Interview: Murali Thalluri


Director of new Australian film – “2:37”

It’s rare that Piracy will ever pay, but in Aussie filmmaker Murali Thalluri’s case, a bootleg did open doors for him.

Somehow, Murali’s debut film 2:37 – a harrowing drama about a young highschooler that commits suicide – was duped and express posted to every A-grade talent agent in tinseltown. “It was some kind of pirated copy – I hadn’t even finished the film, and it didn’t even have a full soundtrack – that got around to all the agents”, says the filmmaker, on the line from his native Adelaide. “Someone must have leaked it – one of our sales agents, or something. Suddenly, all the agents wanted to meet. People were just calling us, and sending bottles of wine up to our rooms – we were just having a blast. You see stuff like that happening on shows like Entourage, but you never imagine it actually happens.”

Granted, Murali, who never had a heavy interest in filmmaking (“I grew up in a sort-of traditional Indian family, so never saw it as a real possibility”), mainly made the film for himself – as sort of a release. When one of his friends decided to end her life, he realised he needed an outlet to distinguish his feelings.

“One of my friends killed herself, and then two days after she committed suicide, I received a video tape – serving as a video suicide note – from her. I remember hating her for doing this. I couldn’t figure out why anyone would want to commit suicide. I just thought it was selfish and weak – until, six months later, I started having my own problems. I’d had kidney problems, and was working at the tax office – which was the most boring job you could ever have – and it was then, that I tried to commit suicide.
It should have been emotionally draining, but I found it almost liberating in a sense. It was like I dispelling all these demons and everything”.

Regardless of who the film was for, it still wasn’t easy to put it together. “It was as funny as it was hard, in the sense that we just had to wheel and deal. There was a little book that came out in our local paper here in that had ‘The 20 richest guys in Adelaide’, so we found out where they all lived and started knocking on doors. We got $300,000 to start with, but then, the day before we started shooting, someone pulled out. I was like ‘oh shit’ – I had been rehearsing with my actors for four months, my crew was all ready, and people had come from interstate – what do I do? I decided that if I don’t tell them until the end of the week, they will still be pissed off, but at least I’ll have a quarter of a film done. In the meantime, I was on the phone trying to interest potential investors”, he says, “I had $100,000 of wages to pay by that Friday, and luckily, by that Tuesday, someone came on board with the financing.

The biggest name in the film would be Gary Sweet, of “Stingers” and “Police Rescue” fame. Coincidentally, Sweet’s son Frank, also appears in the movie.

“I got them on board independently”, explains Thalluri. “I met Gary through [director] Rolf De Heer – who he had done The Tracker and Alexandra’s Project with – who said sure, he’d do a cameo. I cast Frank from Actors Inc. Then, I was going through a friend with my casting choices, who noticed Frank and said ‘I went to school with Frank. His dad’s Gary Sweet’. I was like ‘Holy fuck!’, and when Gary found out Frank was in it, he was like ‘My dream has always been to be in a movie with my son’.

The last scene in the film, where we witness – rather violently – a young person ending their life, was the hardest to film, he says.

“That last scene still makes me cringe. It would be irresponsible of me if I didn’t show it the way I showed it [though]. I was working on a little behind-the-scenes video for the film, and I saw the scenes of the day where we were shooting that scene – I so remember that day, the atmosphere on the set was just… pin drop silence, and the performance that the [actor] was just throwing out at us, was just phenomenal.

Roadshow Film Distributors saw the potential in the finished product. “Roadshow picked it up in March”, says an obviously happy Thalluri. “We had a screening for distributors – there were five that were bidding on it – and Roadshow just made a huge offer for it. The same number they paid for Wolf Creek, so we were like ‘Holy fuck, this is awesome!’.

Thalluri hopes people take something away from the film.

“What I hope people get out of it, and this is from the idealist in me, – which is probably different to what is going to happen, because there are some cynics out there – is that I hope people realise that problems are all about perspective.

“People have to take say something as simple as a relationship break-up as seriously as they would something as difficult, and as hard, as rape – because both can cause a person to commit suicide. There’s no such thing as an important problem and an unimportant problem.

“What worked for me was…. Keeping yourself incredibly busy… sitting along in your room, just staring at walls, doesn’t do you any good. Crazy thoughts just go through your head a million miles an hour, otherwise. Channel it.


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