. The film was shot for over a month in the Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts of the Konkan region of Maharashtra — two places where the director spent his childhood.
Having been in the industry for many years, Arun says he had gathered enough expertise of telling a story that would strike a chord universally. “When I look back, I realise that I always wanted to become a filmmaker. A Director of Photography is not just a technician, he is a co-author of the film,” says Arun, who from the age of 17 assisted filmmaker Umesh Kulkarni, learnt filmmaking techniques from him. He also assisted in making 15-20 diploma films.
For now, Arun is looking forward to Killa’s theatrical release in May, along with an increasing interest from international distributors.