Recognition His ‘Pokkisham' may have come a cropper as far as collections go, but it is making quite a mark on the festival circuit.MALATHI RANGARAJAN

He has directed nine films, and won an equal number of awards -- four national and five Filmfare. Cheran, who is back from the Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) smiles: “It's a different world out there — one that goes beyond the viability factor of a film. A rewarding week it was!”

After his tryst with world cinema at MIFF, Cheran is now Kerala bound, for the international fest which opens today.

At MIFF

His critically acclaimed ‘Pokkisham,' which was a dead duck at the box office, was screened at MIFF's ‘World Classics' section where it was showered with accolades. Of the 11 chosen for the honour, ‘Pokkisham' was the only Tamil film. “Shyam Benegal was part of the selection committee,” he states with pride.

“The mindset of our directors ought to change -- most of the time the focus is on violence. Cinema as an art has been relegated to the background. It is business, nothing more,” he observes. “With an investment of just about Rs.1 crore small countries come up with such excellent films. Here, you need a minimum of 2 crores, that is, if you don't go in for big heroes.” His grouse is that people haven't been taught to view cinema as an art. “Projecting the hero as a superman seems the safest track.”

Why did ‘Pokkisham' not enter the competition section at MIFF? “Because films of first-time makers are preferred in this category -- probably organisers see it as a morale-boosting exercise. But even a 10-year old film that has never entered the fest before can qualify for the ‘Classics,'” he explains.

Of late, Cheran has been quite active on the festival circuit. He was a member of the jury for the Indian Premiere Section at the recent 40th International Film Festival in Goa. “The criterion for selection was that the film should not have been released for public viewing before the festival. Two years ago I was invited to join the jury, but I couldn't accept it then,” he says. Of the six members in the committee, only Cheran was from Tamil Nadu.

‘Pokkisham' will be a competitor at the Kerala International film Festival. It will be screened on December 14. It is also the only Tamil film to be selected for the Chennai International Film Festival, which is round the corner.

Quite a few new feathers in his cap you could say, but has the film's commercial status put his creative sojourn on hold? “Not at all, I've already begun working on my next project,” he laughs. Thankfully Cheran is the persevering kind!