Sreehari Rajesh, 15, a resident of Cochin has a rather unique distinction – he has directed and produced over five small feature films and is currently busy wrapping up the shoot for his first full length feature film. Working on issues related to the environment and society, Sreehari is a passionate filmmaker who over the last few years has continued to improve his skill.
His interest in filmmaking dates back to when he was 9 and first started experimenting with a camera.
He says, “Those were not really worthy of being spoken about. I was just a kid fooling around with a camera I found. It was around the time I turned 13 that I took the craft seriously and made my first short film, Puga, which had a run time of 33 minutes.” The theme for his first short film, he adds, was drug and substance abuse in youngsters.
Sreehari’s father, Rajesh Ramakrishnan, who is with the Kerala police department has been privy to many cases of drug and substance abuse, and Sreehari says, “I have seen how this has wrecked the lives of so many youngsters. I see him counsel them and he often speaks about the ill effects that it has. This was the motivation behind wanting to pick drug abuse as the theme for my first short film.”
Sreehari has an interesting way of scripting his films, he says, “I do not have a hardbound script in place, what I work on is the broad theme and even cast my own friends. In my first short film, I had more than 20 cast members.” When asked how he managed to get funded for the film, he says, “My first film was a zero-budget movie, wherein the places I shot and all those who were part of the film did it for free, and even the travel was kept to a bare minimum.”
Drawing inspiration from the greats
Monochromatic, poignant, short films, which often last no more than 4 minutes, is this teenager’s speciality, who believes in focusing on hard hitting topics like depression and even the pandemic. “You will be amazed at how much inspiration one can draw from everyday life,” he says. For example, the two-minute film titled Charles, was about a man with the same name who has been feeding stray dogs for almost two decades in Fort Cochin. “I felt that it was a story that needed to be told,” says Sreehari.
The camera Sreehari uses, which is a Cannon 1500, was a gift his parents bought him on his 13th birthday, and he says that it has served him very well.
His second film was a documentary on climate change and thereafter Sreehari went on to film another four short films.
Currently, he is busy with the final filming of his full-length feature film, and speaking about it, he says, “Sthaayi, which means ‘that which cannot be changed’, will have a run time of 60 minutes. Based on caste and religious politics, this film has a cast of 15 members and has a budget of less than Rs 25,000.”
He is now busy looking up various film festivals where he says he wants to send Sthaayi. A big fan of directors like Chistropher Nolan and Lijo Jose Pellissery, Sreehari says that one of the movies that impacted him and pushed him to experiment with film making was Nolan’s Following, which was released in 1998. “What inspires me is not just the movies that these stalwarts have made but even their life stories. At 30, Nolan made Following with a rather small budget and I drew inspiration from that,” he says.
If you would like to view some of Sreehari’s work, you can check his YouTube page here.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)