‘Nobody does the taali-maar, seeti-bajao kind of thing anymore’

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JOURNALIST-turned-filmmaker Kavalmaniyam Jagannathan Krishnan likes to pack a hundred ‘theories’ a minute. His first featurelength documentary, Videokaaran, is being screened at the River to River Film Festival at Florence, Italy, this December. The 37-year-old Mumbaibased filmmaker talks to Janani Ganesan about his film that explores the relationship between cinema and its fans.

Excerpts From An Interview

Kavalmaniyam Jagannathan Krishnan
Thinking man’s auteur Krishnan
Photo: MS Gopal

How did you conceptualise the movie?
The seed for the film was cinema being taken away from the poor. I first wanted to make an activist film. But I am not an activist. I am a peace-and-love kind of guy. And I realised there is a certain emotional art to the narrative of loss — you tend to pre-empt. Why not focus on the love for cinema rather than the fact that multiplexes are expensive? Earlier, in single-screen theatres, different kinds of audiences used to sit together and enjoy a movie. That is now going away. We don’t have caste system in cities because of local trains — bodies are packed together. Cinema was doing that at a subliminal level. In a theatre, regardless of class, you are brought into a common emotional zone, and there is this pan-Indian feeling. (But) cinema is now like a brand-endorsing thing. If you go to a mall, you watch your language; you don’t do the taali-maar, seeti-bajao kind of thing. There is no immediacy of response to what is happening on screen. I thought about these even when I was a student at the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute a few years ago.

How did you decide to convey your idea through the life of photographer Sagai?
I was hanging out with these guys and Sagai was going to be my camera person. I thought he’d give a new aesthetic. They are close friends of mine. They are not like my subjects or anything. I wanted to showcase their glamour. They were like urban myths. There was a random ghetto somewhere, where the song Aa Dekh – en Zara incited people into fighting. The song was then banned from all the ghettos. I wanted to capture that. Sagai was going to be my lens for anecdotes like these. But in the process, I found what Sagai said interesting and started pointing the camera at him instead. I wanted to explore cinema’s interesting, cool and subversive perco lations. I believed I should turn the cam era on only when I felt inspired. If the moment was truthful only then did I record. I wanted to get beyond the communication of convenience.

So you directed the conversation rather than the movie?
I directed the mood in the room. Initially everybody was the focus of the movie. They used to tell me all this cool shit that goes on in the streets. When your mind connects with another’s mind, you make dramatic leaps in conversation. Sagai was a Rajinikanth fan. Then there was his video theatre that was demolished. He somehow came to be the central character.

Who would fund such an offbeat theme?
I got a grant from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in 2009. They’ve something like an early career grant.

What is your next project?
One is a fictional story set in a ghetto — I am struggling to write it. The other is about a search for a conman in Kerala. He has been cheating people of Rs 50 or Rs 100 for the past 25 years. It seems his victims like him. But nobody knows who he is. I want to look for him through the test imony of his victims. I want to find him through fiction and fact. But it is more difficult to find the funding.

Janani Ganesan is a Trainee Correspondent with Tehelka. 
[email protected]

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