Wednesday, October 27, 2010


In my last module on Film Studies, Gender and Sexuality in Cinema, I have done an essay based on the study of three short film on eros, in experimental omnibus film titled 'EROS' by three directors Wong Kar-Wai, Steven Soderburgh and Michelangelo Antonioni. All the three directors had their varied view on love, lust and eros in cinema. My introduction to the essay is as follows,

Love and Eros are paradoxically two widely contrasting yet closely connected terms. Love can be erotic but all that is erotic need not be love. There always remained the question that whether or not an erotic art form is also a representation of love. Victorian semi-nude sketches and paintings to the old historic sculptures crafted on the postures of sexual pleasure based on the book Kamasutra are considered erotic, yet a true representation of affection and love. The French film critic and filmmaker Ado Kyrou, in his book ‘Amour-Erotisme Et Cinema’, argues that the traditional ideology is based on the isolation of tender love and respect from lust and libido.

The new short film ‘Love’ that I shared in facebook was a deliberate attempt to understand the perception to the above-mentioned notion on EROS. Since the moment I wrote the essay, I was thinking on how differently people think about a lovemaking scene in film. ‘Love’ was a little experiment with the audio-visaul art form I strongly believe in. I’m sure I’m not causing any public or private harm. Neither the film had protagonists who are naked nor there is an erotic seductress in the film. There aren’t any explicit sex sequences, except of half lighted floor and camera angle that is contributing the voyeurism of audience, a poetic rhythm and a piece of music to which the performer react to his guitar as his partner in love.

Love: A chapter and a metaphor to Love. It is an attempt to realise a virtual ambiance of love. Thanks to my flatmates for sharing thoughts on this. I have reasons not to title it Lust. Good experiences make it a divine feeling called love and the bad ones make it devilish lust. Love is when mind and body together REACT and lust is when the body alone 'ACT'.

I guess this is one of my most successful lab-experiment, with lighting, music and performance, looking at the variety of comments I received. A lot contributed to what I read and wrote in the essay on EROS, and I find it true too. Thank you guys. It was a excellent learning experience.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Beyond colours...

“I was hurt when someone told me that a shot in the film I worked was fantastic. He said he was so thrilled at the camera angle and lighting of that particular shot.” Cinematographer Madhu Ambat told the audience. I was attending the Lights On session at Sathyam Theatres, Chennai two years back. For the surprised look of audience he continued “It was like saying “wow” that particular line in the novel was so touching. Until cinema is treated as a complete art work, what is the point of praising one shot and its excellence? As a technician I was happy but not as the creator.”

My cinematographer friend Anbu very often says “Machi, the chain of beautiful frames I see in a film is such a torture, after certain point of time. Is life that beautiful as they represent in films? Definitely no, then why do we create such spectacular visuals? ”. Listening to them, I learnt a lot from the veteran and the beginner on equal levels. Both of them are right. Recently I read the same from texts on Neorealist filmmakers and French critics. Last week my Professor, Dr. Jamie Sexton was taking a session on how IMAXs came decades back and how it failed to continue to excite people after the initial excitement. IMAXs are definitely back for sure. But I bet it will stay as a powerful medium only if the cinema remains an authentic piece of art and not a visual spectacle made only for that.

Without knowing anything about cinema, during my college days I asked Anbu whether the theatre can be in the shape of an egg and the audience can feel the screen all around them as if the are in reality. What if the theatre make you feel like you are in a battle field and from one corner a horse rider approach you and shoot an arrow right above you to the other end of the space where his opponent warrior stands. Even today I would like to see a cinema like that, but if and only if it is rooted on aesthetics and principles true to its essence and common sense. I am not talking about rules, which I never believed in. For that matter I dont think any art is cocooned inside a set of rules.

