I am a director not a dictator: Filmmaker and theater director K M Chaitanya

In this edition of Teaching and Learning Moments, K M Chaitanya talks about his serendipitous journey into theater and film making and the role of teachers in shaping his life.

K M Chaitanya is a film maker, television show director and producer, documentary filmmaker, and a passionate theater director. His first feature film Aa Dinagalu in Kannada, won several awards including the Filmfare Awards South for Best Director and Best Feature Film in 2007. He also won awards for Best Debutant Director by the South Indian Cinematographers’ Association, Chennai Film Fans Association and Raghavendra Chitravani Award. Aa Dinagalu was listed by The Week among the top 10 Indian films of 2007. Chaitanya studied Journalism at Christ College and in Hyderabad Central University.


K M Chaitanya

In this edition of Teaching and Learning Moments, Chaitanya speaks about his early tryst with theater; growing up among academicians and theater experts to changing course to learn math and science and then coming back and finding himself in theater.

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

Finding ‘Home’ in theater

I belong to a family of academicians and teachers. My mother completed her masters after I was born. So she would very often leave me at the Kannada poet and playwright Lankesh’s house.  So I was exposed to poetry and literature very early in my life.  Many people from the literature and theater groups visited my house to discuss their plays and latest works.  Many legendary theater directors like Prasanna and B V Karanth used to come home to interact with me father, who was a theater expert.  I saw their play, but I never entered theater formally. I remained entangled in my own academic studies and childhood challenges.

Many years later, there was an opportunity to work with the theater director C R Simha from the theater group called Nataranga.  And he was casting for a play called Thaledanda by Girish Karnad. And my father asked me if I would like to audition for this play. I went ahead even though I had no exposure to theater.  There were many established actors in Nataranga and I realized that the casting was already complete.  However, I landed up with a minor role of a soldier, and had to deliver one line in the play.  Rehearsals went on for three hours every day for over three months and I attended each one of them. Somehow, I felt that I had finally found my kin there. I had always felt like I was the odd one out in my class and college, but suddenly here, among so many artists who were so different from me, I found my home. That’s how my theater journey started.

Chaitanya on location of a shoot

I am a director not a dictator

Team work is very important in my profession. A lot of people who want to become directors grow up with this notion that directors are dictators. There has been no spelling mistake there. He is called a director because he shows the direction for the team to go in. And whenever I try to train people, I train them to work with a group as a creative whole. That’s how cinema making or theater works. There are a lot of people on the sets.  It is not possible for the director to say, this is the way and this is the only way.  If one does that, then one is wasting the creative energy of such a large capable team. A good director has to build a team of intelligent, creative people, take everybody’s inputs and take the team together towards one single vision. This is what I try to teach in all my lectures and also to my assistant directors. I believe in creating a democratic space. After all, film creativity is about accepting multiple points of view.

You can listen to the complete two part interview at:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Note: This interview was first aired on Teaching and Learning Moments’ second season in April 2016. Teaching and Learning Moments with Teacher Plus is a program on education and various aspects of teaching and learning in and outside the classroom and it is brought to you in Collaboration with Bol Hyderabad, a  campus based community radio channel in Hyderabad Central University.

Interview and article by Lakshmi Karunakaran


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s