Top notch filmmaker Anwar Rasheed lives and breathes cinema
There is Rajamanikyam and then there is Bridge in Kerala Café. And then there is the man behind both these films — Anwar Rasheed.
If one was trying to define dichotomy, these films would be a good example by way of explanation. But Anwar Rasheed, the director, sees no such dichotomy. The regularity with which ‘the bridging the commercial-serious cinema divide' question has been thrown at him surprises him. He expects a director, any director worth his cap, to be able to do films irrespective of the genre.
“Why shouldn't I be able to direct a film like Rajamanikyam and also Bridge? Both are films aren't they?” a pertinent question which sums it all by way of an answer. Praise for his segment in the portmanteau film has come from all quarters, particularly from his co-director colleagues in Kerala Café.
It would be easy to get carried away with all the praise around but he manages to keep himself grounded. There is a certain degree of snobbery attached to being labelled a filmmaker of the serious kind. A brand of snobbery, which Anwar lacks. Sans pretentions he is refreshingly honest and confesses to being a lover of cinema and believer of commercial cinema too. “I watch all kinds of films, commercial or otherwise. In fact, I make it a point to go to the cinema hall and see films.”
Although he is a fan of cinema of all kinds, he makes a strong case for serious cinema and how multiplexes may just serve the purpose of good cinema. “Multiplex culture might be good for the industry and cinema. It might serve in bringing in an audience that is serious about films.”
Talking about good cinema and parallel cinema in particular Anwar talks about the relevance of Kerala State Film Development Corporation (KSFDC) in giving that much needed impetus to parallel cinema, “where a lot of good work can be done, is being done.”
On rewind mode he talks of his eureka moment which happened in class six when he was directing a play. “Young kids have an idea of becoming something. I knew I had to do something in films.” Directing plays while in school to directing films is just a logical progression for him. When his peers, interested in films, were making a beeline to various film institutes to train, he just stayed back in Maharaja's College looking for an opening into the industry. He preferred learning to make films the old fashioned way, with a ‘hands on' approach.
Waiting for that chance led him to two post-graduate degree courses, one in Malayalam and the other in History. The chance came in the form of Vismayam (1998) as assistant to director Raghunath Paleri. Among the films that he assisted is the blockbuster C.I.D. Moosa.
But the film that made him came serendipitously in the form of the Mammootty-starrer Rajamanikyam. Ranjith was to direct the film but he could not, many options were explored and finally Anwar was chosen. “I have to call it destiny. Just a month before that I had gone to meet Mammookka with a story and so when Ranjith suggested my name Mammookka also remembered me and…” the rest is box office history. Chotta Mumbai followed by Annan Thambi were hits and raked in money at the box office. If a list of hit directors among the current crop were to be drawn up, Anwar Rasheed will feature prominently on the list.
Cut to the present, and Bridge. Of the stories that he considered R. Unni's was the one which appealed to him. What touched him most about the story was the poignancy of the situation of the abandoned – the mother and the pet kitten.
His brand of films
Anwar says this is also the kind of film that he enjoys making along with formula films.
Highlight certain social issues, neither to preach nor to presume to offer solutions just to pan attention on a socially relevant issue.
There is a pile of DVDs lying on a table next to television in his workspace. A person can't be so consumed by cinema and making films that there is no space for anything else.
Anwar doesn't need to think much for an answer, “Cinema is what I do, there is nothing else besides cinema.” He has begun work on his next projects. That young school boy jostling to catch a glimpse of Mammootty or Mohanlal in his hometown, Kollam, has come a long way, indeed.SHILPA NAIR ANAND