Is Web Series as big as a medium as we think? Does it have a definite scope in our state? What’s the secret to making a quality web series on a no-budget scale?
These questions were clearly unanswered as we witnessed a slew of disappointing releases in the web series space and hence whom else to discuss with other than Rohit Nandakumar, the creator of the sensible and cleverly crafted Kallachirippu.
Rohit, Lets talk about how it all started. You must have pitched it to Karthik Subbharaj. How did he react?
Yes, I indeed pitched Karthik by the beginning of 2017, And it was just a week after the release of Aviyal, Karthik listened and gave a green and I thought it was on. But to actually take-off with the pre-production, it exactly took an year. By March 2018, We were done with the pre-production. And By October 2018, I showed the final product to Karthik. He was impressed. Production wise, it took us around 19 days, with a four day break for preps, so it was just one schedule, because I did not have the liberty to go for more than 1 schedule inspite of our producers asking us to convert this into a feature, because then we could have easily gone for some 30 days of shoot, but we restricted ourselves for the love of this medium, and took some solid two and half months for the post.
Production management is crucial when it comes to any film but with webseries where we are working on tighter schedules and budgets, it is even more critical. How did you guys go about it?
I would say, a proper organization was in place when it came to kallachirippu. Sruthi, my associate was the exective producer of the series. And Bench was cool about it. By conventional norms as a production house, you would have had your doubts if the E.P. is a young girl who has no prior experience in production, but Stone Bench as I said had no problems with that. Sruthi would take creative inputs from me, the director and for practical tasks she would approach the production manager Mr. Suresh, while for the monetary help, she would contact Kalyan, the producer from bench. As a whole these two things helped us massively:
A. The conviction that the bench had with us
B. Our team. We were all friends basically so after a tired shoot day, we will sleep in the same place and come the next day.
You guys had fantastic things in place. I could see that. You said you are writing another web series. But Rohit, tell me honestly, do you believe web series as an ecosystem is heading in the right direction?
Three years back when I showed my first draft, My friends used to say, Macha this will take atleast five years to get commercialized. It didn’t take that much time as you have observed. Yes people are talking about how web series could improve. They wanted to see better ones. This feedback is what we need. We need to pay heed to these feedbacks as it will constructively help our webseries ecosystem grow. The core of this concern is we all have unrealistic expectations regarding web series. But these expectations is acting as a fuel and that’s a good sign.
Agreed. So can we confidently assume we will have a sure shot to glory, and where do you think we will have to concentrate as creators?
Um. I don’t entirely agree. I have a fear. Call it insecurity. I used to think web series as a distinct revolutionary medium. I still believe in it, but part of me also says that your web series is in direct competition with a random friends’ Instagram story. Your web series is in direct competition with a random YouTube sketch video. Your web series is in direct competiton with anything online. Will it become distinguishable? Will it become a matter of great priority where people would actually think and save time in the night to watch your series? Or will it just stay as something instant for passing the time during office breaks? This is my deep fear!
Rohit I believe the constructive feedbacks are what we as creators should concentrate right now and probably if we are heading in the right direction, there Will be a time where it is going to have its special place. But tell me this, what would you say to a team who is trying to make a super duper web series but with limited funds?
In one word, “Flexible Text”. I have limited experience in direction but during kallachirippu I found out that the soul of your script has to be flexible. With limited budget you may not acquire things you desire. In that case even with compromises the scenes have got to be interesting. There should not be any compromise with the level of engagement. I will give you an example. The scene where the bride kills her husband and then trying to cover it up, was written in such a way that the girl regrets when she does that. But 20 minutes before the shoot, We took an alternate decision. Let her be “cold” . Let her not show any remorse when she covers her dead husband. She is doing an unthinkable act. Subtly this will be seen as heroic. People would be surprised, when they see her acting dead cold. In text, kallachirippu characters were not “cold” but instead they were “humanly flawed” . We intentionally changed it to “cold” and as I said commercially speaking, it worked. The final word is that the soul of your script has to be flexible and the sole motive should be engagement. Don’t take ideal stances. Don’t push too much on staying perfect to your script demands. Be flexible.This is my opinion.
Few words about visuals. Your conversations with cinematographer, I may ask?
I would like to say that from the time you visualised your script and then on it is going to be script erosion. You will try to save what you have imagined and when you have a good team, when you have a good Dop, then you can significantly reduce this “script erosion” We shot in RED and mostly went for 85mm. I as a director, am a “close up” person. While Dinesh, the Dop is a “wide” person. I think we typically met halfway. That’s why you can see a lot of “mid shots”
Your next plan of action?
As of now I am writing another one. There have been talks regarding kallachirippu season 2. I would intent to develop it on the lines of “fargo” as in we will not revisit the characters but thematically it will be the same.