Category Archives: KTP-Exclusive Interviews

Audio Interview – Venkatesh Kumar.G

Venkatesh Kumar.G is a film maker, who primarily makes films, by focussing on ‘social’ issues. Apart from his feature films Unakkul Naan, Lightman, and Neelam, he has also made several short films. He is also involved in the creation and functioning of a new administrative body, which he believes will cater to the needs of small film makers, especially with regard to sorting out challenges with regard to the tedious Censor Certificate and the ‘Film Name Registration Processes’.

A victim of ‘pre-release’ piracy himself, a topic that we deal quite frequently on this blog  – Venkatesh was kind enough to provide me with audio responses to several questions which i had put forward to him over email, questions that involved his own work and also to several issues surrounding the film industry. Thank you, Venkatesh Sir.

Additional Reading : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumar_G._Venkatesh

Questions :

1. There are people who make commercial films, artistic ones and some even neo-realistic ones? But do you set out consciously to make ‘socially’ relavant films in a docu-drama style? Are you comfortable with this sort of presentation or is this just my impression? Do you bring this thought process of ‘social equality’ and ‘sustenance’ etc to actions in your real life?
2. Your pulling together some of the issues of the marginalized in society? Fishermen’s problems, alcoholism, Manual scavenging, Begging etc? As part of being in society, we are all aware and even consciously choose to ignore these issues, sadly. However, while seeing some of your short films, (barring the neurons), i could not get a sense of seeing anything new or to linger in my heart. I really get the feeling that if you wanted to do make a film ( although it is a short and may have budget issues), in depth issue in research was lacking, and there was nothing new . How do you react to this?
3. Bharathi – Jayakanthan – How important are these names in the times that we live in today?
4. Typically, the people who are involved in making art films have sheer contempt for main stream commercial films. ( I am trying to extrapolate this to your belief through a dialogue in one of your films – LightMan, although i am not sure of your own views here). Barring the state of Bengal and to some extent Kerala, the situation remains near same through out the nation. It could have a political logic in both of them being states with leftist rule, but how do you read into this? Your views?
5. How important are short films to an aspiring film maker’s resume these days? Millions of videos are being uploaded each second – so how do you weigh in the ‘visibility’ and ‘revenue earning’ factor for short films? Apart from Youtube, there are solutions like Karthik Subbaraj’s business model. Can you tell us a bit about how you see the situation?
6. You leave lots of space for music in your films. This is a good thought, but sometimes, lack of drama and placing music over it for too long can become over kill. I think the theatre scene in Lightman has a score for over 10 minutes. I really felt that even if you had the music running, the boy should have been doing something else, but the idea keeps recurring that he is glued to the screen in awe, but beyond that, somehow, i felt it a bit of a drag. Your views?
7. NFDC – Lightman relationship? can you tell us a bit?
8. If my memory goes right, one of your films was to be made by Jayakanthan’s works. – Your views on his work and the film to be made?
9. Have you seen past works of Jayakanthan’s which were adapted into film? It is so hard to get a copy of these films. Barring ‘Sila Nerangalil Sila Manithargal’ and ‘Oru Nadigai Nadagam Parkiral’? Several other titles made by JK himself and even Lenin are hard to find? – Your views?
10. I understand that you have made 2 main stream films and the third one is yet to release. Please correct me if i am wrong. Your first film Lightman – Was this film operationally profitable? What were the current revenue streams available to a film maker and which were the ones you chose to invest?
