We were a bunch. The students from colleges in the neighbourhood. We were unbridled and impetuous as we could be. There were student union activists who set many a tranquil days into raging conflageration. There were brooding loners who would walk by the din as if the world had never been a spectacle. There were loiterers simple and vain. There were kiddos destined for greater futures that had been mapped out and choreographed by their parents. And then there were us, who just happened to be there for no apparent reason. Sure there were thousand other students who looked just like us: in those over crowded buses, "bootilicious" noon shows, among the clamour in mess halls, hostel and along the periphery of life itself.
We ran into each other in some of those happenstances. We met again at Kerala Kalapeetam, a tiny 1200 sq. ft. rendezvous for writers, artists, oglers, pretenders and movie buffs. It used to be a major haunt for the arty intelligentsia in the sleepy town of cochin. Some of the folks I met in that mosquito infested cusbah were Kamala Das, Balachandran Chullikad, his wife Vijayalakshmi (both poets), Ayyapa Panickar and a few other names I don't remember. The enterprise was held together by Kaladharan - he looked like santa and lived in the haunt. Two other art endeavours from Kalapeetam were Cochin Film Society and Little Theatre. Little Theatre later split into too little theatres though. One delved into the Indian aesthetics (Karnabhaaram and other heavy epic based scripts) and other went after woody allen and low-brow enactments of shakespeare plays. Film Society however had more followers, partly due to the fact that local media gave it serious backing and the voluntary efforts of people who had steady job.
Cochin Film society brought a lot movies from all over the world into the town. Sometimes they showed them in theatres, other times they showed them in the public library auditorium. We had Italian film festivel that showcased the neorealists (Desica, Rosellini), Antonioni. We had Hungarian films (Jancso, Istavan Szabo, Gall, Zoltan Fabri), Iranian (French Avante-Garde cinema (Renoir, Godard, Resnais), Polish new-wave cinema (Andrej Wajda, Krystoff Zanussi, Kieslowski), Indian (Kumar Shahani, Mani Kaul) and the retrospectives: Bergman, Ghatak, Bimal Roy, Satyajit Rai, John Abraham, Thomas Alia (Cuba), Kurosava, Misoguchi and countless others.
They also let the screening of independent movies by fledgling directors from inside and outside the country, even though the audience could turn hostile sometime. We have seen a girl who showed her longish arty movie getting grilled and booed by the hostile audience who watched it for free. We have seen the unusually huge turn out for Milos Forman's movie Hair. Then there were plenty of short film screenings. Once after the screening of a short film, Kaladharan introduced the director as
Fellini's prodigy and asst. director. He asked for a write-up for press release. I did that with another mate of mine, Rajeev Ravi. He was a generally a mute spectator and together we collected all the brochures and write-up on all the movies ever screened in Film Society. The synopsis had enough sound bytes for us to explore the inner workings of cinema and together we shared this wonderful fascination.
He and I applied for FTII (Film and Television Institute, Pune) after bachelors. Cinematography was his passion and I wanted audiography. However the day we supposed to leave for Pune, I had some serious talk with my parents and realized my journey might just not start then. I bade him farewell and came back with a heavy heart. My path then digressed quite a bit.
Rajeev had his ups and downs. Second year he had an aggravated chemical reaction and spent almost a year in medication at home. But he'd overcome that and on his way to become one of the best cinematographers in India. He did Chandni Bar, Sesham, The Bypass and many more projects on his resume.
I must mention one more dude who made a difference and perhaps threw in a little light. His name is Anup Kurian. Though I have not met or even heard of him before, I felt I know him more than I think I do. He had his school in FTII, but took up a job in IT and later came to US to hunt for the bounty. A short visit of Syamaprasad (renowned malayalam director) to the west coast gave him the nudge he desperately needed. The money that he made in US was enough for a shoestring project and he made Manasarovar. Critic Derek Malcolm after having seen the movie, sought Anup to talk about his movie. In a rare honour to Indian independent movies, `Manasarovar’, a 90-minute feature film in English had been selected to be screened across 35 theatres in UK, starting January 2005, ahead of its India release. He is living up his dream and has done enough to bring a smile on dreamers among us. Let me wind up this meandering of a blog with a few lines from an obscure poet:
It's easy, perhaps to die for a dream
With banners unfurled - and be forgiving!
It's the hardest part to follow the gleam
When scorned by the world - and go on living!
--Myra Brooks Welch
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