Kiranmayi Indraganti's feature film ‘Rallalo Neeru' is an indie-spirited Telugu adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's play, ‘A Doll's House'
Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen's three-act play A Doll's House, first published and enacted in 1879, reflected the lack of opportunities for women in Norwegian society at the time and created a stir when it batted for equality in marriage. Since then, the play has been adapted for cinema and television internationally.
Independent filmmaker Kiranmayi Indraganti's Telugu film Rallalo Neeru (Hidden Waters) is an adaptation of A Doll's House in the context of a homemaker living in Kakinada.
The 105-minute feature film had a private screening in Hyderabad recently and talks are on to release it on a digital platform. The film was also featured in the Los Angeles based Awareness Film Festival in 2020.
Rallalo Neeru stars Krishna Manjusha, Shafi, Altaf, Bindu Chandramouli and Dr Prasad. Kiranmayi teaches cinema for postgraduate and doctoral programmes at Srishti Manipal Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bengaluru, and has directed documentaries earlier. she studied filmmaking at York University and pursued PhD at the University of Nottingham: “This is my first feature film. I took six months off from my academic schedule and was determined to make it happen,” she says.
While her brother Mohana Krishna Indraganti is a well known Telugu filmmaker and their late father, writer-lyricist Indraganti Srikanth Sharma has a loyal following in the literary circles, it did take a while for Kiranmayi to enter the feature film arena.
Rallalo Neeru, she says, was made within a limited budget with funds pooled in from family, friends and well wishers. Not wanting to be tied down by having to cater to box office demands, she preferred to make an independent film: “The initial plan was to make it in Hindi, things didn't fall in place. Later we decided to make it in Telugu.”
The house becomes one of the central characters in the story and when an associate informed her about a house in Kakinada, Kiranmayi visited the location and was bowled over, and decided to set the story in Kakinada. The story harks back to the mid-2000s in the flashback, giving Kiranmayi the chance to incorporate the ‘call money racket' that was prevalent in the region back then: “I've made only oblique references to it, showing how it affects the characters,” she says.
Inspired by the stage
Ibsen's play has the woman question her husband's love when he faults her for doing something that's considered morally dubious, even though she had done it at a crucial time to save him: “This idea is relevant even today. Women have come a long way since then, but there are many like my protagonist Neela who are confined to their homes and don't have economic independence. The story shows how a woman who is bound by conventions of society finds her hidden streak of independence,” Kiranmayi reasons.
Krishna Manjusha who plays the lead character is a former corporate employee and Altaf is a theatre actor. Bindu and Shafi are well known in the Telugu film circuit. Rallalo Neeru's technical team includes music composer Vivek Sagar, sound designer Teja Asgk and editor Marthand Venkatesh.
Kiranmayi is hopeful that viewers will relate to the story when it releases and says, “We don't usually see portrayals of friendship between women, after their marriage, on screen. This film gave me the opportunity to do that.”