11. I empathise that your film ‘LightMan’ was a victim of pre-release piracy. It is indeed a very sensitive subject and the likes of such people are hardly shown. My question is – the kind of films that you make are typically off-beat ones, which in a sense are not expected to really bring public in masses. This has been the same, right from the days when JK made Unnaipol Oruvan. Several leftist neo-real films made in the 70’s also were not operationally proftable. So, in that sense, does pre-release piracy have a serious financial impact in this case? What were the immediate outcomes of the pre-release piracy to your film? Also, what is the state of the light men given. That the film. Industry has shut down for over a month now?
12. Unlike the case of post-release piracy, in which almost happens for every film, pre-release piracy has been happening on and off. Accusations have come that prints were leaked from the Censors, from the Theatres, manufacturing and transit, some even the DSP’s – This is supposed to be a legal system. The recent article on Tamilrockers by Vox also makes dramatic claims that rats and ‘jealous competition’  are very much part of the system and they have been source beds and direct agents for pirate sites. Isn’t there any legal protection in these channels for film makers? Has anyone exercised this right by going to court and getting damages? ( I know it is rather far fetched in the Indian system, but atleast to be symbolic).
13. Your views on the functioning of the TFPC under Vishal? Does this functioning help the small film maker? How was it under the previous group? In the political controversy, Did the alternate group under Cheran communicate with you regarding your branch off? Do you see this as a political stunt or do you think there is a genuineness in Cherans opposing Vishal?
14. Does a small budget film’s success weigh strongly based on its producer/ distributor like – Is there a possibility of Kaaka Muttai ( Dhanush/Vetrimaaran) or Aruvi ( Produced S.R.Prabu) doing much better and getting better visibility than say a film like Kuttram Kadithal, which lay in the cans for 1.5 years before a release? ( Incidentally both Kaaka Muttai and Kuttram Kadithal won National Awards that year). Does this go very much against small budget films without big banner backup names? Or alternatively does ‘Nature of Content’ determine ‘commercial success’? ( Films which pack entertaining elements Vs film makers who don’t compromise for commercial add-ons?)
15. I see piracy as a short term threat. In my view, cinema as we see it, itself cannot remain for long. We are entering times, where newer engagement forms are coming up. Shorter films with no songs. Several films are being choreographed without fights. We are also seeing a lot of web series being made exclusively for the VOD market. In such circuyumstances, what happens to the light men and other technicians as these film makers dont have the luxury of big budgets. Unionism will protect them only so far, but when technology and the medium itself changes, how will they adapt themselves, are they aware of what is coming? Or maybe, you think that i am incorrect? your views?
16. You have been associated with a Russian collaboration for making your film? Can you tell us a bit about this? Is this in any way connected to your own personal political views?
17. Please correct me if i am wrong, You were trying to build a smaller kind of ‘Producers rights body’, for smaller producers, and those that did not have their grievenaces addressed could get in touch with this body. I hope i am right. If that be true, how would get other business partners in the ecosystem to communicate with you and establish your authority. Would a small body be able to handle the kind of chaos that’s been happening in the last one month.
Your views on the TFPC – DSP – Theatre issue which has been simmering for a month.
18. Apparently, one tweet from a reputed producer said that he would restrict his films to 100 screens to support smaller films. I don’t know if it was an official resilution passed by the TFPC. Do you have any idea of this? If this is true, do you think this would be complied or would rules be bent for the bigger films?

