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For the love of cinema

Three directors of offbeat films say what motivates them to make movies that come from their hearts

CINEMATIC EXPRESSIONS From left, Murali and Navya Nair in `Kanne Madanguka,' Navya Nair and Nedumudi Venu in `Saira' and a scene from `Nottam'

What is it about cinema that attracts these professionals? Is it the bright lights or the chance to interact with the stars? It can't be just money because the kind of films these directors and producers make do not always click at the box office. Some even find it difficult to release their films in the theatres. And still, they persevere. Is it the awards that their films win that keep them going or the festivals that their films get selected to?

"None of these reasons," says Biju, a practitioner of Homeopathy and director of the much-acclaimed `Saira,' which found a place in the International Film Festival of India and the International Film Festival of Kerala. In January 2007 it will feature at the Tehran Film Festival.

"I make films to express my feelings and to react to contemporary issues. That is why I do not have to make compromises for my films. I am not in it for the money," he adds.

It is that passion for films that made Antony Albert aka Albert quit his job in the Defence Forces and join a course in film direction at Adayar Film Institute. His debut film `Kanne Madanguka' won three State awards, and a slew of other prestigious awards.

A social message

Echoing Biju, he says that he is determined that his films should have a message to convey. "That explains why I do not mind waiting for one-and-a-half years after my first film. I could have made a potboiler. But that would not have satisfied the cineaste in me," he says.

The same reason why Sasidharan Pillai alias Sashi Paravoor, a leading advocate, makes films - to satisfy the cineaste in him.

"I have produced a number of commercial successes but that did not give me the satisfaction I derived from directing `Kattu Vannu Vilichapol,' which dealt with the issue of AIDS, probably the first film in Malayalam to do so. So, when I thought of doing a film on Koodiyattom (`Nottam'), considered esoteric, I decided to write the script and direct it too," he says.

Similarly, Dr. Biju and Albert also preferred to rely on their scripts instead of approaching professional scenarists. It helps that many of these directors are avid readers and good writers with quite a few publications to their credit.

Dr. Biju is the author of several short stories including `Kolashukalile Gabriel' `Malakayude Edapedalukal' and `Pralayam.' Sasi Paravoor also decided to become a director while writing a short story. "It became a script and then I tried talking to some directors to turn it into a film. Many of them were reluctant and that was when I decided to direct `Kattu Vannu Vilichapol' myself," he recounts.

Although he was not a trained filmmaker, Sashi succeeded in making the critically acclaimed film and that gave him the confidence to make `Nottam.'

First-time director Biju admits that the first time he saw a movie camera was on the sets of `Saira.' Technology and technical aspects did not hamper these directors. What made the going difficult for them was the paucity of producers to finance their films.

While Dr. Biju and Albert are thankful to their producers for reposing the confidence in them, Sasi feels that the time has come for "collective action."

Question of finance

"I think two or more producers should chip in with funds to produce a film. It would be difficult for one person to bear the burden." I spent Rs. 30 lakhs to make `Kattu Vannu Vilichapol' and my loss was Rs. 15 lakhs," he says.

However, Dr. Biju says, "As `Saira' was selected in the Panorama section, we will get a subsidy of Rs.5 lakhs from the Government. We will get Rs.8 lakhs from Doordarshan. Then, satellite rights, DVD rights and video... I am sure we will be able to break even."

Sashi is unwilling to buy the argument that all offbeat films are a loss for their producers. He points out that huge sums of money are also lost when commercial entertainers bite the dust at the box office.

What irks these directors is that while even crass films manage to reach the theatres, they are forced to run around to get cinemas to screen their films.

"We have to pay rent for Government-owned theatres too. I faced a similar situation with `Kattu Vannu Vilichapol.' Previously, Doordarshan used to telecast Panorama films on their national network.

That gave a boost to the filmmakers. But that has been discontinued by Doordarshan for the past several years. That's why I feel the Government is becoming more and more indifferent to makers of good films," rues Sashi.

Biju suggests that the Government make it mandatory for the theatres owned by the State to screen such movies for at least a week or two every year to encourage offbeat films that tackle social issues.

The setbacks and the financial hurdles have not disheartened these filmmakers.

"I am working on a film on Nairsan, who lived in Japan for over half a century and also spent many years in Manchuria. The film will be an Indo-Japanese joint production," says Albert.

While Sashi is planning to focus on women empowerment, Biju's next film will be on the ravages of globalisation.

"It is a medium of expression and there is no reason why one should be defeated by temporary difficulties," concludes Sashi.


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