Kannada short film ‘Dear Bhargava’ has won ‘The best LGBTQ short’ (film award) in the Zero Degree Film Contest announced on May 17th. The film was recently screened at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Film Festival (CSIFF) where it won the Special Jury Award.
This newly released short film’s main character Bhargava may not be in the topic of people’s discussions in a society that is yet to see LGBT acceptance openly, but surely the director of the 16-minutes film, (‘Dear Bhargava’ released on YouTube) Ramnath Shanbhag, is in spotlight for his crisp dialogue, screenplay and direction. ‘Dear Bhargava’ has won ‘The best LGBTQ short film Award in the 3rd Season of the Zero Degree Film Contest at Mohali recently.
30-year-old Ramnath feels the subject is much in relevance today and that is the reason it was part of the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Film Festival (CSIFF) where it bagged the Special Jury Award too. “I never dreamt the film would garner such an overwhelming response, the impact it has created is enormous. I am waiting for the film to be shown in other film fests too, as it will have English subtitles,” says Ramnath who took six months to pen it out, but took only one day of shooting to wrap it up!
‘Dear Bhargava’ brought out by Flickering Studios has dialogues too by Ramnath and is amongst the very few films on gay rights done for the Kannada screen. Just as the subject demands an empathetic mind for being accepted in society, the film is aptly funded by Habicoins, the platform that extends emotional assistance to people to deal better with their turmoil.
Born and partly raised in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka, Ramnath after his graduation at Seshadripuarm College in Bengaluru, pursued his passion for writing dialogues and lyrics for songs in Sandalwood. He also took up doing radio shows and jingles, not to forget his love for writing poetry. Ramnath Shanbhag who currently works for Amazon development center in the city, spoke to Avadhimag in an exclusive interview where he traces his passion for his pen and his role as a director to get the best shot.
As a student of Commerce and working for a corporate firm, how did your interest for films develop?
My love for Kannada literature led me into writing for cinema lately. I always wanted to be part of the creative side of cinema. I have a hobby of posting two-to-four liners on Facebook as a hobby which also got me introduced to some prominent names of Kannada cinema. This encouraged me further into building inroads for getting there.
What are the films you were associated with earlier?
My cinema journey started with writing lyrics for a Kannada short film ‘Sharadhi’ and that helped me build my confidence of placing words to actual music meter. I followed it up with my writing for promotional jingles for Radio Mirchi and then songs for a few more films. My two songs for ‘Vajra’ hoisted me as a feature film lyricist, and the same year I did lyrics for the music video ‘Arivillade’ directed by Jai Shankar (of ‘Lachchavva’fame). I also did dialogues for ‘Sunday’ a short film directed by Susmita Sameera.
How did you think of doing a film like ‘Dear Bhargava’…what really made you take up a bold subject like this?
‘Dear Bhargava’ was initially a passing thought which was more like a seed I never tried to water upon. I always wanted to work on a subject less-dealt with, which imparts some meaning to society. More often than not I would be drawn towards father-son sentimental subjects and this is quite evident when you watch ‘Dear Bhargava’ which has a message coming out in natural home setting, in an un-dramatic way. I was lucky to have a script that shaped up well and here I have to mention my friend, Susmita Sameera of Flickering Studios, who was an ample support for making it happen.
It’s a powerful take on the subject and it’s interesting that the film is shot in just one house. How long did it take for you to complete the entire production from the time the storyline was conceived?
The last two years saw me conceive and develop the story, but was on halt due to the pandemic. But as my wonderful actors were committed to the project it took off this year, early on, when there was no lockdown. The shooting was confined to one house and it was completed in a day with absolute professionalism from everyone.
You have a lot to say about your actors, and their thoughts on being part of a sensitive subject as gay rights…
I was fortunate enough to have come across wonderful souls in cinema. Sunder Sir, who does leading character roles, and my well-wisher and a good friend, agreed to do the father’s role after I had roughly narrated the story over a cup of coffee. It was back then titled, ‘Letter to my son’ and he had recommended a few changes in the flow. I had previously worked with Aruna Balraj madam for ‘Sunday.’ She is such a natural actor on screen and an approachable star off screen. Right after she saw the first draft she agreed for the mother’s role.
When it came to the hero Bhargava, it was a challenge for me to approach young boys especially given the subject of the film. Some felt hesitant to take up the role as the film fell into some kind of an experimental category. It was during ‘Arishadvarga’ trailer buzz that I had noticed Mahesh Bung in a bold role and I had already started imagining him as Bhargava. With the preset impression, I narrated the script to Mahesh who was more than happy to take up a ‘new role’ without hesitation. It was a very easy shoot as all the actors I had were experienced. My job made it that much easier, behind the camera!
How did you zero-in on the music required for this kind of a story?
‘Dear Bhargava’ had to be in tune for more of an emotional delivery. The dialogues had key lines with strong pauses. It was mandatory for me to go for a composer who could play around sentiments and silences. I had loved Udit Haritas’s work back in ‘Katha Sangama’ and ‘Arishadvarga’. With Udit coming on board to bring in something new for a narrative that he felt was fresh and original, things were further strengthened for ‘Dear Bhargava’ melodically too.
How did Habicoins come into the picture for funding the film?
When we were looking for sponsors, we pitched Meghana Harikumar, Gagan Tallam and Somaya Palecanda of Balcony Stories & PrimeApes Studios who were ready to do the collaboration. ‘Habicoins’ came forward through them and fortunately, Sunita Mani who is a Psychotherapist from ‘Habicoins’ was happy to proceed further. The Organization helps people through conversations who are dealing with emotional baggage. As the concept of the Short film was on similar lines, it became more relevant for both of us.