Where cinema imitates life

A still from Abraham   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Balakumaran of Avant Garde Film Commune recalls watching Konark Mukherjee’s Abraham at the Kerala International Film Festival. An interpretation of the mythical tale of Abraham, the film is about the grim world of religious fanaticism and dogma. “It was gripping. It delves on the conflict that arises between a father-son about values and beliefs. It is a contemplative film that deals with atheism, rationalism.... But, do you know how many people turned up to watch? Just a handful, may be 10 or 15,” he laments. The reach of independent films, especially the ones made by lesser known Indian film makers, is very limited he says and so he decided to pick such films and show them in the city.

P. Balakumaran of Avant Garde Film Commune

P. Balakumaran of Avant Garde Film Commune   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“I met Konark Mukherjee at the festival, we became friends on Facebook and now we are bringing his film to the city over the weekend,” says Balakumaran happily.

It is the big names like Iranian film maker Jaffar Panahi that get the crowds at film festivals.“Audience stay away from Indie films because of poor production values, ignorant about the fact that these films are made on a stringent budget. Konark Mukherjee made Abraham with ₹ 22 lakhs. When Christopher Nolan started out, he made his first film in B & W to cut down on production cost. Closer home, Arun Karthick from Coimbatore made his first indie film Sivapuranam with seven lakhs. Bengali film maker Amitabha Chatterji shot his film Ami O Manohar on the iphone. Such films, often made with financial constraints, are always creatively superior. The biggest challenge is to get the audience.” He reiterates that people should start watching indie films on the big screen in theatres. “Everyone favours mainstream films. As a society, we don’t promote such films. Film critics should bring such films into the limelight.”

The line-up
  • Avant Garde Film Commune will show Abraham at Clusters Institute of Media and Technology, 439, Kamarajar Road (Near Hope College), Peelamedu on May 19 ( Sunday), 6.00 pm
  • Coming up is Praveen Morchhale’s Urdu feature Widow of Silence that has won several awards in India and internationally. The film explores the angst and agony of a resilient Kashmiri woman as she goes in search of her disappeared husband.
  • To know more, call 97918-25954

Avant Grade has already screened Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s Malayalam indie film Ozhivu Divasathe Kali, winner of Kerala State Award for best film, Sanju Surendran’s award-winning Aedan (Garden of Desire) and Don Palathara’s Vith. Balakumaran was also a part of the unique distribution of Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s first film, the controversial S Durga, originally titled Sexy Durga. “It was a campaign backed by cinema lovers, where film societies appealed to the theatre owners in the city to screen it. Sanal Kumar has now taken it upon himself to popularise his film. Armed with his vehicle complete with a projector, he distributes notices about his films in villages and screens them there.”

He says Indie films, made in contemplative art style, is a great way to introduce film appreciation. “It prepares the audience to relish the experience called slow cinema.” While some of the film societies like the ones in Jamshedpur, Kolkatta, and in many cities in Kerala are doing a good job, it is still has a long way to go, says Balakumaran. Though he acknowledges that the movement is organic in Kerala.

A regular at film festivals for the last five years, Balakumaran says youngsters are familiar with names like Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan. “ They see cinema as an entertainment medium that brings name and fame. “What about the aesthetics? Art? Cinema is a sound and visual interpretation. They should read up on cinema literature. Alexander Sokurov’s Russian Ark is filmed in a single shot at a museum. The director was available for a Q& A at a film festival and there were only 10 people. It is baffling. For Jean-Luc Godard too. His Image Book, incorporates a series of films, paintings and pieces of music that is almost like a travelogue of his film career. But, the crowd dwindled from a full house within a few minutes of screening. Even for a Bergman retrospective,all you have is an audience of just 10 people.”

A film society should promote a film culture says Balakumaran. “ Several online streaming sites such as and are doing a great job where you can subscribe to experimental films. We are taking baby steps. Cinema is an art collage, there is drama, literature, music and more. We have to build that awareness for the next generation.”

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Feb 23, 2021 4:16:46 PM |

Next Story