Shyamaprasad Rajagopal says, "My focus is on creating an experiential world to the story – with sounds, images and montage." Image Credit: Supplied photo

"The quality of any great work of art is its ability to connect with truth. In the name of art, a lot of stuff is peddled just by putting together several stereotypical and formulaic elements.

But I think a true artist - in any form of art - is one who searches for his own idiom, his own perspective and experience of truth. And that truth is reflected in tiny, detailed forms - in the way characters behave, in the way light falls on the room, in the way objects are portrayed. I believe that in every little inch on the screen or second on the soundtrack, there is the possibility to express truth.

Life puts people in very different but interesting circumstances and a film-maker's greatest challenge is to capture the authenticity of life as it is lived. 

My first experience with great cinema occurred in Grade 10 when I sneaked into a screening of Satyajit Ray's Pather Panchali being shown at my school which was the venue of a film club, open only to adults.
I was mesmerised by the movie. It really shook me - the power of truth again - and the ability of the director to capture the reality of life. Subsequently I saw several Ray, Bergman and Kurosawa films - all by sneaking in during the show. 

My interest in visual arts developed at an early age.
As a child, I was passionate about reading, painting and writing plays. I wasn't keen on appearing on stage; I handled costume and stage settings. I knew I wasn't cut out to be a doctor or engineer, and I convinced my mother to enrol me for theatre studies in 1977 at the newly-opened School of Drama in Kerala, India.

My choice of career came as a shock to those around me. However, my parents were open to the idea.

What I entered was an exciting new world; it taught me that art was not a frivolous pursuit. As a fresh graduate, I joined Doordarshan Kendra Thiruvananthapuram as an assistant producer at a time when television was just making its presence felt in Kerala. I worked on all genres - talk shows, musicals and documentaries. Finally, learning the power of the media and its tools like the camera, recording and editing console, I slowly moved to features. I did a series of short films and telefilms that eventually became an effective calling card of mine for film producers.

The telefilms were a kind of base to the idiom that I was later to follow; from choosing material from well-known literary pieces to having a certain emotional tone that runs through several of my films.

In 1989, I received a Commonwealth scholarship and did my Masters in Media Production at Hull University in the UK. I also worked as media researcher and creative contributor for the BBC's Pebble Mill studios as an extended part of my study.

My father is a respected Indian politician but his politics did not have any influence on me.
I am too individualistic and an eternal ‘doubter' to actually toe any political line. However, I was influenced by the way he conducted his social life, his integrity and his selflessness. These became my guiding spirit.

I am not the storyteller.
My focus is on creating an experiential world to the story - with sounds, images and montage. I try to give cinematic form to a story that I like. And when I make the film, I don't carry the burden of the literary work any longer. My approach is to be loyal to myself, to the medium of cinema and to the audience.

In 1998, I made Agnisakshi, my first film, based on popular Malayalam writer Lalithambika Antharjanam's eponymous novel. Set in the early 1930s in an orthodox upper caste household in the south Indian state of Kerala, and against the backdrop of the struggle for freedom from British rule, it is not merely a story of social transformation or the struggle between established values and change. It is a work with humane values and has the power to move a person. The story has a universality and timelessness that transcends all boundaries. 

I've always been fascinated by stories about people, the human condition and its myriad moments.
I am obsessed with stories where families get splintered, people wander in and out of relationships; where there are overtones of eternal loneliness. Stories that touch the soul and explore complexities in human relationships interest me.

Elektra, my seventh and newly-released film, is one such story. At drama school, Electra by Sophocles was one of the first stories that I read. I liked it so much that I read other versions by Aeschylus and Euripides.

Years later, Eugene O' Neil's Mourning Becomes Electra really bowled me over.

It captured the essence of human loneliness and the merciless destiny that one has to face and how we are all naturally attracted to passion and sin and about payback.

Other versions, too appeared, and slowly the story just grew within me and I started writing scripts until it metamorphosed into a contemporary adaptation of the classic play. Elektra has been more than 20 years in the making. 

The characters in my films are both complex and intense because that is a fundamental aspect of truth.
Truth is not as simple as we would like it to be; you can't take sides with truth or be judgmental. The very nature of our existence is multilayered - there is an individual in you, a social and a very spiritual person - all these often conflict and intertwine. I am interested in the complexities man has to face every day in relationships and his social life.

Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski has influenced the nuances of the kind of style I am trying to search. He uses images and sounds in the most surprising and enticing ways and keeps you engaged with rare, human stories.

Most of my films explore the intricacies of human relationships such as Akale, inspired by The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams or Ore Kadal, based on a classical Bengali novel by Sunil Gangopadhyay.

The kind of appreciation and stature that I seem to have achieved is primarily because I am standing on the shoulders of these great men and women - of Tennessee Williams, Chekov, Camus apart from several gifted Indian writers. I derive my strength from their work but you also need courage to transform it into a convincing visual experience. 

I have an eclectic taste in films.
This is because each film-maker at each age and in each civilisation tries to approach truth in different ways. It doesn't matter what style it is. I find Kurosawa as well as Charlie Chaplin interesting. I adore every film-maker who has an obsession for capturing the truth. 

I still am an aspiring film-maker.
I don't toe the line of a typical commercial film with stereotypical ingredients though I don't reject these elements all together. I do go for a star cast and a certain sensuousness when making a film. I don't reject music either. I look to achieve a balance of all these and to portray truth with the utmost sincerity.