The two-hour-long film is written and directed by debutant filmmaker Ashvin A Matthew. 3 Devi revolves around three women, leading actor (Shubha Poonja), an entrepreneur and bride-to-be (Sandhya L), and an assistant director (Jyotsna) who are victims of male chauvinism in their respective fields. On a particularly trying day, while the actor and the assistant director leave their film set in the middle of a shoot, the bride leaves her groom at the altar. As the three women come together to escape from their problems, a sudden turn of events forces them into a battle for their lives.
In a conversation with Silverscreen India, Ashvin said that 3 Devi was an action thriller with “drama and emotional elements”, but does not have any mythological or supernatural references as the title suggests.
“We explored the idea that there is a devi [goddess] within everyone. What the first few seconds of the trailer says plays an important element in the film and is the crux,” he said.
The process of making the film began in June and July of 2019.
“I know Shubha since college and we have been friends since then. She knew that I was writing and directing films. One day, she came and asked me to write something different. The treatment of the film was prepared in about three days. I was about to do another film, but decided to do this and went to shoot. It was a quick process,” he said.
While the pre-production of the film started in November 2019, the film went on floors in January 2020. The first 12 days of the schedule was completed and rest was resumed in late 2020. 3 Devi was shot in Wayanad in Kerala and Coorg, Bengaluru in Karnataka.
Asked how he tried to avoid the male gaze in the film as a male filmmaker, Ashvin said he tried to bring a role-reversal in character identification.
“Male characters in the film do not have names. They are known by their characters, what they are or do, but no names. Mostly, women are known by what they do and known by their roles, like mother, secretary. We give them roles to play and they are known by it. I just inverted that. The men are only supporting here,” he said.
“I started the process by thinking of it is a women-empowerment film. We had in mind everything that we as men do wrong. We constantly talk about the wrong things that men do, like a constant reminder of what goes wrong. There is a point in the film where the girls decide to take a dip in a lake and wonder if they should take their clothes off. One of them explains that while in city, even if they drop a pen they should be careful of exposing, but in the forest there is nobody. Every day, they are constantly reminded of what to do and what not to do.”
Talking about facing questions on making a women-centric film, Ashvin said: “We have gone through so many years of making male-centric films that when a man decides to make one on women, it becomes a big thing. It should be normal as we make films about men. That is what I am trying to do.”
The filmmaker revealed that one of the three characters is a homosexual woman. The film, however, does not “bring attention to it”. “It is just a regular thing and is a choice. We talk about it only when it comes up. Only halfway through the film, we bring it up and we know her as a regular person. Only when she talks about her girlfriend, we realise she is gay,” Ashvin said.
When in doubt, he would call his friends to get their inputs and consciously avoided “preaching” in the film. “If I wanted to talk about the gay character, it should be just said by normalising it. I also tend to use humour, without being crass about it, packaged it in a fun way,” he said.
Interestingly, the team of 3 Devi released the character look posters of every artist in the film, about 20 of them.
“When someone calls you for a film, they tell you how good your character is. In a few films, they also tell that you will be featured in the poster, it makes them happy. In my film, everybody is important in the film, and hence I made one for each of them,” Ashvin said. He said he was planning to make posters for his technical crew as well.
The filmmaker said that he ensured that his characters were substantial for the story. Citing a character who plays driver in the film, Ashvin said, “He is there in almost every scene where two main characters are there. I made sure at least there is one joke he cracks and audience remembers him. I make sure all the characters there are important when I write a scene. If not, cut them.”
3 Devi features three songs. “All the songs are played in the background and it is unlike where songs are usually freezes the story and take you elsewhere,” he said.
Ashvin said that while making the film was not difficult, he had been anticipating roadblocks while trying to sell it. Produced by his home banner, Altered Ego Entertainment, the filmmaker said that he was skeptical if he could find producers for his film and chose to produce it himself.
“Oh, so there is no hero? An action film, without hero?, those kind of questions would come, because that is how people would expect it,” he said. The filmmaker said though the film is not yet “sold”, he was confident that women-centric films will become lucrative film in future.
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Speaking about the film’s release, he said that they were “not looking at theatres anytime now” and have been looking for satellite and OTT options. The filmmaker has been in talks with some OTT platforms and had been waiting until trailer was released so that buyers could get a better idea of the film.
Stating that OTTs have been on the look out for “good content”, Ashvin said, “Some of the bigger brands are not happy with most of the things that come out of Kannada. Having said that, in the past five years, there are lot of good films coming out. If it is a Malayalam or Tamil film, with big actors, they will pick it up, but if it is Kannada film, it is more difficult to sell it because of the content we put. We are changing that but if you compare to other regional language films, especially Malayalam, everyone in Bangalore will make sure they watch it. That is why I asked Mohanlal, Kunchacko Boban to release the trailer. We want to make a Kannada film that people from other languages, would watch. We watch their films because they are good, it is time that we make such films so that they watch. We have talent but the problem is a particular kind of films became famous and because it was money making thing, filmmakers stuck to it and stopped taking chances. We are trying to change.”
The filmmaker said that the responsibility and power to change the dynamics of the audiences’ taste and preferences rests with filmmakers.
3 Devi is in the final stages of production and is currently being edited. “We are working on the CGI, sound mixing, and grading. The post-production was delayed due to the pandemic, but we are 95% done and we will be ready by month end,” the filmmaker said.
The technical crew consists of Kunjunni S Kumar as cinematographer, Sunny Sawrav on the edit, and Pratap Raveendran as the art director. Music is composed by Dossmode, Fidel Asok, and Abdul Rauf.