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Corporate professional-cum-actor, filmmaker Harshiv Karthik discusses his passion project Bahumukham over a chat with Srivathsan Nadadhur

Vizag-boy Harshiv Karthik is the latest addition to an increasingly growing tribe of filmmakers who’re paving the way for an alternate industry in the US, marking the rise of a new, refreshing voice in Telugu cinema. Including acting, direction, production and editing, Harshiv has handled over 15 departments for his upcoming release Bahumukham, which gears up for a theatrical release on April 5.

Shot across Atlanta, Macon, Canton, Georgia and other locations in the US, Bahumukham is a tale dealing with the aftermath of an acting aspirant’s sour experience at an audition and how it transforms him for the worse. Bahumukham began as a short film designed to exploit Harshiv’s love of donning the grease paint, but gradually the premise was expanded into a feature spanning 90 minutes.

“Many times, I come across statements that certain actors are only fit for a particular type of roles and the industry brackets them into a zone. I wanted to make something where I could show multiple facets of my capabilities. While it started with an unconventional idea, I realised that the film needed to work as a story on the whole, both creatively and for financial prospects,” he shares.

Bahumukham was shot with a skeletal crew of eight people; over 40 actors are making their acting debut with the film. Harshiv labels his ‘baby’ a suspense/psychological thriller laced with delicious twists. While he was in talks to rope several familiar faces, COVID-19 posed many organisational challenges in addition to visa restrictions and they had to rise above limitations for the shoot.

Throwing light on the film’s plot, Harshiv shares, “The psychological element in the story was born out of my madness for acting. While developing it into a script, I spoke to several therapists to see if such a dimension of the human psyche could be explored real; I didn’t want to merely ride on cinematic liberties.” Once the team grew in confidence, he approached Sricharan Pakala for the score.

“Sricharan wanted to be sure if he was working with a committed team and once he was assured, he asked us to show the rushes and a teaser. He was blown away by what he saw and opined it didn’t feel like the work of a newcomer.” After wrapping up the post-production, Harshiv came up with a unique promotional strategy, showcasing the film’s trailer on an LED screen he carried on a backpack.

“I made the best of efforts to reach out to big names in the industry and felt they were too occupied with multiple projects to give due attention to Bahumukham alone. I had to do something to stand out and took charge of field promotions myself. I wanted to do it to understand audience’s pulse and the warmth with which they treated a newcomer like me was humbling and were genuinely excited by the LED screen idea.”

The film-bug had bit Harshiv right in his childhood but being in a middle-class family, he had a few responsibilities and duties to fulfil before he chased his passions. “I have been in the corporate sector for over 12 years now, earning well and I thought the time was ripe to pursue my film dreams. Even as I promote the film now, I’m working in the nights for my US job.”

Harshiv has been in touch with the filmmaker community in the US for many years and multiple attempts to work in films hit a roadblock. “I wasted over 6-7 years and made little progress, most producers would back off at the last minute, unsure of the scope of the project. I realised I had to take the plunge myself and boy, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t stressful.”

Managing multiple departments gave him creative control for Bahumukham, although he struggled to sustain his focus occasionally. “I understood it was important to trust experts for every job. Henceforth, I don’t want to be juggling too many responsibilities. Acting will be my top priority. I have plans to work on an action drama next, though nothing has been finalised yet.”

(Bahumukham hits screens worldwide this April 5)