Though I was influenced by Buried, Sullu has an entirely different story: Vishnu Bharadwaj
The director talks about making his debut with the Rs 30-lakh survival thriller
At a time when many aspiring filmmakers are wondering if it is possible to make a film under Rs 1 crore, a young filmmaker named Vishnu Bharadwaj is proving naysayers wrong, by making his debut with a survival thriller budgeted at Rs 30 lakh. The film is called Sullu, and the titular character is played by Master Vasudev, who recently portrayed the child version of Vineeth Sreenivasan’s character in Aby.
Sullu is the second film to be backed by Vijay Babu’s Friday Film House Experiments after Janamaithri. The company was launched recently to nurture fresh voices who dare to think outside the box. Vishnu tells us that Sullu was inspired by the making style of the Ryan Reynolds-starrer Buried.
The idea to do the film first originated when a friend of his suggested writing a film with a similar mood which he would produce. “Though I was influenced by Buried, I wasn’t interested in doing a film exactly like that. Sullu has an entirely different story,” he clarifies.
Sullu was initially conceived as a short film but when Vishnu developed the story, a mentor of his at Cochin Media (where Vishnu learned cinematography) suggested that he turn it into a full-length feature. Vishnu then went digging in his childhood memories and spoke to several others to find out if they have ever been trapped in small places before. “I wanted to come up with a relatable story,” he says. “The boy in the film gets trapped inside a cupboard, which has actually happened to a lot of people.”
Vishnu worked on the project for four years and pitched it to several producers before Vijay Babu came on board. The director recalls how nobody took it seriously when he put forth the proposal to shoot the film on a minuscule budget. “Since I haven’t assisted any filmmaker or made any short films before, asking Rs 1-2 crore for your first film may sound ludicrous to some producers. Then I tried increasing the budget so as to not give them the impression that I’m fooling them. But this didn’t work either.” The director adds that there was initially a plan to go the crowdfunding route but that did not seem feasible.
When Vishnu and crew approached Vijay Babu, they prepared a plan to keep the production budget under control. “If you exclude the post-production expenses, the budget was rounded up to Rs 15 lakh with a plan to calculate the remaining expenses later,” he reveals. “I also wanted to do this in sync sound because it was necessary for a concept like this. However, that was not the plan initially. After Vijay Babu sir came on board, we were able to sort out things further. He was particular about not compromising on quality. For him, quality is more important than the budget.”
The film’s technical team also comprises mostly newcomers — people who studied with Vishnu at Cochin Media, in addition to those he gathered over the course of the last four years.
Sullu, which has a runtime of around 75 minutes, will reach theatres on November 14, on Children’s Day.