It all began from…insomnia

Times have changed since I was 14. At that time, my school, probably with good intentions, began preparing us for the all-important SSLC (Class 10), a public examination held for students throughout the country. Just like me, many must have felt it is a make or break deal. Our school system was a throwback to the industrial age, with the onus on producing results. It is drilled to the bone of every student that failure to score well spells disaster for your entire career. So the pressure is up there as I strongly suspect it still is.

The awareness over the stress that students routinely face was less in 1990-91 than it is today. I was profoundly ill-equipped to navigate the landmine that was my up-and-coming academic career. Like a lot of my classmates, I crammed, only to forget most of what I learned during the exam. A part of me was never convinced that school, as I experienced it, was the only route to a successful career. I never felt I belonged in school. This, despite the fact that my father was a sociology major.

There are valid reasons why I harboured such an unorthodox belief system at such a young age. I wasn’t simply raised like that. My father ended his role in my studies with enrolling me in a school for which I already had the marks to qualify. He was absent in all the parent-teacher meetings, a crime that my school never did forgive him or me for. At home, as long as I stayed out of sight in my upstairs refuge, I never go into any trouble.

When I came of age, school became a dreaded affair. I only attended because I didn’t have the nerve to bunk. I was busy discovering new facets to my hometown Nagercoil, all for the first time, now that I could go out unaccompanied. I would often stop at stores to buy candy or gum. The excitement over my aimless wanderings across town was not to be exchanged for the droll confines of my class.

It is in this situation that insomnia began its cruel attack on me. My parents never openly asked me to study, but it was clear that it was expected of me. There was nothing more than the sound of the alarm clock set to ring early in the morning that I was scared of. I would wake up hours ahead of the bone-chilling sound, my heart pounding so hard that I could hear it. My shirt would be drenched with my own sweat and nightmares plagued me all year long that I had flunked. I now know that what I was facing extraordinary levels of crippling anxiety and palpitation, but back then I was more frightened because I did not know what I had. My father’s hands-off approach, frankly, did not help at all.

My mother had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease of the central nervous system that prevented her from running the house the way she would have wanted to. My father too had lately developed alcohol dependence.

My teachers, even the ones who were good with their subjects, were unsympathetic. With the appallingly poor student-to-teacher ratio in my class, personalised attention was impossible. We were 65 students each in two different sections (more were trying to qualify) in a school that didn’t care for anything except your marks. The way they assessed character was even more bizarre. I remember being pulled up for whispering in class more than once. It turned out that I had a rather loud whisper which all present could hear anyway.

The problems of mathematics, trigonometry, in particular, haunted me. Ill-informed about the applications of this branch of maths, I found the subject obscure and trivial. And, in a way, I was right. Never in my life after those years, did I find a need to apply the elusive equations of Sin, Cos and Tan.

Maths and sociology classes were ruined by the raucousness of my classmates. They got busy making fun of the teacher as they could always make up for it in their tuitions. I had made the bold and ‘wise’ decision of not going to tuitions for Class 9. That was probably the best thing to happen to me all year. I had a very good teacher for Biology. It was he who made me realise that I did not have a head for cutting up frogs. But options are limited for students who are neither good in maths nor science.

My father, indulging in a moment of sympathy towards my brother and me, bought us a VCR on which one could play VHS tapes. Thus began my raiding of local video stores for movies. I wasn’t very particular about what I watched. My education in movies had started truly. I was a big relief to watch movies instead of watching the clock tick by every night.

I found comfort in playing cricket and escaping to the darkness of movie theatres. I must have bicycled to most parts of Nagercoil and a good many villages which strictly were not part of town. I had graduated to Agatha Christie and Perry Mason from Enid Blyton and I sought solace in these pages I found hard to get elsewhere. Not that your average murder mystery solved all the weighty philosophical problems of life.

Deep inside my heart, I was wracked with guilt and this in a most troubling way fuelled my anxiety about the future. Most people who exhibit depressive behaviour or have mental disorder usually trace their problems to this bout of insomnia they had when they were still young. I still didn’t know what fate awaited me. The trait carried well into my adulthood. When I was a reporter, I could not sleep if I had to travel for a story the next day.

