A gold medallist from the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, Kasaravalli started his career in films with Ghatashraddha (1977). Over the next 30 years he directed 11 films and a tele serial. The film he made to fulfil his diploma, Avashesh, was awarded the Best Student Film and the National Film Award for Best Short Fiction Film for that year. He has received thirteen National Film Awards.
Early life of Girish Kasaravalli
Girish Kasaravalli was born in Kesalur, a village in the Tirthahalli taluk in Shimoga district in 1950. His parents were consecutively Ganesh Rao and Lakshmi Devi. In one of the musical public shows, Ravi Belagere, the animated presenter has stated that Girish's full name was Girish Karanth. This needs verification as it is Ravi Belagere who gave this information. He had his primary education in Kesalur and middle school education in Kammaradi. Hailing from a family of book lovers, he was initiated to reading from a young age by his father. His father was a patron of Yakshagana, a folk system of dance native to Karnataka. All this formed a basis for a life rich with creative aspirations.
He was attracted to the touring talkies which visited his village once in a while to screen popular Kannada films. This was his first exposure to the world of cinema. Another relative who supported his love for creative arts was his maternal uncle K.V.Subbanna, a Magsaysay award winner who founded Neenasam, a critically acclaimed and popular drama company.
After completing his high school and college education in Shimoga, he enrolled for the B.Pharma course in the College of Pharmacy, Manipal. The college was a common place for many cultural activities and kept Girish Kasaravalli's creative interests alive. After completing his degree, he went to Hyderabad for training. But, due to his pre-occupations in cinema and art, he found it difficult to manage his profession and interest together. He decided to quit the career in Pharmacy and join the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune.
Career of Girish Kasaravalli
Graduating from FTII Pune in 1975, with a specialization in film direction, he started his career in film making. The world of Kurosawa, Ray, Ozu, Fellini and Antonioni inspired him, and his confident conviction in neo-realist cinema deepened. In an interview many years later, he recollected how he was inspired by these filmmakers, especially Ozu. While in his final year, he was chosen to be the assistant director for B. V. Karanth for the film Chomana Dudi. He passed out of the FTII with a gold medal to his credit. His student film Avasesh won the President's Silver Lotus award for the best experimental short film of the year.
His first film as an independent director was Ghatashraddha in 1977; it won him the Golden Lotus and a few international awards. This film was followed by many more masterpieces. For a short while, he served as the principal of a film institute in Bangalore.
He won his second Golden Lotus for Tabarana Kathe in 1987. Considered as one of the best edited films in India, it deals with the futile efforts of a retired government servant to earn his pension. In 1997, he came up with another masterpiece, Thaayi Saheba which won him his third Golden Lotus award. Thaayi Saheba is considered to be the most mature work of the director, dealing with the transition in the Indian society from the pre- to the post-independence periods.
The narrative structure was unique, and it had a powerful way of depicting a social situation. He repeated his success with Dweepa in 2002 starring late actress Soundarya. It won his fourth Golden Lotus award. Dweepa was different from his earlier films: It used music extensively and was visually stunning. Apart from these four films winning Golden Lotus awards, Girish Kasaravalli directed Akramana in 1979, Mooru darigalu in 1981, Bannada Vesha in 1988, Mane in 1990, Kraurya in 1996, Hasina in 2004 and Naayi Neralu in 2006.
Naayi Neralu dealt with a very intense and bizarre concept of reincarnation, based on the novel with the same name by S.L. Bhyrappa. Girish Kasaravalli has given a different interpretation of the subject. It won the Best Film award at KARA film festival, Karachi thus making it the first ever Kannada film to win the top honour in any international festival.
In 2008 he directed Gulabi Talkies based on a short story of the same name by Vaidehi. It was shown in many international film festivals, winning awards and accolades. In 2010, he made Kanasemba Kudureyaneri (Riding the Stallion of Dreams) which, too, won him many international awards. He has finished his Koormavatara (The Tortoise, an Incarnation) which won the National film award for the best Kannada film of 2011. The International Film Festival of Rotterdam held a retrospective of Girish Kasaravalli's films in 2003.
An uncharacteristic film, yet arguably the director?s finest work, Mane (1993) details the life of a newly married couple who move into a newly rented apartment. Made just when India had opened up its markets to the world ? a historical move whose impact seems ever increasing ? Mane is a Kafkaesque tale about the invasion of the private and the personal by external forces that uses an off-kilter image and sound scheme to generate a otherworldly feeling of despair and downfall.
Kasaravalli?s films are firmly situated in the humanist tradition, in which the plight of one individual in a particular social setup is examined with empathy. The protagonist in a Kasaravalli is almost always a woman, who is regularly bound by the rules of a conservative establishment. His films are rife with religious rituals, legal procedures, rules of social conduct and processes of legitimization, through which the society under consideration justifies and perpetuates itself. These works set themselves apart from the lesser films of Parallel Cinema by steering away from superficial melodrama for an analytical examination.
Kannada filmmaker Girish Kasaravalli belongs to the generation of directors who ushered the new wave in Indian cinema with exemplary films. Films with a soul, is how one would describe each one of his offerings. Vulnerability of the human being, unwritten codes of conduct, complex filial ties and a sense of history combine to create consummate works on celluloid
The style of filmmaking Kasaravalli adopts is generally classicist: static shots, location shooting, low-key lighting, double framing through doors and windows, gradual pans and tilts, a melodic classical score, naturalistic or understated performances and a functional editing pattern that is faithful to the film?s text and continuity. Kasaravalli also regularly employs major ellipses that bypass dramatic segments, which the audience has to fill in mentally, and inter titles that indicate the passage of time.