A native film debut

WHEN HE thought of making his first film, Satish Menon remembered his own mother tongue and returned to Kochi. Being born and brought up in the United States of America, it was hard for Satish to make a film in Malayalam.

But his commitment to his dream saw him through. He shot Bhavam, his first feature film, in a matter of months. Satish was soon to realise that was just the beginning of his ordeal.

Satish is a trained engineer. However, continuous exposure to a wide range of films meant that he had another destiny. And thus, he became a filmmaker.

"'For the past two years, I have devoted myself to film making. Back there in the States, you get to see a lot of bad films. That was the basic training that I got in film making.'' But no one asked him to expect the worst to happen to his film.

Satish had only made short films before coming down to Kochi to make his first feature film. Really short films, those like Soiled Plate and Lost in the Garden of Eden and a couple of documentaries on topics like the movement of rain water and the battered immigrant communities.

"I started off from the basic structure of Tennessee Williams' play, A Street Car named Desire. There it ends. From that point, I built a story of a family wrecked by globalisation.''

Bhavam is about a middle class family breaking apart as the members succumb to the temptations of the market. Satish wrote the script in English and got it translated. He even worked out a casting coup by getting Murali Menon and Mita Vasisht to do the lead roles.

Also, he used his insight about the city to create the ambience in the film. "I deliberately tried to create the `soundscape' of Kochi in this film. For, I have used the entire film as a metaphor of contemporary society.''

Not all understood that. "The censorship laws in our land are so draconian and archaic that they gave my film an `Adults Only' certificate since the theme is adultery. There is not even a single vulgar or explicit scene in the entire film. Still, I could not convince the Censors.'' Then came the tussle with distributors. Or the lack of them.

All through his short visit to Kochi to launch the film, Satish tried to set up meetings with distributors and hold discussions with television channels. "But I do not want my film to end up along with just another television serial.''

So he left for the U.S., hoping that something works out when he comes next in April or May. "It all depends on the impact that my film makes among the audience. From the initial reaction, I think women have accepted the film. One reason could be that the film has a couple of strong women and a weak man as protagonists.''

Satish has a couple more scripts ready with him. "I don't know, may be I will never make another film in Malayalam. Bhavam's production has cost me a lot. Now, I need to find a producer from Chicago for my next project.''

And thus, Satish Menon waits for a time, when filmmakers would come together and set guidelines for the industry in tune with contemporary realities. So that he could make a film that he "enjoys watching''.