In India, insomnia is prevalent in 9% of the population. As many as 30% have sleeping disorders one time or the other. At least 28% have trouble initiating and staying asleep, reports the Neurological Society of India. All of us hear stories from friends and family about how they just couldn’t sleep the other night. Most of us experience nights in which we toss and turn and can’t just switch off. But when you are 14, all of this is terrifying.

It seemed that in school there were two kinds of students: the ones who got the grades and were good at that, and the ones who flunked and cared little about it. Even among my closest friends, there was absolutely no conversation about how strenuous the process of not scoring was. Between all this, there was the odd student who was there because he was athletically inclined. Amid this group, I was isolated, alienated and alone, despite having a couple of very close, trustworthy friends.

In an all-male school, there is, as you may guess, a lot of talk about sex. We didn’t really talk about girls. I remember lunch hour whiling away in what now seems an absurd obsession about what was between our legs. Between shared omelettes and juicy titbits, my friends endlessly regaled each other about the pleasures they hadn’t known before. None of us even entertained the idea of having a girlfriend.

This is really not a healthy atmosphere to grow up in and I didn’t make the connection between my sleeplessness and the simple need to express myself. I did not know this problem was not unique to me. It constantly felt like a huge part of me was locked inside myself, aching to go out and be free. I was plainly worried about a whole of lot of things I couldn’t figure out and taking them with me to bed definitely did not help.

And, so unbeknown to my family, I began smoking. It made me, at least for a few minutes, feel like an adult, who could take on the challenges of the world. There are many harmful effects of smoking especially at a young age, one of them being that it affects your sleep pattern.

From yoga to breathing techniques, there are many ways an insomniac can combat his condition. You can stop drinking caffeine after 6pm. You can take out your frustrations in a gym. But it seems the most important thing is to not be scared when you can’t sleep and believe in yourself. There are many websites which tell you how to alleviate your problem so I will not go there. But, if you think there is a root cause to why you are not sleeping well, you should aggressively address the issue.

And oh, by the way, if you are wondering how much I scored in Class 10, it was 382/500, which got me a seat in the maths-computer science group of the Sethu Lakshmi Bai Higher Secondary School in Nagercoil.

Ooty…A while ago

The Train Of Thoughts

For people in Ooty, this winter has been really cold. In other words, this is the most biting cold the locals have faced in a while. At least since last November. Last year, the rains made life more comfortable for people in Nilgiris district. In sharp contrast, in many places temperature is expected to drop to sub zero this year. Even as people complain about the discomfort, it is rather clear that they love the cold. Nilgrites are classy dressers. You cannot see too many people without shoes in my locality, Greenfields, which is very close to the centre of town, Charing Cross. Even the most poverty stricken dress up in mufflers, sweaters, and jackets to ward off the cold. Any small change in climate brings a flood of visitors. Once they get to town, they tour touristy places like Botanical Garden and Doddabetta, the highest peak in South India. My personal favourite is the Bhavanisagar Dam. I suppose tourists return disappointed without exploring the district.

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The movie scene in Ooty sucks most of the time. People just don’t go to theatres. After having lived in places like Coimbatore, Chennai and Hyderabad, I found this trend strange. Ooty is not really an arts and culture hub. However, I am thankful to the fledgling short film festival.

On the other hand, it is quite bizarre that the most modern of arts (the movies) doesn’t really appeal to people. But DVD piracy is rampant and is a sure sign that people are not entirely immune to the charms of the silver screen. You wouldn’t be wholly wrong to assume that it’s the content of the movies that drive people away from the theatre in hordes. But the marketing of these movies is also a big problem. I am certain that people have not even heard of some of the movies that hit this town’s theatres, especially those that in languages other than Tamil. Or perhaps, people don’t really need to unwind as much as those in the big cities as they already live a calm, serene life.

But what is really depressing is the lack of a reading culture in Ooty. Apart from the Nilgiris Library and Higginbothams, there are no other places that provide people with good reading material. Even newspapers and magazines cannot be commonly bought.

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Nilgiris district is the tea capital of India, as you know very well. But in tea shops, the potent drink is as bad as say, Chennai. I have always wondered why. The answer is pretty simple: In tea shops it’s a business. But you would be lucky, as I have been, to have tea at Ooty’s homes. This tea made with care at home is really how tea should be and not the faintly sweet, lukewarm excuse you get in the shops. Ooty is also home to the most flavours of tea you can ever obtain. From Chocolate to Masala to Organic, tea is available in every taste you can possibly imagine. When people hit town, they would do good to buy a pack or two. It’s an ideal gift when you visit your relatives and friends in the plains.

