S.P.P. Bhaskaran is happy to see the children smiling. He has just shown them the film I am Kalam and they loved it.
Bhaskaran who founded the Kovai Film Society (KFS) says he wants to show the younger children good cinema. KFS aims to bring world cinema to the common man. Every Friday he screens Hollywood classics, documentaries or short films. On Saturdays it is world cinema. Sundays are for children.
I am Kalam has a message for them about dreaming big, having the right to education, and everlasting friendships beyond caste and social status. In the film, the protagonist Chotu is from an under-privileged background. He is inspired by Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, and wants to become like him. He also shares a warm friendship with another boy who is from a royal family.
“Recently, we screened L’ours (The Bear) a French film and the proccess of making it. Even though it was in another language and had no subtitles, the viewers loved it. These videos introduce children to the art of film making and also to cinematic language. Who knows this may inspire them to become film makers.”
KFS has had three children’s festivals. He has shown them films like Majidi Majid’s Children of Heaven to Wadjda (Saudi Arabia), Viva Cuba (Cuba), The White Balloon (Iran), Bekas ( Kurdish), Grave of the Fireflies (Japan) and Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (Bengali)….
While the children had a taste of world cinema in the first two festivals, the third time around Bhaskaran ensured they watched films made in Indian languages. So, there was I am Kalam , Fandry , Dhanak , Jo and the Boy , Hawaa Hawaai and more. Bhaskaran firmly believes that movies can teach lessons in life. “I look up to classics whenever I am stuck in a personal or professional crisis.”
There are always discussions after the screening of a film and Bhaskaran says these are an eye-opener. “They are so aware. They ask many questions. They are against child labour and point it out to us if some films portray children doing menial jobs,” he says.
He invited film maker Balaji Sakthivel (whose first film Vazhakku En 18/9 won a national award) to speak to the children. Balaji promised the kids he would make a film for children in Tamil. “It’s sad that we have no good children films in Tamil. We have just one film so far, director Manikandan’s Kaaka Muttai ,” he rues.
Bhaskaran, who calls himself Ulaga Cinema Rasigan, is always on the lookout for good cinema.
He started watching world cinema after reading about them in a cinema column (written by award-winning writer and cinematographer Chezian) in Ananda Vikatan. Through another film society, Konangal, he was introduced to films from masters such as Bergman, Antonioni and De Sica. A regular at international film festivals in Goa, Kerala and Chennai, he has now seen over 3000 films. His blogspot on Kamal Hassan’s Hey Ram (which he has seen over 100 times) earned him a fan following on social media. “I blog regularly. I share info about the films I screen through Whatsapp groups. Thanks to social media, people in remote areas also hear of the good films and try and watch them. That’s how the movement grows,” he says.
Ten times the fun!
Kovai film Society offers a free 10-film package for schools. The films are suitable for viewing by children over 10 years of age.
It has reached out to 1000 students already and plans to screen films to another 2000 in the coming month
I am Kalam, Born to Run, Elizabeth Ekadasi, Kaaka Muttai, Fandry
Modern Times, Children of Heaven, E.T., Spirited Away, Not one Less
Besides screenings, there will be interactions with personalities from the film industry every month. The objective of the society is not just to screen world cinema but also help film makers in the city make quality films. Annual membership is Rs. 1,500 and for students it is Rs.1,000. For more details, call: 90039-17667 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org