S. Anand’s Thiriaipada Medhaigal opens up the world of international cinema masters

S. Anand, a movie buff, has written a book on 16 world masters in cinema in a Tamil book titled Thiraippada Medhaigal. “Anyone who watches a classic wants to know more about the maker. In the 70s, when I watched a Satyajit Ray film, I would go to the British Council Library in Chennai to learn more about him. Though there are plenty of English books on the French new wave cinema, Italian neo-realism and so on, there is none in Tamil,” he says.

Thiraippada Medhaigal introduces the world of masters to cinema buffs in easy-to-follow, conversational Tamil. It is a handy guide for the common man, just like himself, says Anand. “I have seen all the films I have written about, many times. And, what I have written is my take on them.”

Thiraippada Medhaigal is his tribute to the world masters who took cinema to great heights. “They have contributed to the growth of cinema. Their techniques and aesthetics serve as a guide for today’s film makers. These filmmakers were humanists and dealt with social concerns in their cinema. They made films from their heart. They had conviction and never compromised creativity for the sake of fame or money. Every time you watch their films, they grow on you and leave you asking for more. That’s why their cinema is timeless.”

The first chapter in Thiraippada Medhaigal is dedicated to F.W .Murnau, a German director of the silent era, who is influenced by Expressionism. The cover of the book has Lenin Reifenstahl, one of the greatest female film makers. After the Second World War, when Hitler came into power, she made a riveting documentary in 1935 called Triumph of the Will. “A pioneer, she adopted innovative methods in cinematography and film making which are still relevant today and will be in the days to come,” he says.

Poetic

Jean-Pierre Melville, Robert Bresson, and Jean Renoir are represented too. “Bresson is known for his spiritual and philosophical masterpieces such as Pickpocket and Balthazar. He follows a simple style of working and makes masterpieces. He describes cinematography as a ‘painting on celluloid’.”

Anand says Federico Fellini describes cinema as poetry. “Russian film maker Andrei Tarkovsky is the greatest poet of cinema. His films are like modern poetry that baffles one with a narration far beyond one’s expectations. Every frame is like a painting. He used long shots in his narration in films such as Eight-and-a-half and Le Strada.”

No book on world masters is complete without Ingmar Bergman. Anand says Bergman had deep rooted fears and his films were personal outbursts.

Interesting tidbits fill the book. Speaking of Werner Herzog and his unorthodox film making, he says how Herzog began making films when he was only 17. He worked as a welder at night and made films during the day. “It was Murnau who unchained the camera and took it off the tripod for his narrative. He made a number of silent films and was also the first to make Dracula. Fox Company gave him a blank cheque to make the silent film Sunrise,” says Anand

You can read all about Realist French film maker Jean Renoir, Luis Bunuel (father of cinematic surrealism), Akira Kurosawa, and Vittorio De Sica of the Italian Neo Realist movement in the book.

Anand also describes the work of Kobayashi, who made Kwaidan (a set of four ghost stories). “Harakiri was a satire on the ritual suicide. Human Conditions highlighted the self-violence and is one of the best trilogies ever made.”

Anand, who is a part of the Konangal Film Society, hopes the information he has provided in the book will be helpful. Without background information, some films might confuse the audience. “I avoid interpreting films intellectually. Every member of the audience is a ‘rasika’ and I leave it to them to do that.”

Thiraippada Medhaigal, published by Tamizhini, will soon be available at Vijaya Pathipagam and New Century Book House. Limited copies are available with Konangal. It costs Rs.450.

The book is the first of a series of three. Masters such as Sergey Eisenstein, Antonioni, Hitchcock, Orson Wells, Ritwik Ghatak, Satyajit Ray and selected contemporary directors will be covered in the forthcoming books.

In Thiraippada … learn about

Danish master Carl Theodor Dreyer’s influential masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) is rated as one of the top 10 films in the world

Japanese filmmaker Kenji Mizoguchi is often called a director’s director

Jean-Pierre Melville is considered the Godfather of French new wave cinema