Ere Gowda on Balekempa

As part of the trainee programme for young film critics we have asked the participants to have a short interview with one of the emerging filmmakers of their region. All filmmakers are selected for IFFR 2018.

Personal way of storytelling

By Young Film Critic Fahmim Ferdous - In conversation with Balekempa director Ere Gowda

Security guard-turned international award-winning screenwriter-filmmaker Ere Gowda's journey up till now is a story itself of cinematic triumph, but the 36-year old man from the Southern Indian state of Karnataka is just getting started. Thithi (Funeral), which Gowda wrote for his childhood friend Raam Reddy as the first feature length film and also served as casting director, won the Golden Leopard at the 2015 Locarno International Film Festival and won Best Feature Film in Kannada (a regional Indian language) at India's 63rd National Film Award among many other acclaims. And now his directorial debut, Balekempa (The Bangle Seller) - a serene, subtle and brilliantly-told story set in his wife's South Indian village - will premiere at the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2018, where it is also in competition for the Bright Future Award. In a brief but candid conversation, Ere Gowda speaks about his storytelling process and inspiration. 

What inspired you to tell this particular story for your first film as director? Where is this story set and shot in?
There are so many characters in my life; some I know, some I have heard of ... some of it is my imagination. Where I come from, films are about what is good and what is bad. The characters in my head, they are not good people or bad people. They are just people. So there are these two characters in Balekempa, they go through life in this patriarchal, rural society. Balekempa is not based on anyone. Maybe some childhood memories have some influence on it, but it is all made up.

In your first feature film (as writer) Thithi, the entire cast was of non-professional actors. Tell us about the actors of Balekempa. How did you cast them?
Thithi happened in my village; so the actors there are my relatives and friends, people I know. After I cast them, I wrote the characters for those specific persons. With Balekempa, which was made in my wife's village, I first wrote the script, and then I cast them. Except for one character, Saubhagya - who acts on TV, all others acted for the first time. The key for me was I went to the village, I met many people and I spent time with them, trying to find out who they are and how they think. I can't really explain this, but whenever I felt a connection between a person and my character, I approached them for the role.

And what was your experience working with them?
They really enjoyed the process. What Thithi helped me with, is to be clear with the village people. Once you are clear and transparent to them, the process becomes really enjoyable.

What kind of films do you like to watch? What influences your film-making style?
I don't watch many films. And I don't remember films of other languages. I just have stories to tell. With Thithi, I knew all these people, I grew up with them, I knew what they were like. I don't think too much about the story or incidents. Once I have the characters clear in my head, the story finds its place.

You have had great success with Eka and Thithi internationally, and now with your first directed film you are coming to a big festival like IFFR. What are your expectations from the festival? What are you looking forward to?
I am just excited to share the story. It is made in Karnataka, where I come from. There are artistes and people from all over the world at the festival, I am just looking forward to meeting them and sharing my story with them, and see how they react. To hear what people think of my story, that is what I am most excited for.

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Young Film Critics programme 2018

Photo in header: Balekempa