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When I was still a kid, my parents and especially my grandparents, guessing quite wrongly that I was precocious, decided to amuse themselves by entertaining thoughts that I could be sent to Lovedale, where presumably I would bunk in the hostel and become one of the brightest in the family. Thankfully, they never decided to act on their thoughts. But it cannot be denied that Ooty is one of greatest places for education in South India. Parents here often shape their careers around the performance of their children in Ooty’s prestigious schools. Even the hostel life in these schools is an experience to be valued and treasured. Children from well-to-do families land up in Ooty not just to excel in studies, but also develop an array of skills that serve them well in their careers. Even the government school in Ooty is much better than any of those in the so-called plains.

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During this Pongal holidays, my wife and I decided to leave the cold mountainside and head for Vellakoil in Erode district, where the weather was much more warm and pleasant. My friend, a famous Tamil writer, hosted us for the good part of almost three days. I was nowhere close to guessing the rush of passengers who had caught the buses, including special vehicles for Pongal. Our travel then became an adventure and we reached my friend’s home in early hours of January 14. As you know, Pongal is the harvest festival of Tamil Nadu. January 15th, the date of Mattu Pongal, a festival in honour of cows, was spent in the company of a rich landlord from the Gounder community in Vellakoil. The ‘Chakkara Pongal’ (a delicious combination of rice and jaggery), made with special ghee, was probably the best yours truly ever had. We also invited ourselves to the continuing festivities for the next day. The landlord, is a well-read, but extremely eccentric man, who was continuously under the influence the whole time he hosted us.

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Shoppers at Uzhavar Sandhai (farmers’ market) and Ooty Municipality Vegetable Market usually have a whale of a time. The greens bought here are both fresh and nutritious. You also get a much wider range of veggies than those that can be bought anywhere in Tamil Nadu. Vegetables like brussels sprouts, leek,lettuce and broccoli, which are unavailable in the plains, can be bought here through the year.Ooty is also home to homemade chocolates, varieties of oils and, of course, the varkey. The bakeries are also a great haunt for tourists.All of this makes Ooty an ideal destination for honeymooners especially in the summer months of April and May. Darjeeling Momos are the food-on-the-go choice for tourists.

Hackers beware!

You are now messing with a paid-for blog. So, please stop hacking. If you have a grudge, pick up the mobile and dial 9940495087. I am well aware that some blog posts have been deleted in the past. I am willing to let sleeping dogs lie.

Aside

My review of a biography of AR Rahman is here.

The number of “hits” on my blog has just crossed 78,000. I am happy. This does not include hits to my old blog. If you are a bit confused, checking out the dates on the posts of my blogs will help. Thanks for all the reading and watching. This journey will continue.

Deepak Bhojraj, you have seen his posters

The film 12B (2001), directed by the late Jeeva, has two endings, and one gets the sense that the career of Deepak Bhojraj, the man who edited the trendsetting trailer of the film, could have gone either way. He could have easily been a farmer, but decided to be a designer of posters and trailers. He has now taken up the job of creative head for actor Karthi’s next.

His office is centrally located in Ooty, just half a kilometre from the town’s nerve centre, Charing Cross. It is drizzling and I am late. An employee from Rising Apple, Bhojraj’s four-man company, ushers me in. I find the man in the drawing room, next to a dark brown, worn-out sofa set. We go inside to the boss’s room and get on it.

“We are doing some posters. One is with Moodar Koodam director Naveen called Alauddinin Arputha Camera. The first look poster was released only two days ago,” he tells me.

Bhojraj is heftily-built and is dressed warmly for the occasion. The temperature is a bit lower than most days at the popular hill station. He has a pepper beard tied into a tuft at the lower chin. During the course of the interview, he frequently uses words like creativity, entertainment and excitement. It is clear these words mean a lot to him.

What else is he working on? “I am discussing with director Vikram Kumar (of 24 fame) on his next Telugu project. He has asked me. But till it gets started, I don’t know when and how. Two more Tamil films are also on the works,” he says. “I did the promos and posters for Na Nuvve, and the film was released last month, but didn’t do well.”