All that disturbs is exaggeration beyond imagination, as long as an art claims to be the representation of societies, cultures and landscapes. My say has nothing to do with fantasy tales. I am still an admirer of comic books. Still read the Malayalam children magazines Balarama, Poompatta, Bobanum Molliyum and Pico classics with the same passion and enthusiasm with which I read them in my childhood. I still do watch Walt Disney cartoons and fantasy films. I was watching the Padmarajan film Njan Gandharvan with my good friend Soma yesterday. It was still a magical experience, like a dream that leave you dream more... Andre' Bazin's concept of realism was very interesting to hear. Professor said that in Bazin's point of view cinema has a privileged relation to realism.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010


It was so exciting to talk to Sundar today. When I called him, he was in bus passing through the village Dusi, where we together documented the Tiraupati Amman festival last year. He too got so excited and shouted back, “I was thinking of the devil and there u r on phone talking to me. Is it magic?” What more to say, “I do miss you brother.” I remember the terrace of that lodge we stayed in Kanchipuram when you first talked to me all about ur life and hugged me tight with tears. That was the first time you called me brother. The afternoon when I left NFSC, I knew that you just vanished for lunch only because you could not see me leaving. It was on purpose that I didn’t go finding you to say a Good-bye. Sundar is the best ‘people management’ person I had ever met. He can be emotional at various levels, but at the same time he can perfectly balance the levels of it to the practicality and situation. He is so talented at reading the mind of the people who he works with. A perfect quality for community based projects.

The village Dusi was our first field trip together, when we hardly knew each other. Interestingly, on the second day of the field trip I called the office and said I have a serious problem working with him. Ironically, on the third day I called again to say that I would like to continue to work with Sundar. What I understood from the first day was that before doing research work with Sundar, I must do my basic research on Sundar. Thus I took him to the open terrace of the lodge at night and talked to him holding his hands. The rock melted. In an hour, I understood who is Iyer, who is Sundar and who is Manivannan, thus that man who is admired by people with all these names.Since then we were together since I left NFSC. We worked day and night, travelling like nomads in search of the essence of community we worked with. His ‘little’ presence was important than his ‘complete’ presence. While shooting the festival he used to vanish from the spot for many hours, but the moment I was tired and in need of a quick nap, he were there behind me smiling, to take over the camera.

Though a lot of hick-ups happened between us - A LOT OF TIMES - I always considered him as the leader of the project every time we travelled to work with a community. Hence in all documentaries I did with him, I have him credited as co-director without measuring to what extend his contribution was, as strongly believed that none of those films would have shaped so well without his skills with people and community.

Sundar’s experience of working with the people helped me a lot to mingle with the community. He knew how to get the right result from the mind of a person. I used to leave him as the interviewer stepping aside as a cameraman coz it was great watching him doing that with perfection. In case he missed something, I just had to give a little hint for him to grab the question. Moreover he equally understood the commitment we had for the community and artists as we went on studying them. More than an ethnographer, being a humanitarian is equally important while working with a community. He had seen the struggles of Therukoothu artists throughout his life. Those months when they have absolutely no performances, they live on the little wages from other jobs. As I have seen, it is the passion that drives most of the artists to their art more than monitory benefits. But it was difficult to understand who were actually in need and who were not. For Sundar I did frame a few funding proposals to help the artists. Still there were many occasions that I felt Sundar behaving like a rock to some people’s emotions and tears. When I asked about that he said, “Not all those actors are poor and needy. You need to recognize the actors of life too. Let us support the needy not the greedy.”

There is good example of his intelligence in this space. After documenting the festival at Dusi we promised that we would give a copy of the whole 44 tapes we shot at the village. According to the promise, we went back after a few months. Interestingly the villagers themselves had forgotten about our promise to them. When I was about to handover the DVDs to a well-known person in the village, Sundar called me back and announced to the entire crowd that there would be a ceremony at village temple where NFSC would be sharing the whole 44 tapes to the village-head in the presence of all villagers along with the screening of best moments of the event. He also announced that if anybody wants to see the videos in future, they could contact the village-head and collect it for free. I was shocked about the plan of such a big event, but then the last line Sundar said made me realise his logic.

On our way back Sundar said, “Why would we let one person have the control of all DVDs. What if he put it for sale and makes money for himself alone? Moreover after a ceremony, every villager would be confident that we were not trying to exploit them.” Dusi is now a home for me because of Sundar. There are a lot of people who recognize me there. I do remember that little girl who walked with me to main road, asking me to take her as a sister to Chennai.

In Chennai, Sundar was always “Sundar” to me and I was “Arun Sir” for him. But the very moment we entered the vicinity of Kanchipuram I called him “Iyereeeee…” He then gave a quick grin and then switched on to a fake serious look and said, “Deiii…”