If anything good came cinematically in 2020, it was in the number of high-quality non-Hindi films. Among them is Prithvi Konanur’s third feature film, Kannada film Pinki Elli? (Where’s Pinki?), Which was screened at the 51st India International Film Festival in Goa, which has just ended.
The film unfolds as a whirlpool with eight-month-old Pinki in the center. The unsuspecting, innocent, roaring child is flawless, but creates a turmoil in the lives of those around him by just existing. Her mother, Bindushree (actress Akshatha Pandavapura) is a working woman. Her father has never visited her since her parents separated. Her mother’s male friend doesn’t care about her. Pinki’s caretaker Sannamma tips her milk with alcohol and lends it to her cousin Anusuya to beg for a quick buck on the street. The distant Anusuya leaves her unattended and takes a sip of arrack. A motherless sweeper carries them away, wants to keep them as their own and later agrees to sell them for adoption, but Pinki doesn’t look poor and exotic enough. Police are holding local trans socialmediagossips for the kidnapping. The Child Welfare Committee decides who receives Pinki’s custody. Everyone is a victim of their own situation.
When a parent’s worst nightmare comes true, the 107 minute socially realistic thriller filmed with a handheld camera in a real location is not just a black and white narrative. It’s not just about the crime (albeit widespread) and criminals, it’s also about what follows and how it disrupts the lives of those involved. “I read about this baby rental incident in a newspaper and it stuck in my memory for many years. I was interested in investigating what happened after that, “says Konanur, 41, from Bengaluru, who wanted to lead the narrative towards adoption rather than child trafficking, which” is also a big part of it, but has already been investigated on Screen Many Times “. He incorporates certain elements when a story calls for it, as in the case of Railway Children (2016), to show that children are vulnerable to substance abuse, sexual harassment, and other crimes. This film, which won the National Film Award for Best Child Artist in 2016, is based on a true story inspired by Lalitha Iyer and Malcolm Harper’s case study book Rescuing Railway Children (2013). “It doesn’t happen that often in Bengaluru, but it’s a big problem in Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad,” he says.
Konanur’s films focus on children in the face of danger. Whether runaway or kidnapped, on the street or at sea, the stories he tells about them are unusual. Long gone are the days when Satyajit Ray made movies with children. Children in Indian cinema – if shown at all – usually only remain a blur, unless it is a children’s film. Western realistic tradition (Iranian, Italian, Brazilian) has shown that children act as tax narratives for ideological purposes, whether they speak less directly of systemic degeneration / oppression or turn their idealization upside down by making them appear adult – corrupt and malicious. With a shift in his techniques, Konanur’s storytelling has also moved from fantastic escapades (Alegalu / Waves, 2012, produced by the Children’s Film Society) to the insignia of reality (Railway Children and Pinki Elli?).
Pinki Elli ?, whose international distribution rights were acquired by Berlin’s Picture Tree International, was presented as a work-in-progress at the NFDC’s 2019 film Bazaar Recommends in Goa. The film had its world premiere in October at the Busan International Film Festival.
Konanur also makes a cameo as the middleman viewing Pinki for a possible adoption by an Australian family. The director trains the lens on dysfunctional modern nuclear families, class economics, gender politics, the migrant workers saga (a look at their tough lives), administrative inefficiencies, and systemic injustice. As with Railway Children, the characters were played by non-actors (the protagonist was from a childcare facility at the Don Bosco Center), including most of the actors in Pinki Elli ?, with the exception of those who play the parents, are non-actors.
Sannamma and Anusuya are real cousins who work as domestic help and come from slums near the location in Bengaluru. “So we had to work around their time, they worked until 2-3am, we couldn’t shoot until after 3am, and they couldn’t travel so we had to go near them. The aim was to keep things simple and real. The challenge was to get them to trust you. They feel like you are cheating on them, ”says Konanur, who quit his software job in Europe and wrote a Hollywood-style English script that never saw the light of day. He then graduated from the New York Film Academy and returned to India to make films. At home he entered Girish Kasaravalli’s set. Gulabi Talkies (2008) had already gone into production so that Konanur became the bobbin boy. But the style of their filmmaking is different. While Kasaravalli is more visual and works with metaphors, Konanur lets his characters guide the story.
Konanur, who directed a short Tamil drama, A Conditional Truce, in Sri Lanka in 2008, says: “I really want to make serious documentaries, but it is extremely difficult to get funding for documentaries in India. There are funds around the world, but there is also fierce competition. “
About films about socialmediagossips on the fringes or about normal socialmediagossips and everyday life, he says: “I don’t know if it is a conscious decision of mine. Given the country we live in, the contrast between belongings and goods has to come through. Making a statement / message does not work as an artist or filmmaker, although it is the artist’s duty to hold up a mirror to society and I want to do that. “