The word film is sprinkled liberally all over our conversation, but never movie or picture. “Then, we are doing Vellai Pookal shot entirely in the US. The brains behind the film are in Amazon and IBM and all these places. It has three producers, but some 25 friends are funding it. It is a crowdfunded project. Vivek is the hero. It’s a murder mystery, a whodunit, with a detective trying to solve a crime,” he says.

Bhojraj is most known for the poster of 24. “I set up this design studio (Rising Apple) in Ooty about eight years ago. Earlier, I had to design posters after they completed the film. But in 24, I heard the narration of the film and did concepts. We did a photo shoot for that and created a poster. We planned that every month, on the 24th, we would release a poster. It was conceived completely by me and we strategised the planning of the promotions. We did seven first-looks. That was never done before. That’s why it worked,” he said.

“The best part about 24 is that Suriya and Vikram Kumar gave me a free hand. Suriya, as producer, went all out to promote the film. That’s why the film stood out from the rest,” he said.

“I did Manam with Vikram Kumar. That was my first film with him. We created quite a buzz with the promotions there (in Andhra Pradesh). There were three generations of actors in the film from Nagarjuna’s family. The film had very big expectations. We had to keep that in mind while promoting the film,” says. “You need to drive the message (of the film) to the people, but this has to be the right message. Whatever you are preparing the audience for, that has to be right.”

Bhojraj has worked closely with Mani Ratnam for Guru (2007) and Yuva (2004), among other films. “Mani Ratnam never tells you what he wants. I think he chooses his team very carefully. He is always open to an idea. We get a chance to challenge ourselves more,” he says.

How did he get a chance to work with Mani Ratnam? “I did the promos for AR Rahman shows. At the time, these shows (the Unity of Light series) were happening in Chennai. After seeing them, Mani sir called me. Then I did Shankar’s Boys and Virumandi for Kamal Haasan. For Virumandi, before the film started, we conceptualised, shot and edited the trailer,” he says.

“Directors like Vikram Kumar and Mani Ratnam give you inputs. But they never tell you what to do. That’s what they pay us for. They have created from scratch. I have to excite the soul who conceived the idea with every poster and trailer that I do. If I convince them, I am sure that the audience are… That  I am in the right direction,” he says.

Bala is another top rung director Bhojraj has worked with. “Directors like Bala…he is very defined. He is sure about what he wants. I worked on (the Atharva-starrer) Pardesi with him. Initially, he was not very open, but changed later. I did the sound mixing and determined the colour, look and feel of the film. I got the background score done. I even trimmed the film. I told Bala to look at what I had done. I had told him that we could go back if he did not like something. He liked it,” Bhojraj says proudly.

“The first cut of Irudhi Suttru (2016) was done in Ooty on this table,” he says tapping his desk. (The editing of the film is credited to Sathish Suriya).

Bhojraj comes from a joint family of Badagas, an indigenous tribe in the Nilgiris, and is the oldest of three brothers. “From school, I was into photography and had this point-and-shoot camera. I was shooting landscapes and portraits. Later, I got an SLR and put together a portfolio,” he says.

“I used to take pictures of my family. In all functions, I used to be the official photographer. People started appreciating me and that is when I realised I had talent. I was never good with academics. So I had to look for an alternative,” he explains.

“I wanted to get into cinematography. I went to Film Institute in Chennai, but they turned me down, saying I needed science schooling. But I was in the accounts group,” he says. “My father said ‘finish your basic degree and then decide what you want to do’. So I finished my college in English Literature at Government Arts College in Coimbatore,” he says.

After passing out, Bhojraj met director PC Sriram. “I asked him to take me. He could not take on assistants as he had too many. He told me to work in the direction department of JS Films, which he runs along with Jayendra. He asked me to be around and learn direction. I worked there for four, four-and-a-half years,” he says.

Bhojraj’s first trailer was for 12B. “I decided to start on my own after that. Jeeva is PC’s colleague and has worked with him. That’s is how I know him. He had made 12B. When I approached him, he said ‘no’. He said ‘only the director and editor can edit the trailer’,” he says.

“‘How will third person do it?” he asked me, and told me to meet him after three weeks…So, I was driving back (from the meeting) and I got an idea. I got all the technicians’ names. I devised a concept. I made the title sequence with all the credits coming on like a bus horn and going back. I did all this by myself. I created the music for it and went and showed it to Jeeva about 3-4 days later. Then he said, now, you do whatever you (want),” he says, with a chuckle.