 

 

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Conversation with Director Durai ..

Over the last few months, one question has set me ticking.. It is almost obvious that we may hardly have anyone credible enough, yet with sufficient memory to recollect experiences of watching Silent Tamil movies. Even the people, who grew up in the late 20s and 30s are getting old, and having problems with regard to Old age.

Only maybe from people who were born from the 40s onward, and with a reasonable amount of credibility, and with the luck of having watched a possible re-run of a MKT or a K.Subhramanyam Movie even before they were born might provide first hand experience of the early talkies. I was under the dumbed down impression that people who made films in the 70s and 80s should be available in abundance, until we heard the news of the demise of several Directors or Writers ( Read Legends) like K.Balachander, Vaali , Balu Mahendra, Jayakanthan, R.C. Sakthi etc..

The only way to get a first hand experience of what was in their heads now, is ( if we are lucky enough) if anyone has published their memoirs or cine experiences etc.. This set me thinking. I wanted a first hand experience of my favorite decade of Tamil cinema watching until then.. ( I had not seen any movies of the 40s or 50s prior to that.. I have seen a few now)..

Some names cropped up – Mahendran, Durai, Rudraiah ( Even we have lost him as well) and after reading Theodore Baskaran’s book – JayaBharathi..

The trouble is how to get access to them.. ? I had managed to get access to an address book, but most of the information provided in that book was a little obsolete.. During this process, I had managed to collect ( either purchase DVDS , scour the Internet or Youtube) and got information of about 12-13 Tamil movies made by Durai. But most of the critically acclaimed work barring Pasi was unavailable. Slowly over time, i found some socially forward films made by Durai in the mid to late 70s, including the really awesome – ‘Oru Veedu Oru Ulagam’ .. The rest I could not find.. ( Later, I did find a couple more commercial films made by him in the 80s, I could not get any access to any of the approximately 30 of his films..)

One fine day, I found an official website of Director Durai, updated with reasonable amount of Meta Data and information about Director Durai. The Phone number mentioned though, was unfortunately not accessible, and there was no response to the email which i had sent. So, I had decided that the next time, I came to Madras, i was going to physically verify the address and hope that he was there.

Around 20 days ago, I did reach the address and I did find out that Director Durai indeed did live there, but I could not gain any access to him as a researcher. I was explaining my woes to someone there, telling them what i do, and that I have come so far, the person took pity on me ( Thank You very much) and gave me Director Durai’s son’s number –

Subsequently, I did call up that person ( Mr.prakash), and when i explained my intention, he spoke with his father, and arranged an appointment with Durai himself. ( I have not seen him to this point, but I am very thankful to you, Mr.Prakash)..


When I reached his residence at the appointed time, Director Durai was waiting for me. He offered me to sit down in his office room and excused himself. I had set up my Ipad in a recording position. When He came back, one of the first questions that I had put forward was , ‘Where Are your films?’ – Even, he seemed to have no idea, where they were. He also told me that apparently in those days, you couldn’t linger along with such huge tin boxes of Positive Fim Reels in one’s home, and once the rights were sold off to a main Copyright Holder, Durai himself, never saw any of these reels again..

I couldn’t obviously ask him much. There were about 40 films, which I needed information about. And at times, he was a little hazy, and his memory was deceiving him. I had asked him information about a movie, which I had no idea, but he had confused it with ‘Aval Oru Kaviyam’, a movie, whose print is available, thankfully.

He gave me thread bare information on Films like ‘Kaadu*’ and ‘RaghuPathi Raghavan RajaRam’, prints which are virtually untraceable. I asked him about a movie, which had at some point been telecast in Private Television channel, about the producer, and he confirmed it.

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I then spoke with him about “Aayiram Jenmangal’, and about the story being directly ripped off, and being used in a contemporary comedy/horror film. He told me that he too had heard the news, and apparently a few people had suggested him to file a case against the concerned people, but somehow he wasn’t too interested in pursuing such things.

I also spoke with him, about Visu’s role as a Dialogue writer in the movie ‘Sathurangam, (1978) , and about only half of the movie’s video being available. He had no idea about this..

In the meantime, he had got some tea and biscuits for me. He spoke about personal incidents in Pasi and Oru Veedu Oru Ulagam ( I guess, these are his two best remembered films). He also spoke a bit about how he entered the film world through ‘Avalum Penthaane’, and his early years as an assistant.

When i asked him, whether his peers had no knowledge about getting their films preserved at the NFAI, in the 70s, No, came the answer. To be fair enough to him, You can’t blame him. This man was doing 6 films a year in the late 70s ..

He then took me around his residence and explained the photos and awards which he had received. I had insisted him that he continue writing his biography and publish it for the future reference and in the general interest of the public. He has already written a bit, but he told me that he has stopped writing for a while. I did have another stream of thought, but I didnt feel that I had reached a position where I could make such a strong suggestion, so I just refrained myself. Hopefully, something whats in my head will take root at some point in the future..

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Conversations – ‘Film News’ Anandan, D.V.Balakrishnan and Dr.S.Krishnaswamy ..

Over the last couple of months, I have continued to have meaningful conversations with reliable sources of Information. However, Neither is my computer in the best of shape to do some HD Editing nor do I have the necessary Internet Bandwidth to upload even a Trailer, for that matter.. But, Thankfully, My humble First Generation I-Pad is still running good. By December, it would have served me good for almost three years. It has also been my go-to-recording device. As a compromise of space, I set Audio to the best quality, while The Video Recording quality i Keep minimally, So, the End Video Quality does have some pixelations, in it. But i guess, thats the best, that i can manage under these circumstances.

