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Life at the editing table

Film editor par excellence, B. Lenin now takes film appreciation to the grassroots, writes K. Jeshi



This ace film editor prefers to call himself a performer. "Film editing, like music or cinema, is a form of art," says B. Lenin, smiling. "By observing every little aspect of a movie — its rhythm, music, voice modulation, special effects and direction — you learn about life at the editing table."

His creative satisfaction is complete when he identifies with the feelings of the characters. That is why he chose to edit director Jeyaraj's Malayalam movie Anandabairavi that deals with the relationship of a child prodigy with his father, a Kathakali dancer, and with his three ammammaas (grandmothers). "In the end, the boy dies and the pain lingers. I make it a point to choose only such films that take me along with the flow of the characters," says Lenin, in town recently for the children's film festival organised by the Cinema Club of Coimbatore.

His journey

He admits that to get that kind of satisfaction, he needs to travel backwards. The famed editor recalls the late Padmarajan's Thoovana thumbigal and Moonampakkam (Malayalam) as fine examples. "Now, I have decided to make my own movies and edit them," he says.

He is currently working on a film on environment and humanity for the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. Lenin, who has won acclaim for his editing skills, also bagged the national award for direction with Oorukku Nooru Paer, a film based on Jayakanthan's novel that dealt with issues such as crime and capital punishment. Rekkai, on the positives of the joint family system, was also critically acclaimed.

The man, known for the rhythm and pace in his cuts, says the purpose of `jump cuts' (used to speed up narration) is now overused. "Every action is so fast-paced that it strains your eyes. As a result, nothing registers. I hope this trend fades soon." Lenin says the beauty of good editing lies in sustained shots that flow with the storyline.

"Digital technology has worked wonders, but how you use it matters," he says. "Carnatic music, Beethoven or Mozart ... the experience is beautiful when you listen on DTS. But, when you use it to highlight a car crash or violence, it is jarring."

Responsible filmmaking

A visiting faculty for visual communication in various institutions, he says these students are distracted. "They take up fancy jobs as designers. Some get back as lecturers, some turn entrepreneurs. For the rest, it is an entry ticket to acting. To ignite minds, it is important to tell them about responsible filmmaking. Movies are nothing but emotions. So, when they want to sell emotions, they need to be careful about alavu (limit) and murai (method). Make money, but give something back to the society," he says.

Watching films that reflect reality is important. "It is films like Fiddler on the roof that inspired me to become what I am today. Youngsters should enrol in film societies, attend film festivals and participate in discussions to strengthen their ideas," he says.

To take film appreciation to the grassroots, Lenin has donated a film projector to villages in Tamil Nadu. "I don't want to lead by example. Take the technology to them and let them explore and create," he says. "Leading actors should make a beginning in this direction."

Lenin also plans to screen unedited rushes of the films he has worked on.

"This way, new ideas on how to improve the cuts with technology and understand the different layers in a film will be born. This will create interest in youth to read films better," he explains.

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