Meet celebrated documentary filmmaker R.P. Amudhan

For someone who has filmed a dozen documentaries that poignantly portray the pain of people, R.P. Amudhan comes across as a cheerful man.

It was the National Jury award for his Tamil documentary on a manual scavenger, “Pee” at the 9th Mumbai International Film Festival in 2006, that threw the spotlight on Amuthan.

Even as a child, he had a passion for filmmaking. “I still remember the day when my teacher asked me what I would like to become, and I replied, ‘a film director’. I was just 13 then, but clear about my career. However, I never thought I would become a documentary filmmaker,” he says.

Relationships matter

Because he was a hosteller, Amudhan loves to read, hear and write about human relationships and family intrigue. “Students staying away from the family tend to get violent. But, I diverted myself to art. If I am able to bring to light the sufferings of people with considerable success, it is because I relate to them better. I identify with their pain.”

As a student, Amudhan evinced keen interest in drama, dance and even ran a manuscript journal single-handedly. He started reading novels by Sujatha, Balakumaran and T. Janakiraman during his college days, and gradually moved on to serious literature. “The writings of litterateurs, including Pudhumaipithan, Alagirisamy and Nagarajan, moulded my mind and gave me the confidence to write short stories and poetry.”

Amudhan credits his father with inspiring him into radical thinking. “My father is a political activist and dedicated to public service. He introduced me to different ideologies and is the greatest influence on me.”

When it came to post-graduation, Amudhan took up Development Communication at Madurai Kamaraj University. Seeing his creative urge, a friend advised him to attend a documentary orientation programme organised by the Delhi-based ‘Cendit’. This proved to be a turning point in Amudhan’s life. “I was introduced to world cinema and watched documentaries by Anand Patwardhan, Dennis O’ Rourke, Challam Bannurakar, KP. Sasi, Deepa Dhanraj and Vasudha Joshi,” he says.

Amudhan says documentaries suit his “artistic sensibility, personality and small town upbringing”. “It is more personal as I am totally independent. I shoot, direct, edit and record. The money, language and snobbishness of popular cinema do not fit into my framework,” he says.

Enriching knowledge

He feels a documentary is an intellectual discourse between the audience and the filmmaker. It is hard work for the filmmaker and demands lot of audience attention. “Documentaries actually contribute, enhance and enrich the knowledge of the audience,” he asserts.

The creator should have the time, tolerance and sensitivity to project issues that impact people, says Amudhan, who is at present working on “Radiation Stories”, a documentary on people affected by nuclear radiation. In more ways than one, Amudhan has achieved that. Most of his documentaries have become campaign materials, and screened all over the State.