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Cinema chronicles

Artist V. Jeevananthan's book Thiraiseelai, a compilation of articles on cinema, has won a special mention certificate award at the 58th National Awards. He talks about his twin passions — art and cinema



ART OF THE MATTER V. Jeevananthan

Moochu (breathing), a chapter in artist V. Jeevananthan's book “Thiraiseelai” chronicles the emotional journey of “Shwaas”, a Marathi film. Acknowledged as a significant turn for Marathi cinema, the award-winning film is a touching tale about a young boy, barely seven or eight, who is diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare cancer of the eye.

Jeeva discusses the aesthetics of the film shot by shot. He draws examples from films that dealt with pain — K. Balachander's “Neerkumizhi”, Hrishikesh Mukherjee's “Anand”, Akira Kurosawa's “Ikiru” (released in 1952), Tom Hank's “Philadelphia”, Revathy's “Phir Milenge” and the black-and-white classic “Nenjil Oor Aalayam” directed by Sridhar — and introduces readers to a bouquet of films in the genre. “It's a straight-from-the-heart conversation with readers about appreciating good films,” says V. Jeevananthan, author of the award-winning book.

“Thiraiseelai”, published by Thirisakthi, has won a special mention certificate award at the 58th National Awards announced last week. The recognition has come to a Tamil book after 29 years. Author Arandhai Narayanan received the honour for his book “Tamil Cinemavin Kadhai” in 1982. “It's a happy moment,” he says. “I've got an award for a language that I picked up out of my love for it,” says Jeevananthan.

Legendary films and filmmakers grace the pages of Thiraiseelai. “Pather Panchali” (Satyajit Ray), “The Bicycle Thief” (Vittorio De Sica), “Pyaasa” (Guru Dutt), “Ardh Satya” (Shyam Benegal), “Slumdog Millionaire” (Danny Boyle) and the Malayalam classic “Vadakkunokienthran” (Sreenivasan) have been included.

Written in a chatty style (more like arattai, as Jeeva puts it) the book is a select compilation of his articles published in “Rasanai”, a monthly Tamil magazine brought out by Marabin Mainthan Muthaiah. It opens up the world of films and attempts to introduce good cinema to the common man. In a field dominated by literary giants such as Ajayan Bala, Theodore Baskaran, Chezian and Yamuna Rajendran, Jeeva calls his writings ‘a collection of essays about films through the eyes of a viewer'.

Film historian and writer Theodore Baskaran influenced his love for books, literature and cinema. Tamil writer Kavignar Puviyarasu mentored him on films. “I remember the release of ‘Chomana Dudi' (Choma's drum) a national award-winning Kannada feature film at Sreenivasa Theatre. Film lovers gathered in good numbers and listened to Puviyarasu.”

Two years in Madras for his Masters in Political Science at the Presidency College furthered his interest in films. He enrolled in film societies and film clubs, pored over books on cinema and interacted with intellectuals from the industry.

Rajnikanth's blockbuster film “Moondru Mudichu” marked his first brush with cinema banner art.

“It was the golden period when filmmakers such as Balachander, Bharatiraja and Mahendran ushered in a new wave of films. Banner artists experimented with colours, broke away from conventional styles and unleashed their creativity.” Jeeva who was doing Law also turned a part-time film critic for the magazine Kalki. A film becomes a classic when it touches you deeply, he says. For instance, mention “Pather Panchali” and the film visually unfolds in my memory, he adds.

Though banner art has died a natural death with the introduction of flex boards, Jeeva's banners on labour welfare programmes have made it to Switzerland.

His banners also decorate theatre festivals in Germany. Any artistic expression should come from within, the artist says. He does abstract paintings, illustrations for magazines and book wrappers too.

Ask him about the title “Thiraiseelai”, he says, it's inspired from Malayalam filmmaker K.G. George's “Yavanika” (the curtain) released in 1982. Noted for its superior artistic merit, the film explored the backstage drama of a travelling drama troupe and immortalised the detective theme.

“People breathe cinema. I consider it an important media that influences people in a big way. He says: “Cinema is magic.”

K. JESHI

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