A change of scenery
A career in the arts is not usually seen as synonymous with security. The struggling artist has become the punch line of too many bad jokes. It should therefore come as no surprise that many individuals, no matter their level of interest in the arts, are reluctant to pursue their dream careers and opt, instead, for a safer job with assured earning potential. One of these individuals was Mumbai-based cinematographer, Archana, who worked in software engineering before realising that it “just wasn't right”. Her decision to turn to cinematography while she was “still young and had the opportunity to do so” was difficult, both because she was voluntarily leaving a stable profession and entering into one where she had little experience, and for the lack of support she received from her friends and co-workers. Further down the track, Archana is both confident that it was the right decision and that she will not be turning back.
Director SM Raju, whose film Varnam is in the Tamil Competition section of the festival, was also educated in computer science. He lived abroad for many years before deciding to return to India and turn to filmmaking. With his wife, Aparna, a dancer, he has translated his passion for the arts into a full-time career, and now devotes his time to managing dance-theatre performances and pursuing personal film projects around Chennai.
Finally, Madhan Karky, the son of lyricist Vairamuthu and Tamil professor Ponmani, has chosen a completely different path, choosing to balance two careers rather than abandoning one in favour of the other. Even while growing up in an artistic family, Karky ultimately earned his PhD in computer science from the University of Queensland, and now finds pleasure in actively pursuing both his interests, academics as well as lyric-writing.
Walk on the wild side
Alphonse Roy is quiet for a moment. Barely raising an eyebrow, he asks “Can films change society? I've been wondering about this for 40 years. I don't have an answer”. The film industry has been host to multiple works dedicated to heightening awareness of particular issues. While the “conventional” Indian film has mainly drawn viewers' attention to familiarly melodramatic plots, themes and characters, there are a fair few films that have broken this mould and diverted attention to graver themes, with varying degrees of success. Roy, a wildlife cinematographer and long-time documentary maker, believes that the documentary is the perfect example of the sort of cause-based film that has gained greater respect from audiences in recent years. He stated that the documentary has slowly become a more accepted medium of representation for directors seeking to represent a serious issue in a realistic manner. For Roy, documentaries are not films made for entertainment but are instead intended for the betterment of society. He has almost lost faith in the future of documentary in India. The dearth of support from corporations, governments and the general public has meant that documentaries have struggled to rise to prominence in the Indian film industry. For this reason, Roy has been slowly moving into feature films, attempting to combine his background in documentary with more popular techniques, hoping to strike a balance that appeals to the Indian public and thus deepen the impact of film upon society.