The team from Coimbatore Cinema Club is camping in Chennai to give final touches to its first feature film “Madhubaanakadai”. The film, a TASMAC cocktail, is said to be a commercial entertainer. Filmmaker Dhanabal Padmanabhan is gearing up for the release of his “Krishnaveni Panjaalai” in February. A period film, it mirrors the living conditions of mill workers in the Udumalpet region.
J. Anand, who passed out of FTII, assisted cameraman Nirav Shah in films such as “Sarvam”, “Madrasapattinam”, and “Tamil Padam”. He showcases his magic with the camera in Vignesh Menon's “Vinmeengal”, on the life of a child with cerebral palsy. Cartoonist P.C. Balasubramanian has also made a short film “Thappaatam” that draws your attention to the ‘blame game' of political parties.
As filmmaking goes digital, the technology revolution is working wonders for aspiring filmmakers and cinematographers from small towns. Filmmaking is ‘democratised' and open for everyone now, these newcomers say.
“Technology gives that extra edge, extra space for a creator to dedicate himself to the craft of filmmaking,” says S. Kamala Kannan, director of “Madhubaanakadai”. He gives an example. He picked up wine shop regulars, recorded their expressions, and projected it on a big screen to help the actors emote better. “Such is the use of technology. The director can instantly edit the scenes, and see the outcome. Technology is a blessing. In fact, now you can shoot a film on a budget of Rs. 3 crore, which earlier would have cost over Rs. 6 crore,” says the director whose film was shot on a Canon 7D digital camera.
This pull for technology for those from small towns is attributed also to a boom in Visual Communication courses in such places.
“More than 30 youngsters who have assisted me in editing, cinematography, script-writing and direction are from the Visual Communication stream. Earlier only actors made it big in the industry (think Sathyaraj and Bhagyaraj from Coimbatore!). But now, we have technicians, directors, sound engineers and film editors too,” says Kamala Kannan.
However, technology is just an assisting factor. What matters is creativity and hard work, he says. ,Also, we need more filmmakers who are passionate about the craft, says director Dhanabal. “One should responsibly use the freedom that technology offers. Youngsters are brimming with fresh ideas; they understand the technical know-how and have immense knowledge on world cinema too. The future looks promising. We can expect a surge of alternate cinema told in an entertaining way in the next five years.”
And, thanks to technology, filmmaking is now independent. “Engineering students make films on issues that affect them — such as the tough examination system, internships and projects, something on the lines of Venkat Prabhu's ‘Chennai 600028' that dealt with gully cricket,” says Balasubramaniam whose short film “Thappaatam” is a political satire, shot on a Canon 7D. Moving on to his film, he says: “I came up with the idea during the elections when rival channels broadcast two versions of the same story.” He draws content for his short films from newspapers.
The filmmaker uploaded “Thappaatam” on Facebook, and got positive feedback. Keep it simple is his advice to aspiring filmmakers. He warns that there's more to a film than just a story and the technical aspects. “Handling the camera is easy, so is editing. But, one also has to learn to deal with crowds at the venue, unannounced power cuts, technical hiccups, and transportation. A pre-production plan has to be in place,” he says.
Exposure in handling cameras is a pre-requisite for a career in filmmaking, says J. Anand. “Before approaching a director, have a portfolio of short films and documentaries. Cameras have become cheaper now, and filmmaking has opened up in a big way.”
Interestingly, technology paves the way for many aspiring filmmakers, and along with it, offbeat films. And, the appreciation for such films is coming in from the multiplex audiences too. “The success of ‘Aaranya Kaandam', a dark neo-noir film on the underworld mafia, is proof of that,” says Anand.
With technology in their hand, the time is right for these small-town “filmmakers to experiment with themes and look beyond commercial success”, says artist V. Jeevananthan, whose book Thiraiseelai on cinema won a special mention at the National awards.
He has done a caricature of the characters of “Madhubaanakadai” for the promotion brochure. “They should make movies that elevate the audience to a higher level — like good music or a good painting.”