Lights, camera, still!
An exhibition of stills by chitraloka.com has over 2000 pictures on display
VINTAGE VALUE The black and white photographs of a bygone era attract more attention
A massive collection of Kannada film stills is on display in the city.
Filmmaking in India has a long and chequered history. Today, as the leading film producer in the world, the country can pride itself for creating an industry which not only nurtures its stars but also a wide variety of technicians. However, the quality and substance of Indian films is a matter of debate and dispute. Lack of quality cinema critics, absence of inspired discussions on cinema and inability to produce and cultivate an archival culture are some of the glaring lacunae in our cinematic tradition. There is also a dearth of high quality books on cinema; getting even simple information about films, stars and technicians often becomes a Herculean task.
Given this context, what film journalist Veeresh has done is indeed laudable. The Editor of Chitraloka, a mega portal of Kannada cinema, has over several years managed to possess more than 50,000 film stills. According to him, there have been more than 2,500 films produced in Kannada since 1934 and he has come to acquire film stills of all but 60 odd films. This is a remarkable achievement by any standards.
Displayed in the exhibition are more than 2000 stills. "There were suggestions that I group them in terms of individual film stars, but I have refrained from doing so," says Veeresh. Instead, he has chosen to display them in a chronological manner. What one gets to see, therefore, is a massive set of film stills from the mid-1930s. Each photograph carries the year of its release and the name of the film.
There is drama and action, humour and passion, actors and stars, vamps and villains, supporting artistes and sidekicks all spooled into the display. Some have class, some are gross in content. Some are meant to attract and/or provoke, others to humour or titillate. The pictures often give away a part of the content; one comes to know whether it is a historical, social, mythological, love story, adventure, and so on. They also tell something about quality of lighting, costumes, make-up and the sets. For some reason, the black and white photographs of a bygone era attract more attention.
There are several drawbacks in the exhibition. One gets the impression that the show has been put up in haste and that undue focus is given to quantity rather than quality. Resultantly, the display is crammed and unappealing. Lighting too is inadequate particularly in some corners. Curatorial inputs are clearly lacking; a catalogue/information handout highlighting the different phases of development of the industry was imperative for such an effort.
In spite of these limitations, the exhibition, albeit temporarily, is able to transport the viewer into the make-believe world of cinema. It is educative as well. How many of us knew that the Kannada industry which has produced several nationally and internationally acclaimed films, has also to its credit titles such as Hats off India, Inspector Jhansi, Zabardast, Talwar, Surya the Great, Jennifer I love you, Kadlimatti Station Master, Kaasu iddone bossu, and more.
The exhibition concludes on August 20 at the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce, Sheshadripuram.
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