Monday, December 24, 2007

Malayalam Cinema: Changing Patterns of Consumption

Lively and animated are the adjectives by which one may describe the fourth day’s Open Forum on the subject ‘Malayalam Cinema of Today’. Held as part of the ongoing 12th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) at the A.K.Hameed Pavilion the fully packed venue reflected the interest of the audiences in the subject. Commenting on the situation today, Chairman Kerala State Film Development Coparation K.G.George said that parallel filmmakers have to contend with the super star system, which has become a pre-condition of the market. He agreed that money is important in filmmaking. Sharing their thoughts on the subject were panel members, Shyama Prasad, Director, ‘Ore Kadal’, Avira Rebecca, Director, ‘Thakara Chenda’, Roshan Andrews, Director, ‘Notebook’ and Sunil, Director, ‘Kaliyorukkam’. The moderator, Reji.M.Damodaran opened by hoping that this platform would emerge as a forum to deeper issues pertaining to Malayalam cinema. On filmmaking, Shymaprasad said that the subject of the open forum that should determine the approach. Also the situation today is one where there can be no water-tight compartment as Malayalam cinema. “More than the identity of Malayalam cinema, I am more concerned about the identity of cinema as a medium of expression in general” – he said. Agreeing with Shyama Prasad, Roshan Andrews said that the approach is determined to suit the concept. His films drew from his experiences and what he has has read, heard or seen. In the case of Notebook, he said that it was the love for the concept that prompted him to make the film. Stating that he had different views from the other panelists, Avira Rebecca said that cinema can be viewed either as a craft or an expression of the human mind. His films are removed from the technical and aesthetic attempts of filmmaking and attempt more at reflecting the human mind. He reiterated that he gave more importance to ideas than techniques. Sunil, Director of Kaliyorukkam spoke about his 50 minute film and described it as a political one. This venture was supported by the Grama Panchayat of Kannapuram in Kannur district. This film, which was filmed in 10 days, received some support from Kerala State Film Development Corporation with the elders and children in the village acting in it. When asked about his plans for their wider screening, Sunil replied that he bore no aspirations for a wide release for his film and had plans of screening it with the support of Film Societies. A participant while observing that filmmakers of today shy away from venturing into bold subjects and restrict themselves to orthodox subjects, said that Ore Kadal and Thakara Chenda were examples of ventures that dared to convey bold themes. As such they deserved to be in competition section of the IFFK. This was received by the audience with a round of applause. In making films like these, the producers are left with no profit and wanted the Chalachithra Academy to help youngsters who wanted to explore such themes and subjects. Films such as these must be screened at least once a week in all the districts of Kerala.

On the subjects and treatment of films, Shyama Prasad said that it was upto each filmmaker to decide the content and subject of their films. Films could reflect human problems or their personal problems. The choice of amplification of subject should be left to the filmmaker. Andrews said that the message that he wanted to convey through Notebook was that children are best raised through parents. The idea emanated from his his experience of staying in a boarding school. There was witnessed an animated discussion between a lady participant and the director on the issue of portraying ‘weak’ women through his film. Andrews replied by seeking a clarity on the term ‘weak’. He said that he tried to project girls/women who have the freedom of seeking love and said that these could not be characterised as weak. He had also tried to show a positive role of the media, especially in enlightening his character on the issue of abortion.

The discussion then steered to the importance of money in filmmaking. Avira Rebecca said that he had invested 40 lakhs in his film but has not been able to get any returns. Cinema needs promoting by the Government

On the positive and negative aspects of films today, Andrews said today’s cinema revolves more around the hero. There are happening societal and global changes which impact cinema. Agreeing with his fellow director, Shyama Prasad said that the environment of consumption of cinema has changed. In the 1960s cinema used to be the main medium of entertainment. Today when there are other channels of entertainment, the filmmaker works in a crowded environment. There is also the entry of films from otehr languages, Hollywood films and films from the Internet. The challenge of the filmmaker today is to bring more audiences in a short period. The profile of audience is changing. Audiences come to the theatres looking for a dynamic, visual experience. On why popular films are perceived as anti people, Shyama Prasad clarified that each subject required a different treatment, which is in-built in it. “I believe in making an engaging story and not necessarily superficial entertainers, he reiterated.

K.G.George concluded the discussion by stating that he anticipated some changes in the patterns of exhibition in the near future. The entry of mutliplexes will enable this change and help recover costs. KSFDC has plans in this direction, he added. When he asked about the inclusion of films like Ore Kadal and Thakara Chenda in the competitive section, he said that the selection of films by the Jury is based on a common decision. Jury Committees have their limitations. While awards are very important, it is not enough the judge the quality of the award.

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