The trailer for 12B set a new benchmark in Kollywood. “It got to be known as the fastest-edited trailer. Everybody started calling after that. I got big films,” he says.

“I come from an audience’s perspective. You (the director) will be part of a film for over a year…two years. You may not like a lot of things. Stuff which is exciting for you may not be so for me and vice-versa,” he says.

Asked about the controversy over the promo for Pardesi, Bhojraj said it showed Bala explaining to an actor to be aggressive in a scene that involved hitting a person. “The film is set in a tea estate in the pre-Independence era portraying the British as being harsh on estate workers. The hitting scene was in the promo and people thought he was treating actors very badly,” he explains. “There would have be no problem if people had seen it along with the movie.”

Behind Bhojraj there is a collection of painting and posters, all of them in frames neatly displayed. “I have been collecting them for a while,” he said.

Bhojraj thinks of himself as a juggler with many creative hands. He is even involved in a bit of farming. “I have some land in Red Hills (Ooty) near Emerald. I won’t be doing any farming for six months though. I have people looking at it. But, you have to put your mind to it. Otherwise, it will take a different course. We used to cultivate vegetables. It is actually more than a full-time job,” he said.

“For me, what is important is, anything that comes to us that is challenging and exciting and we have not done before, we take it up. As long as it is creative, we do it. There is no self-limiting line,” he said. “I named my firm Rising Apple to indicate imagination, as a falling apple signifies gravity. For me creativity is imagination.”

Until 3-4 years ago, Bhojraj was making ad films. “My production company out of which I did ad films was called Rancouter,” he says.

“I have shot some 45-50 ad films. There is a Pothys ad which is spoken about even till today. The owner of Pothys came up with a four films concept. They wanted one film each for one saree that is worn during a specific occasion like Muhurtham or First Night. I explained to them my time slice concept, but they were not convinced.  The idea cannot be narrated like a story. We discussed the project many times across the table, but they simply could not visualise it,” he said.

He asks me graciously if I want to watch them on his big Apple screen. When I decline, he goes right ahead. “They said finally that if you are so sure, let’s go ahead with it. We shot with 54 cameras and did a half circle. It’s called a time slice. We were the first to do that in India. The technique is similar to some scenes in the Hollywood film, Matrix. The ad film was made just before Boys,” he says.

Bhojraj also shot a film with cricketer Sachin Tendulkar for Shakti Foundation, a Chennai-based NGO, which was demanding ramps in public places for disabled people. “They had approached Mani Ratnam to direct the film. Mani sir said that he would write the script but asked someone else to direct it and suggested my name. I took it up. I was a challenging project. Rahman did the music for the film and Mani Ratnam produced it,” he says.

Bhojraj stopped making ad films 3-4 years ago. “I still get offers. But there is nothing very exciting. It is regular, man, and there is no great idea to take up. In South India and particularly in Chennai, there are no companies making great ad films,” he said.

“We have multiple verticals. Film posters, packaging, branding and brochures are among the things we do,” he said, showing me a brochure for an Italian paper company. “They wanted us to do the creative for the brochure. From concept to execution, we did everything,” he says, asking me to touch and feel the brochure. The texture of the paper is in meticulous detail; one of them has a skin texture and another has a metal feel.  “We are diversified. We do the branding for the educational branch of Chettinad Group,” he said.

“Have you heard of Nilgiris Alive,” he asks suddenly. “We make this merchandise and sell it all over town. I realised that tourists do not have souvenirs to take back with them apart from tea and coffee. This is my own brand. This has nothing to do with film. I am here in Ooty and giving it back to society. We make things relative to Ooty like stuffed versions of animals that are here,” he said.

I asked him to name the directors he admires. “I love every director for a certain ability that they posses. I see the quality of the director from different perspectives. Bala sir draws out the best performance from actors. The way Mani sir approaches a subject is very different. There is a way a film is written and another in the way it is visualised. Shooting off the top of my head, among the younger crop of directors, there are Thiagarajan Kumararaja and Karthik Subbaraj. Directors like them are rocking the scene. They are creating their own genres,” he said.

“A film like Aruvi had me thinking for the next two days. It has an unusual format, but still has entertaining aspects. Sometimes, you look at a film, you are in awe. Sometimes, films are big hits, but without any great direction. Some films flop, but are well-made,” he said.

