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|May 30, 2000|
Of computers and human relationships
M D Riti
Or so cinematographer Rajendra Prasad's English feature film Man, Woman and Mouse seems to say.
This film, shot almost entirely in the United States, is just completing its last schedule in Hyderabad, Prasad's hometown.
The mouse in the film is not a live rodent, but a computer accessory. Prasad himself is the hero of his film, which deals with a man and his wife who bring a computer home, and how it affects their relationship. Eventually, it takes over their lives and changes everything.
The film should be ready for release on the commercial theatre circuit in India by June-end. It has been shot completely in 16mm, and will be blown up to 35mm for release.
As for its budget, all that Prasad is willing to say at the moment is: "I cannot give you the exact figures, but I do know that this film was made on an impossibly small budget." He is also unwilling to reveal more of the film's plot.
This minimal expense was possible because Prasad, who otherwise lives in Bombay, was already in the US shooting Inscrutable Americans based on Anurag Mathur's novel for the Malempati producer couple. "After the first schedule of Americans, we took a break due to bad weather," Prasad told rediff.com "I was getting bored, so I wrote the script for this film. Much to everyone's surprise, I even managed to shoot it during that time! It was five years since I had made my last film. I was sort of restless, and just waiting to make a film again, so I guess I had the momentum and motivation to do it quickly."
Prasad has worked as a cinematographer on documentaries, advertising films, feature films and even teleserials in India for over a dozen years now. He did his BSc followed by a degree in motion picture cinematography from the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. In 1995, he produced and directed a Telugu film titled Nirantaram, based on the Telangana armed struggle. The film never got out of the cans. "So in 1988, I celebrated the failure as 1,000 days of completion of the film like anybody would celebrate a silver jubilee," laughs Prasad.
"I selected the cast [for Man, Woman...] mostly from the head shots sent to us for casting for Americans, and also from amongst actors I got to know while working on that film," admits Prasad. Arts graduate Sarah Conner, who is currently working on a course in film direction and scripting in the US, plays Prasad's white wife. And two key actors from Americans, Rajeev Punja and Eron Otcasek, play special characters in the film.
Punja is a Bangalore boy who was born in the US, studied in Bangalore in St Joseph's Boys' High School and later at Bishop Cotton Boys School, then moved back to the US where he now lives in Brooklyn, New York. Otcasek is a film editor-turned-actor living in New York. Diana, a mass communications student of Mount Hollyoke College, is cast as another important female character.
Satish Kolluri, professor at Mount Hollyoake College, Pete Trikolus and Jake Rusconi (both students at Hartford University), and Jayson play the other characters. Prasad shot on location in New York City, Hartford and Mount Hollyoake. "I just zeroed in on places that I had gotten to know a bit in the US, most of which turned out to be on the East Coast," he says. He is yet to decide what kind of music the film will have.
Prasad knows it is very difficult for independent films, irrespective of whether they are made by Indians or Americans, to get a theatrical release in the US. "Most of the films end up on television or video," he admits readily. "Only the very lucky ones get picked up at festivals. But I am prepared to take my chances with all the others.
"As for what kind of audience I am trying to reach, whether Indian or American, urban and selective or mainstream commercial, I am not sure myself. I invariably make films about something that excites me personally. I know that is probably a very unprofessional approach to have, but well, that's the only way I can make cinema!"
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