How after Kolkatta and Trivandrum, now comes Bangalore!
There was this second Bengalooru International film festival in Bangalore. V.N.Subba Roth moving spirit behind it said it was a tremendous success though the Kannada film industry didn’t make much use of it.
An estimated 75,000 people vitiated the festival.
Girish Kaseravalli, the one star among the new generation of parallel film making community said many things that were all relevant to the parallel cinema.
This is the subject in which I was interested for a long time since my days at Santiniketan where the great Satyajit Ray grew up and gave up his art classes and entered into advertising and then through a long process he emerged as a great film maker.
I was one of the few lucky students who went to see the first screening of the Pather Panchachali in the nearby village theatre of Bolpur and when the film was screened there was no crowd. No crowd for many days and we were the only ones simply because Satyaji Ray was a Santiniketan name and as such we went out of sympathy for our own man!
Then after a few days in Kolkatta, after the film got noticed by discerning critics, there were so many Ray friends even then at Santiniketan, Chidananda DasGupta the long time friend and associate of Ray was one, then film hit the great banners in the international film festivals.
The rest is history.
But then Kolkatta always had this cultural environment where big, international style experiments can be tried in all branches of life and learning. Film and theatre were the two fields Kolkatta was always the trend blazer.
I remember as a student that to hang around the Metro on the Chowringhee was the thing to do for anyone inclined to arts and literature. And to browse through the Chowrigngee book shops and also the College Street and hang around at the Coffee House is another pastime I indulged very much. It was at this Coffee Shops Ray made it big as a designer and a graphic artist.
I could go on and on and mention and throw about all the big names that inspired me in my formative days and years there, in these throbbing Kolkatta paths. Even Nirad Choudhury I got acquainted by chance when I laid my hands on his first edition, hard cover book of the Autobiography of an unknown Indian. The writers, the poets are too many, Jibandand Das, Mukul Dither authors of Pather Panchali, and Padma nadir mache etc was my own favorite names then.
Most of the writers and editors of magazines were student s of Santiniketan and thus we have a family kinship with most of them and for them to visit Santiniketan and imbibe the spirit of Tagore’s own environment was a routine ritual!
Now, to cut the story short, I saw almost everyone of Ray films, the one, Jalsagar, I went all the way to the nearby Distort town of Baradwan to see it. We thought it was worth doing it and it was the thing to do.
Santiniketan and Kolkatta inspired me and turned me into a musician, learning sitar and tabla, drawing and composing poems and translating short stories from original Chinese literature (I was a student of Chinese language class) and these were the things that interested me then.
After I came back from Oxford and after I settled down in my village my visits to Kerala became frequent. That is how I met Adoor Gopalakrishnan, the famed film maker and my interest in Malayalam films grew.
At the time when Adoor was making his debut films, Kodiyettam (1977), Elipathayam (1981), Mukhamukham (1984) Anatharam (1987) even the commercial Malayalam films used to be quality art films. I knew K.S.Sethusmadhavan and writer, Gnanpeed award winner, Thakazhi Sivasanakaran Pillai (who was my house guest once), the Malayalam films still had only of high standard. In fact, the Tamil film industry was always commercial values driven even from the very beginning.
But Malayalam films were of a different genre. These used to be good stories and there was always the close link with literature and film making.
So, I know that when I met Adoor once in his home outside Trivandrum city, he was already disassociated himself from the Chalachitra studios that was just near his home only.
Adoor started the film club and started showing quality foreign films and then they started the film making co-operative and as they do in Kerala ,even they started a writers co-operative, Sahitya Pravarthaka society, I was in close touch. They all failed eventually. That is a different story.
The fallout, however, was very good. In Trivandrum, this was true when I am referring to the times, even now it is partly true, only in Trivandrum you can see so many number of international film award winning small-time film makers who are also ordinary men, like you and me.
You can spot them on the street, in the cycle rickshaws and they will be standing and smoking a be edit or do some such things. I can name a few such names, Abraham, Lenin Rajendran, Shaji and many names!
The point here I want to convey is that Karnataka can emerge as a centre for parallel cinema only if certain things are kept in mind. Kannada film industry must not fall prey to the Tamil and Telugu vulgarities of a commercial culture that destroys all moral values.
Luckily, there are established film makers like Girish Kasaravalli, Ramadas Naidu and others who gave lots of ideas to take the purposeful cinema forward. Cinema, art or parallel or entertainment can be both artistic and thoughtful as well as entertaining. The various film festivals, Venice, Cannes and others have shown how good cinema can be high art as well. Given Karnataka’s very many favourable features, its cosmopolitan culture to its current cosmopolitan population and the conducive environment, the many mini-Satyajit Rays who are around in Bangalore can certainly emerge as a cultural force in this genre.
Kannada film industry also should guard against the cheap chauvinism that threatens the positive atmosphere.
Kolkatta and Malayalam cinema, I mean the parallel cinema have saved themselves from these parochial notions or trends.
You have to win international awards and this can’t be done by any chauvinism or parochialism.
It was good to see Adoor coming to Bangalore.
Bangalore can emerge as a great centre for a cosmopolitan culture and an international centre for much experimental and creative film making.