How Paddayi director Abhaya Simha worked with Mogaveera fishing community in Karnataka

National award-winning film Paddayi is shot in a rare dialect of Tulu spoken by merely 2-3 lakh people, mainly the fishing community called Mogaveeras. 

Director Abhaya Simha, who was born and brought up in Mangaluru, wrote the script and dialogue in Kannada, but hired a dialect coach despite knowing Tulu, as the Mogaveeras speak a rougher dialect.

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“First we did translation, but that tends to become bookish. Translators assume they have to be honest to the text. Then we went to the Mogaveeras and sounded our dialogues. They said they didn’t speak anything like that. We started talking to them and getting a gist of the dialogues. It is not necessary to be honest to the text, but it necessary to be honest to the life. We can’t lie about their life.” 

Simha informed that he used sync-sound for the first time because he wanted to create the landscape of the area truthfully. The film was shot in Mangaluru in 21 days with Tulu-speaking actors. 

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“The fishing community tales are very interesting and that area has a very interesting soundscape. We wanted to bring that element of environment to the film. That’s why we depended on sync-sound. When it came to music we wanted somehow give references to the Shakespeare effect, at the same time keep the instrumentation very local. The whole treatment was musical, because it is inspired by theatre, especially Yakshagana [traditional Karnataka theatre form] and Buta Kola [ritual folk dance].”

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Paddayi was screened in the Indian Panorama section of the 49th International Film Festival of India, in Goa, on 26 November. It won the Best Tulu Film award at the 65th National awards in 2017. The film is produced by Nithyananda Pai and is a re-telling of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth set in a coastal Karnataka village.

Paddayi, meaning ‘west’ in Tulu language, explores the changing dynamics of local communities as they are infected by the evil of greed. Through the protagonists Madhava and Sugandhi, the director plays with subjects of greed, murder and regrets. The film features Mohan Sheni and Bindu Raxidi in lead roles.

Speaking about the Mogaveera community, Simha said, “Most of their time is spent at sea. We actually spent 15-20 days in the port speaking to them. During that time we picked up some dialogues from them. Our dialogue was elite, so to say. When we interacted with them, we found the kind of sense of humour they had. Even their humour is, I wouldn’t say vulgar, but harsh. Their lifestyle is rough, fighting nature day in and day out.”

Simha has previously directed Kannada film Gubbachigalu (2008), which bagged the National award for Best Children’s Film in 2008. He has also directed Shikari (2012), a Kannada-Malayalam bi-lingual and another Kannada film Sakkare (2013).

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