Filmmaker Ramani lost his camera in the tsunami and made My Camera and Tsunami soon after that

The limitlessness of one's imagination can be a shocking truth to come to terms with. Some people are able to find it in the most obvious, and others go looking for it in the dark alleys and lonely stretches of their mind. Receiving this message and the way we break our way down to the artist's thoughts is when the exercise is complete.

Without meaning to sound clinical, this entire process is an experiment that is several centuries old, and has over the years been fuelled by a need to be alternative, and ego. Filmmaker Ramani found expression as a student at the Film and Television Institute of India, “I was never attracted to the glamour of commercial films, although I did do a couple of assignments as a camera-man, it was not my cup of tea. My personal films and expression is what I was always involved in, it suits my needs. This comes from the exercises we do at the institute, where you are encouraged to be purely experimental,” says the filmmaker, who was in Bangalore, for a screening of his film, “My Camera and Tsunami”.

Ramani used a particular camera, one that was his constant companion. This was the camera he lost in the 2004 tsunami along with four friends, “A lot of films had been shot with that camera, and I had lost everything that had been shot – I could not retrieve any of the images. It was this displacement of reality and film that evoked a whole lot of other images. This film is a personal experiment where I am constantly addressing the process of creating an image.”

Ramani was with his friend on a Nagercoil beach the day the tsunami hit the country. He watched transfixed as the sea rose to form a black wall of water and move towards land, “I don't know if I am still reacting, or the reaction is yet to come. I was fascinated by it and I am still experiencing it, not so much as a voyeur though. It is rare to survive something like that and it's a miracle for me.”

While it was obvious that Ramani would make a film about the subject, it is also obvious to wonder how he would pull it off. “I started for various reasons; creating something in the absence of an image fascinated me. But it was only an idea that I had, it was only when the Busan International Film Festival gave me a grant to do it that I actually did it,” says Ramani, who then went about creating a film about his camera and the moments he shared with it before the tsunami. “I went about relocating everything that I had filmed with the camera. And sometime later even the Public Service Broadcasting Trust also pitched in and helped with the production,” says Ramani.

Ramani's films come from a very basic need, to express. It forms the bedrock of his work and as an audience you tend to catch on quite early. He doesn't complicate anything as if he went that extra length to make it all prima facie, “It largely comes from a notion of expression. Everyone is struggling to express themselves and it can be in any form, not necessarily art. It can confuse you if you don't find it, this is an area I am connected to and I'm constantly looking for. I struggled to express something I went through, I had no image but had to find the appropriate expression for loss, tragedy, fascination, it is a struggle. You look at your own grammar and question it,” explains Ramani.

The man makes films to understand things, “When you are in that process you begin to negotiate what you understand and what you don't,” says Ramani who made the film, “Nee Yaar” about a Tamil writer because he liked him and wanted to understand why.

“When I get into the active process of filmmaking I change, I am fascinated. Even now I take pictures of what interests me with my phone, and wonder why nobody else finds it interesting. I don't know what it is,” explains Ramani about whether his thought process is separate when he is a filmmaker. “I sense a film and when that happens I am tuned to it. I am in a certain kind of frame, structure and energy. I once saw a German artist creating a piece of art and she was really vigorous and had a whole new level of energy with the process. I did a film about her trying to express what she was going through. In that way I am completely dependent on my subjects, I have to go through their process and configuration. When I was doing that film everything I looked at was different and charged with energy.”