Manu Mohan’s docu-film on RLV College of Music and Fine Arts records the history of the college. He is now making a film on veteran music director V. Dakshinamoorthy

Very often Life has a way of sidetracking us. And Manu Mohan is one young artist-filmmaker who has realised it quite early in his life.

Out of college and trained in the Applied Arts, Manu chanced to spend some time at the editing desk of a local television channel. Here he assisted the reporters and cameramen in their regular beats. Gradually Manu was being drawn to a new world, a new passion. From the ‘monotony’ of the editing table Manu positioned himself almost regularly behind the camera. He was out on the streets shooting and reporting for the channel.

Even while Manu has plans to do his MPhil in Applied Arts, he is bent on making ‘meaningful films.’ His first documentary Thiranottam on RLV College of Music and Fine Arts, Tripunithura, his alma mater, is a step in this direction.

As General Secretary of the College Union, Manu was hugely instrumental in setting up the RLV Film Club in 2007. “The intention was to have a regular film festival running and also give the students a chance to make their own films. Since the club came into being we have had 18 short films and a couple of documentaries, all of which have been screened at our festival. A platform has been created for budding filmmakers and they are making good use of it,” informs Manu, who passed out of the college last year.

It took Manu a little more than two years to complete Thiranottam. And what makes this film significant is that it contains visuals of the old college building that has been razed to the ground and the magnificent Puthen Bungalow Palace which has now gone to seed.

“I don’t think these visuals are now available anywhere. When I started off I was not aware of the problems I would have to face. I could not shoot at a stretch as this involved a lot of formalities. So I shot in bits and pieces. Some days I came to college even before it was open, to get my visuals.”

The film documents the history of the college making use of archival photographs and stunning visuals of the old building, the different classes held. The film travels through various important incidents, like student agitations for better facilities, affiliation etc.

Documentary filmmaking requires a multitude of skills and talents. A filmmaker tends to become a techie, storyteller, part business person. The job entails choosing the equipment to scripting right to raising funds to complete the project. Manu was fortunate to have some good friends to join him in making the film.

“Jayakumar Chengamanadu (screenplay), Midhun (music), Manesh (graphics), Vipin (sound), Aneesh and Isac (stills) contributed a lot. There were so many others like the singers, title designers who assisted me. Personally, it was a huge satisfaction to complete the project. We priced it at Rs. 100, sold some during the Platinum Jubilee celebrations of the college, got the help of sponsors, and finally we were able to break even.”

Manu has started work on what he calls his ‘dream’ project - a documentary on veteran music director V. Dakshinamoorthy. “Films, for me, must be meaningful. I have always felt that Swami, as Dakshinamoorthy is respectfully called, has not been given his due. His songs are still popular but his life and music needs to be preserved for the future. He does not have a website, nor has a proper documentation on him been done. I have got permission from him and I have begun work.”

Manu is delighted with the first few shots he has got. “This Navarathri I went to Kannur and Kozhikode where Swami participated in functions. At Kannur more than 400 children were initiated into learning by Swami. I have got some endearing visuals of this. At Kozhikode I got some ‘live’ feed of his kutcheri.”

Manu continues to enjoy his Applied Art options and also hopes to land a job in this field. He teaches drawing at an institute at Thiruvankulam. But it seems that he will not be able to shake the tug of filmmaking.