“For me, making films is more of an intuitive process” – Sanju Surendran

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Sanju Surendran | Filmmaker
Sanju Surendran | Filmmaker

How did you come upon your distinctive style of filmmaking?

I’m reminded of the song Blowin’ in the wind by Bob Dylan: How many roads must a man walk down / Before you call him a man? In life, you are constantly questioned from all quarters…. Maybe for the film Kapila, I could find a connection between Koodiyattam as an art form and the poetic cinema of Robert Bresson. I was trying to bridge the two. The idea was to capture the essence of Koodiyattam in a modern medium like film.

Originally, I wanted to make a film on Gopalan Nair Venu. But then I watched Kapila’s Shoorpanakhangam Koodiyattam performance. Her rendition of Lalitha reflected a very contemporary woman when it came to her expressions of emotion. We realised Kapila would be the perfect fit. While filming, we tried to capture the performances in their original spirit. It took a lot of time, energy and money to get the sound right.

How relevant do you think classical art forms like Koodiyattam are in the present age?

Koodiyattam is classical at the same time very contemporary. I feel that the death of an art form is the death of a civilisation. Contemporary age should address the antiquity. Their relevance lies in the manner that memories can be associated with them. For instance, there was a particular image of Shoorpanaka’s breasts and nose being cut off in the performance that reminded me of wartime atrocities.

How was the experience of collaborating with Kapila, the protagonist of your documentary?

Kapila is not just a fantastic actress but also a perfectionist. She would give her best to the performances. She was also very much a part of the scripting process.

What led you to dedicate this film to Mani Kaul?

My interaction with Mani Kaul at ftii, Pune, enlightened me to see Koodiyattam in a different light. He was a filmmaker of the future and the ground on which my idea for this documentary came about.

What fascinates the visual artist in you?

For me, making films is more of an intuitive process.

What other projects are you working on?

I am working on a script based on the short story A Painful Case from James Joyce’s anthology Dubliners. The nfdc has approved it.

 

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