An animated discussion on what constituted ‘good cinema’ marked Naivaal’s recent event. K. Jeshi reports
At a recent discussion on cinema organised by Naaivaal Film Society, Vetrimaaran, the writer-director of Aadukalam, which won six National awards, was asked to define ‘good cinema’. He said, “It is vast. You cannot contain the thematic content under one definition. Good cinema is something original, and holistic and addressed social issues.
“In Tamil cinema, we often overlook film language and style, and get carried away by content. Director Balu Mahendra mastered the film language style, while Mani Ratnam excelled in using cinema as a medium, but their content lacked originality. It’s a fine balance of film language and content that makes for good cinema.” Only when he has total control over the medium and when every single frame unfolds in the film the way he has visualised it, can a creator own the film, he explained. “I am still working on it,” he said.
Young filmmakers should look for native stories, he said. “When a filmmaker understands the raw emotions of his land and manages to make someone sitting across the globe cry, his film becomes a classic or world cinema.” But he also pointed out that every film needn’t be a classic. “We also enjoy films like Dhool, Ghilli or OKOK. They are also cinema.” Writers, poets and other well wishers felicitated the director at the function.
The founder of Naaivaal, writer Paamaran, said the film society wanted to befriend the common man. “We don’t want to scare you with jargon like ‘world cinema’ or ‘film noire’. Instead, we want to show the classics of Bala, Balu Mahendra, and Vetrimaaran, and introduce you to film appreciation.”
Paamaran hummed the lines ‘vellaavi vecchuthaan velutha...’ from Aadukalam. “While Bharathiraaja took his cameras to the villages and recorded stories in their natural settings (away from the confines of the studio), director Mahendran allowed us a peek into ordinary lives with classics such as Uthiri Pookal and Metti. It’s a big responsibility to make films on society and bring about a change. Vetrimaaran and Bala are doing this.”
When it was Raju Murugan’s turn to speak, the writer, known for his popular column ‘Vaddiyum Mudhalum’ in Ananda Vikatan recalled his days as a cub reporter.
“I spent many years watching ‘mokkai’ films and reviewing them. In my childhood, cinema meant only melodrama. I had watched films such as Vazhkkai and Tulabharam. But later, films such as Bharathiraaja’s Kadalora Kavithaigal and Mahendran’s Uthiri Pookal drew me to cinema.”
Murugan said actor-director Rajkiran had once told him how he had stumbled upon a one-line description of his award winning Raasaavin Manasiley . “It was a villager who had declared to Rajkiran, ‘Saarayam kudikkkiravan samsaaram panna mudiyaathu’. That became the tagline of Raasaavin… Rajkiran told me this as an example of how good writing and literature often springs from simple folk. That has been a starting point for my column where I document ordinary lives.”
According to Murugan, filmmakers such as Bala, Vetrimaaran and Balaji Sakthivel have set a refreshing trend for youngsters. “They have also given them the confidence to make meaningful films. Though the freedom to make films is often clipped at many levels, beginning with the producers and later the censors, we still have good cinema. So there is always hope for good films.”
Kavignar Babu also appreciated Aadukalam for staying true to its Madurai roots. “Many directors bring in their personal influences while fleshing out a character. However, genuine writers employ the ‘koodu vittu koodu paindhu” approach, where they stay detached, and create memorable characters. Aadukalam is one such example. Vetrimaaran is a ray of hope and his films flow like a pristine river.”
Advocate Sivakumar of Naaivaal also recalled the 80s and the films of director Mahendran, such as Mullum Malarum where Rajnikanth gave a stellar performance. Of course, Ilaiyaraaja’s music played a pivotal role in the films of that time, he added .
A short film, Aatraamai, on the Eelam struggle made by Raazim Althaf Ahamed was screened. The event also saw the launch of Ray School of Short Films that conducts filmmaking workshops. Mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org