Three clubs where you can eat, drink, watch and discuss cinema. Sudhish Kamath on the city’s dedicated film-watching community
You wake up on a Saturday morning and head to Hotel Savera for the Cinema Rendezvous screening of Aaranya Kaandam and dissect it to bits with the director himself.
Or if you are an evening person, you dress up or get into costume for a movie-themed evening and find the organisers dressed in drag at Sandy’s just to bring the elements from Birdcage alive. It’s like the movie has spilled into the lawns with costume, music, food, drinks and decor blending into your space as you are watching the film.
Or if you are nocturnal, you could be spending a whole night on a rooftop at Rails Factory — from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. — watching Martin Scorsese movies hand-picked by Gautham Menon himself, with the filmmaker talking to you about the influence Scorsese has had in his films. You grab a pillow and get under a blanket not to sleep but to make yourself at home — watching movies.
No other Indian city has a film watching community as dedicated and enthusiastic as Chennai. Here’s a look at the three film clubs that have helped film buffs in the city bond over movies. In the night. And day.
Chennai Roof Top Film Festival
Organised by: Anonymous volunteers
USP: Movies of a theme all night curated by a volunteer and a late night interaction with a mystery guest. Like Venkat Prabhu dropping in at a Heist night during Mankatha or filmmaker Thiagarajan Kumararaja dropping in during an Indian Panorama night or director Vishnuvardhan surprising everyone at a Gangster night.
What they do: A bunch of movie buffs meet once a quarter to figure out the next three monthly curators. If you have attended RTFF three times, you can be a curator and you get to pick a theme/genre and the mystery guest you are bringing. Once you are a curator, the regulars at RTFF help you out with the logistics — renting out projectors, sound system, mattresses and pillows, refreshments etc. The cost of the event is shared by the registrants who buy their tickets (that costs between Rs. 200-300 depending on scale and theme of the night) online in advance to avoid no-shows. RTFF had to be suspended due to non-availability of roof tops but has been revived again this month, with support from The Startup Centre. The curtains go up for RTFF on Saturday night.
Member Profile: Mostly 18-40, college students, working professionals. Given the all night nature of the event, more men than women but that has changed over the last few editions.
How films are picked: Only the genre is revealed in advance. The films are picked by curators... a mix of the must-watch films of the genre and the rarely heard obscure picks. Curators are usually flexible with programming, depending on the general mood of the audience during post-film discussions.
How to register: Watch out for announcements on when registrations open through Twitter and Facebook.
Since: October 2012
Organised by: Shylaja Chetlur and Nina Reddy
Frequency: Monthly, usually second Saturday mornings
USP: Every session has one special film industry invitee to chair the informal discussions post screening. One film per edition and discussions go on for as long as the length of the film.
What they do: The film club thrives on annual and monthly donations from film buffs to facilitate the event (The annual donor pass for 12 days is Rs.1,500 and monthly donor pass costs Rs. 150; students get a concession — Rs. 800 for the whole year). “It is like a licensed movie date for the romance of cinema, we do not restrict it to any particular kind of film. When we screened Guess Who’s Coming For Dinner, there was talk that it is not film club material. We want to reach out to conservative groups and make them push the limits of films they watch. We try to get a lot of women. We look at mainstream cinema with larger knowledge of the medium and also the social implications, not just entertainment,” says Shylaja.
Member profile: Initially the Duchess Club and the artist community but youngsters from media studies and film schools have started attending.
How films are picked: The guest and the organisers decide and pick the film together. Like filmmaker Jayendra wanted to screen The Fall, Vetrimaran brought a Polish film called Kanal and the organisers played Chitrangada as a tribute to Rituparno Ghosh and the discussions were chaired by Apsara Reddy. Other selections include Dancer in the Dark (Naga), Duel (R.S Prasanna) and Harischandrachi Factory (Rohini) and Current (K. Hariharan)
How to register: Directly at venue, Hotel Savera, every second Saturday, 10 a.m.
Since: January 2014
Organised by: Sharan Reddy and friends
USP: A secret cinema, where the audience attire, the food, the costumes and the location is all themed to provide clues as to what film is going to be screened.
Frequency: Twice a year currently but the organisers hope to make it once every three months soon.
What they do: It is about secret cinema where people don’t know what they are going to come and watch. The organisers give you a lot of clues about the film they will play. The idea is to intrigue and then surprise. During the Birdcage night, movie buffs got to eat and drink quite a bit from the movie.
Member Profile: People interested in mystery and that eliminated a lot of the older generation. A lot more girls than guys showed up.
How films are picked: “We license films which we can afford and usually films that haven’t sold non-broadcast rights in India are cheaper. My company works with Hollywood Studios, so we got in touch with MGM/UA directly and paid them a licence fee,” says Sharan Reddy.
How to register: Zoetrope.in