‘FILM NEWS’ ANANDAN – He is one of the most reliable sources of Information in the Tamil cinema Industry. He is officially credited as Tamil Cinema’s First PRO, and has been an immense source of Reference for contemporary work on Tamil Cinema. In the year 2003, the Tamil Nadu Government took over a lot of his material and published his book. Although, I do not have a copy of this book ( I am unable to get one), I have managed to see the book, and the meta data of virtually every film made in Tamil cinema, is almost there.. The work is just way too humongous.. I did have some difficulty tracing him, but thankfully, he only obliged me for speaking for over 2 hours, inspite of his increasing age. He has also lost his eyesight, Poor Man.. He told me a lot of stories, but then, understandably, he gets one or two – wrong. He is unable to recollect, some of his own information, suddenly, which he himself has printed. But he also gets some bang on – The Movie ‘InbaSakaran’ which was burnt in Subhrmanyam’s studio for instance.. It was a very pleasurable experience that i even got to meet this man and take a photograph with him, forget the pleasure of discussing cinema with him.

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2. D.V.Balakrishnan – In the time spent between conversing with Film News Anandan and D.V.Balakrishnan, I spent a lot of time reading books, and seeing some old films. I observed that the most damage in terms of lost or inaccessible movies was that of Director Raja Sandow and Dr.K.Subhramanyam – commonly known as The Father of Tamil cinema. The Other contemporary large studios or film directors of that Era like Pakhshiraja, Gemini, AVM or Directors like Sunder Rao Nadkarni, Ellis R Dungan or Y.V.Rao ( Actress Lakshmi’s father), atleast a few films are available.

So, while trying to get some information about Pavalakodi, I landed up getting links of Suresh BalaKrishnan ( and his father D.V.BalaKrishnan). My point of focus was Pavalakodi and Naveena Sarangadhara, the First and Second Films of K.Subhramanyam. But they were also the first and second movies acted by M.K.ThyagaRaja Bhagavathar and Actress. S.D.Subbulakshmi. The Balakrishnan’s have been researching about M.K.ThayagaRaja Bhagavathar, So I some how managed to link to them..  Incidentally, D.V.Balakrishnan also appears in the documentary ‘An American In Madras’ by Ellis R Dungan by Karan Bali.

Since Suresh is a busy person, most of the conversation that i have had in this one week was entirely with the senior D.V.Balakrishnan and he is indeed a treasure house. He has virtually extended every cell of being a MKT fan and pushed that energy in the form of a very well researched book called Bhagavathar-His Life and Times.

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And Mr.D.V.Balakrishnan was extremely accomodative and cordial in terms of his hospitability. Thank you very much D.V.Balakrishnan Sir.

3. Dr.S.Krishnaswamy – Dr.S.Krishnaswamy is the co-author of ‘INDIAN FILM’, an authoritative work on Indian Cinema. It was first published in 1963 and second edition in 1980. Not only is he extremely well informed about Indian Cinema, he also incidentally happens to be a son of the Great Legend – Director K.Subhramanyam itself.

As has always been the practice, with each conversation, I take in more effort to prepare questions. I do a lot of reading, and I refer contemporarily available reliable Documents and most importantly, I try to double check on Information, if there are conflicting views. Since i had informed Dr.Krishnaswamy that i wanted to focus on K.Subhrmanyam Sir’s family, I had done my level best to do some preparatory work, and it was definitely one of the most enjoyable experiences that i had. I must also thank Dr.Krishnaswamy for giving me some material on K.Subhramanyam, which were published by other authors as well. He also gave me more leads on JayaKanthan’s movies, which i intend to explore further..

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I have planned a couple more interviews, which I do hope that i will get an Appointment, and explore some more places, where Published material is available in Chennai. I also intend to take a trip to the Film Archives in Pune, as well. Let us see, how far things will go!!!