Hyderabad- as a motif in your filmmaking. Would love to hear from you about how you see Hyderabad- the stories here and how does the vibe influence how you make films.
Live interview with filmmakers Rohit Penumatsa & Sasi.
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In episode 1 of our conversation series SLUG LINE, we chatted with Rohit Penumatsa & Sasi, the filmmakers of "A Love Letter to Cinema" to know more about their journeys, their thoughts on filmmaking & the story behind ALLTC. You can also subscribe to our YouTube channel, to find latest discussions, video essays and other content around the films we curate.
Very much admire the gusto and courage of the makers to have made this movie in the form that it is. Would like to know the movie makers attempts at reaching an audience apart from ICH and youtube. What about your experiences with Film Festivals?
It is a beautiful film that kept me engaged in a strange way wherein I didn't know what exactly or how and when I just got involved while watching it. There can be multiple or no specific answer to why I felt so. Anyways I just want to ask a couple of questions here. 1. I think this is the only shot that completely comes out of the car. Any reason for doing so ? Did you guys plan to get some shots from outside as well ? Also how did you shoot it, keeping the camera stuck so stable ? 2. How did you cast the actors and plan the characters (if you did) ? And, what was the briefing to the actors ? How did you convince them(some of them really acted) to get into such a different film ? 3. Are there any "takes" involved in this film ? Like, did any actor really mess up things that you felt like saying cut. Looking at all the released works by Rohit and Sasi, it is really magical how their actors come up with such amazing performances. In no other films we see these actors perform so well.
The more films one watches, the harder it becomes for one to not see the artifice, and so a film like this that underlines the artifice almost every moment and yet manages to feel true and get under the skin- is just lovely. My question is - In this kind of a film which you insist is highly improvised, do you follow any so called filmmaking rules at all? Or is letting the film at hand discover its own form too your philosophy so to speak?
thank you all for the in depth responses. Very exciting to see Love Letter reaching a brand new set of audiences. Thank you Indian Cinema House for the curation.
Rohit Penumatsa Filmmaker
The film is simple yet intricately composed. It offers a beautiful glimpse into the lives of the passengers and the director himself. Every entry and exit of the passengers brings in new conversations surrounding work, pleasure, socio-cultural scene and even the mundaneness of the everyday and the occasional mediocrity of it all. The film makes me think of the times we are in; in a sense that even though we can venture out, we are still stuck in a bubble (a car, in the director's case) and the things that keep us moving forward are the conversations.
Having seen Panavi's Taxi Tehran, I was quite excited to see how this would translate through other filmmakers in another city. I won't pretend that I didn't feel at some points it was meandering away from my attention, or that maybe it was too close of an 'homage' bordering on forced mirrors in a few scenes. However, that is not how I felt overall about it! I really enjoyed watching and seeing where we would drive together. I especially loved this few minutes in the first quarter of the film. Sandhya's part helps epitomize the entire project, the blurred line of docu-fiction as the story is constructed and improvised through her, then capping with the riveting moment when she bargains for a toy. I lost myself in suspense for a moment, between the discomfort of haggling as well as the ticking clock of the traffic light. A moment that made me completely forget the larger purpose of the film, yet perfectly demonstrated it when I reflect back on the scene.
The best part of watching this movie was the way they have shown Hyderabad. It has tried to make some genuine conversations about different lived experiences of the city. They have managed to include a lot of otherwise not paid much attention to aspects of Hyderabad. This conversations like this one for instance, is an entry point to the entire student protests and movements that took place in Hyderabad and all over India from 2015. I have almost never seen a Telugu cinema making a genuine attempt to address these issues. I have lived in Hyderabad for seven years and all of them as a student inside universities. I hardly get to see my hyderabad in Telugu cinema. Good luck people!
I was put off by the first fifteen minutes of the film, so much so that I gave up and moved on to other tabs in my browser. The next day, I picked up from where I left. I’m happy I did because I came away with what I understand to be the soul and essence of the film: resentment due to failure and the potential to work with the resignation that comes with it. Why did I dislike the film initially? Perhaps it had to do with its obsession with intertextual references—to films and filmmakers, and a few actors; or maybe was it the metacommentary on editing, directing, acting? I couldn’t quite put a finger on one thing. I sat down to think about what made me persist the second time around. It did help that just after the 15-minute mark a long-forgotten friend of mine made an appearance. And then there was actress Sandhya who simulates a call with her husband/lover and employer and an interaction where she slips naturally into another language (I’d love to see her lead the cast in a full-length feature film!). What really drew me in was its betrayal: throughout the narrative, this movie consistently makes the claim that it is made with careless abandon, but at the level of its writing (even if there was no script), the film is structurally linear and carefully composed. We move along with the director/driver as he grows through his day: he learns from a peer in the beginning, witnesses a consummate actress struggle to play her part, fosters another actress through her struggle to get parts to play, and finally teaches a lesson or two to an upcoming director. Sandwiched in-between these mirroring scenes are the resource-rich grounds of tobacco, politics, weed and the university, and a couple of young and high people who are clearly a primary source of nourishment for the director/driver. What does this structurally compact film demand of me? Beyond the promise made and broken, what excited me about this experience? There is an admirable shot near the half-way mark of the film: The camera is placed on the bonnet of the moving car, we cannot figure out even the silhouettes of the speakers behind the windshield, the sun shines overhead on the right, and the shadows of the dense foliage envelop the speaker’s words on the impunity of a political leader. It brought to my mind the concealing facemasks and face shields we wear today, and the muffled criticisms of the dispensation as it tears down the paper fabric of a fragile secular polity. After this realisation in me, I see that the film doesn’t mirror itself anymore. I see me. The director’s resignation at the end of the film, when he tells the young director that no one would trust him with a project anymore, that he has missed the bus, while simultaneously working towards boarding that same bus, mirrors my resignation with the futility of all models of political engagement. It inspires me to find my own love letter to politics, while creatively working with my own resignation and resentment due to failure. I hope this love letter also inspires all those left.
A VIDEO ESSAY by India Cinema House "A Love Letter to Cinema" claims inspiration from Jafar Panahi's Taxi Tehran. How do you borrow stylistically from a film that is so deep rooted in political voice? The challenge for "A Love Letter" was always going to be finding the weight & the context of such an experiment. You can also subscribe to our YouTube channel, to find latest discussions, video essays and other content around the films we curate.
A love letter to cinema is a beautiful and honest homage to Taxi Tehran .One can clearly see the directors' own style in the narrative flow in how sometimes there are these abrupt end to conversations, just like in real life. The only critique of the film for me is in the edit; there are too many cuts in between camera angle which sometimes take you out o the conversation.
Watching this film feels like taking a ride through Hyderabad.
Can't believe this is improvised. The acting is so natural, and the back and forth between Aditi & Sasi is so dramatic without anything ever happening. Kudos!
OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG. I've only watched 30 seconds so far, but the music is beautiful. There's something so strangely familiar about this website -- I wonder what it could be. I hope this takes off, and how!
This is good stuff! A film within a film? Or just a plain recording of one man's day in Hyderabad? I haven't seen Panahi's Taxi Tehran but I guess this would qualify aptly as a tribute to it! I'll see if I can see Taxi Tehran, sometime soon!