In love with ‘meaningful cinema’

A still from ‘Kanthan: The Lover of Colour’

A still from ‘Kanthan: The Lover of Colour’   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Debutant director Shareef Easa talks about his State award-winning feature film, ‘Kanthan: The Lover of Colour’

The incredible journey of director Shareef Easa is about realising one’s passion amidst numerous struggles in life. His maiden feature film, Kanthan: The Lover of Colour, was chosen as the best film in the recently announced Kerala State Film Awards.

From earning a living as a rubber tapper and wedding photographer to making his mark as a filmmaker, Shareef has come a long way indeed. Shareef talks about what the recognition for Kanthan: The Lover of Colour means to him. Edited excerpts:

Your thoughts about bagging the award...

The announcement came as a great relief. We have presented certain issues that we hope will be discussed now. After being snubbed at the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) where I had expected an entry, I had lost hope and was busy working on a documentary when this news of the award came in. Jury chairman Kumar Shahani called me after the announcement and he said that Kanthan actually deserved more awards.

What is the film about?

Kanthan talks about the politics of environment. We are living in the aftermath of the flood and it naturally underlines the need to safeguard the environment.

Filmmaker Shareef Easa

Filmmaker Shareef Easa   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

The story unfolds amidst the lives of the tribal Adiyan community at Thirunelli in Wayanad. It narrates the difficulties that they go through, the denial of rights, their role in the democratic set-up and so on. It is also about their language, Ravula, and their rituals and traditions that are all getting conveniently revamped in accordance with changing circumstances.

Why did you choose this subject for your first film?

It was the suicide of Rohith Vemula that actually triggered this plot. I had plans to do a short film on Dalit issues, based on a script by Pramod Koovery. But there was more to be told as we started developing the script. The idea then evolved into a feature film. We shot the film in real locations while living with the tribal communities and trying to understand their issues.

How did you select the actors?

The role of Kanthan has been essayed by Master Prajith, who got a special mention for his performance in the 2011 film, Adhimadhyantham. Social activist Daya Bai plays his grandmother. We tried to find some actors by arranging an audition but no one turned up. Finally we convinced some of the locals to be part of the film.

On the sets of ‘Kanthan : The Lover of Colour’

On the sets of ‘Kanthan : The Lover of Colour’   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

How did you learn filmmaking?

I have done three short films. The first one was based on the Nirbhaya episode, another on ‘Beef politics’ and a third on road safety awareness. I have also been associated with two other films, Nanmakal Pookkunna Naattil and Ilamveyil.

How do you keep yourself updated about movies?

I have not seen many international movies but I do watch all the latest releases at theatres. At the Kolkata International Film Festival, where Kanthan was screened, I got to watch a few wonderful movies. A theatre activist, I have always been drawn towards cinema.

Telll us about the making of Kanthan?

We started making Kanthan with a budget of ₹1,90,000. We shot with around five crew members. It took almost two years to complete the film as the shooting was done whenever we could find some money. By the time it was made, the total cost had shot up to almost ₹20 lakh. Some of my friends helped and we took a loan to complete the production.

Why were you disappointed that Kanthan didn’t make it to the IFFK?

In the year when Kerala tackled the deluge, I found it surprising that IFFK ignored a film that was talking mainly about the environment. The film was handling a rare language and one that focused on the tribal community. We didn’t even receive a response after submitting the film.

What are the issues, if any, faced by filmmakers who make serious movies?

Neither theatres nor television channels show any interest in promoting serious movies. So film societies become the only option. It is not enough if only the filmmakers have a social and political outlook on various issues, there should be an audience who welcome such thoughts. These truthful themes are capable of transcending time.

What next?

I am working on a theme on the politics of hunger.

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 6:12:01 AM |

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