Venture into making movies in their language, launch their own film chamber

A whole new crop of film aficionados, technicians and enthusiasts from Madurai have taken their love for cinema to the next level. With the launch of All India Sourashtra Film Chamber in the city on Sunday, the members of the Sourashtra community have made their presence felt and cemented their affiliation with filmmaking.

For the Sourashtras in the city — numbering around 3.5 lakh — who migrated from the Saurashtra region of Gujarat centuries ago, their involvement in films is nothing new or novel. “Many of our people have been working in the film and television industries — in front of and behind the cameras — over the years,” says Rama Eashwarlal, chairman of Sourashtra Film Chamber.

While this community is spread across the country with a total population of about 12 lakh people, the Sourashtras say a good number of them have settled down in Madurai. The community first began making its foray into filmmaking two years back when a few film enthusiasts came together to make full-length feature films on a small budget in their language. The films came under censorship in the linguistic minority category as well.

“We’ve set up the chamber with an aim to bring technicians and enthusiasts together and take their talents in the right direction. Many youngsters with an interest in making feature films don’t have the right people to mentor or guide them which is where we come in,” said Mr.Eashwarlal.

Films over the years

The films made over the last couple of years were screened at community gatherings and sold as CDs which were well received, the chamber members said. ‘Hedde Jomai,’ a feature film made last year, created history by becoming the first Sourashtra film to be screened in a cinema hall. “The film had a limited release in Madurai, Paramakudi, Salem and Dindigul for a week. Since the budgets of the films were small, we managed to recover a substantial amount of the cost, and in some cases managed to break even,” said M.V. Kothandaraman, treasurer of the chamber.

While the genres of the films varied from commercial entertainers to spiritual dramas, the film makers have kept the budgets within limits — not more than Rs.10 lakh to Rs.15 lakh, in complete contrast to the big budget films of the mainstream.

‘Eago’s Eano,’ a film in the making and directed by Suraj Prakash, had its audio released during the inauguration of the chamber on Sunday. Speaking about the film, Mr.Suraj, who runs a travels firm, touted it to be a commercial entertainer. “I’ve always been passionate about films and wanted to be a part of the film-making process. There is no better entry than being given the opportunity to make a film in my mother tongue,” he said.

Made on a small budget, the movie has been shot in and around the city and will be censored and ready for release by May.

For many like him in his community, the idea of venturing into film-making is not about making profits but pursuing their passion for their language. “Everyone wants to have the movie experience in the mother tongue. A lot of people in our community, who wanted to be a part of film industry either as a technician or an actor, have been expressing interest ever since we started making feature films in the Sourashtra language,” said Ganesh Babu, a chamber member-turned-film distributor.

Future plans

Members of the chamber and people from the community hope that their techniques of making quality films on a shoestring budget will be recognised by other film industries. Mr.Prakash said if assured of an interested group, plans were in the pipeline to organise a small-scale film festival and screen acclaimed movies from across the world.

The film chamber also plans to conduct monthly workshops and technical sessions for people interested in film making by bringing in expert resource persons. “With these sessions, we hope that people will not only get a fair idea of the competitive techniques in the industry, but will also get encouragement to take up film-making as a career,” said Mr.Eashwarlal.