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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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