Is it difficult working out of Ooty? “Right now, we are in the process of setting up a branch in Chennai. My office was in Chennai for 20 years. We had an independent house in Chennai and an office there. I decided to take a break from ad films and direct my feature. I wanted to do something that I love, but have never tried. I was on a break for six months and then I decided to do graphic design,” he said.

Bhojraj had to go through a process of finding his feet before he got into graphic design. “When I first came back to Ooty, I did not know what to do. Then I started learning graphic design by myself in those six months. We slowly set up shop. I was not in a hurry. Talent came slowly. Once we were confident, we began taking up projects,” he says.

“Lots of people still didn’t come to us because we were in Ooty.  But I had done Guru (Hindi) by then, so I thought why can’t I deliver to Chennai when I can deliver to Mumbai. So it doesn’t matter if a person is in Anna Nagar or Aminjikarai (localities in Chennai) because connectivity is like that,” said.

Bhojraj has plans to direct. “I am working on a couple of scripts. I should have gotten into directing long back. I just pushed it, and pushed it and hopefully, it will soon happen. One of them is a love story, and the outline of the film is its USP. So I won’t tell you more. I am collaborating with a writer in Australia. Another is a thriller, but I am not getting any time to sit on it,” he says. “I consult for a quite a few feature films. I even do some fine tuning on scripts,” he says.

Asked about his opinion on New Wave (Independent) Tamil cinema, he says: “I think, we still need to explore a lot. We are still very conservative. Everybody says the audience has to accept the film. Audience expects good entertainment, that’s about it. We are failing to package films in a better way.”

“Some films run for entertainment value. There are a lot of directors who are doing the usual stuff. End of the day, a lot of money is involved and so people want a safety net, which is not there at all. Every Friday determines the fate of the film. Some films we thought were not good, turned out to be fantastic at the box office,” he says.

An edited version of this story was published on The News Minute.

Mysskin: Bold and on your face

This is a short post I made on Tamil movie director Mysskin’s speech at a short film festival in December 2017 in Ooty. It has not been published elsewhere. As always, your comments are most welcome.

His speech done, Mysskin, with his trademark shades intact, stepped down and mingled with the crowd at Ooty Film Festival held at Assembly Rooms on December 8, 9 and 10, 2017. He had just demonstrated that his oratory skills were at least as good as his ability to turn out hit pictures. He shook hands with familiar faces and fans and made his way to the food counter, where people queued up to take individual snaps with him. He was especially courteous to women unlike many characters in his movies. Mysskin was patient as the whole process took long minutes.

Mysskin’s role in the festival, comprising mostly of short films, had been as a mentor of sorts and the organisers made no bones of the fact that his hand had steadied the ship. Earlier, on December 8, the festival had begun with a Sinhalese film directed by Prasanna Vithanage.

On Saturday, December 9, Mysskin delivered his rousing speech, which held the audience in thrall. The small hall behind Assembly Rooms, where the sessions were held, was jam-packed and the director targeted his speech, titled ‘Meditation in the Art of Film-making’, mostly at the film students gathered there.

Throughout his speech that ran well over 90 minutes, Mysskin seemed brutally honest, often taking pot shots at public figures like Prime Minister Narendra Modi (he may arrest me), superstar Rajinikanth (I can’t hope he understands my movies), and actor Kamal Haasan (my stories are wasted on him).

Mysskin went on to prescribe a number of steps that film students should take to have a successful career in the world of celluloid. From reading great masters like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky to watching the seminal classics on film, an image of director mysskin he called upon students to have discipline in the way they work in their chosen field. “The fundamentals of cinematography and framing a shot can be understood by looking at the best black and white photos ever shot,” he said.

Bemoaning the lack of quality in the Tamil short films submitted to the festival, he said there was a wide chasm between home-grown films and those submitted from Iran and Sri Lanka. “It is with a sinking heart that I say that some films submitted to the festival were really poor,” he said. He went on to illustrate how film students could base their films on the acclaimed works of Tamil writers. “Our culture is in no way inferior to that of many countries across the world. There is no reason why the films cannot be as good,” he said.

Mentioning how film students were being increasingly influenced by the works of highly successful directors of tentpole movies like Christopher Nolan, he persuaded students to have a “simple approach to the process of film-making” to begin with. “You really can’t afford to dream that you are going to make the next Interstellar,” Mysskin said.

His speech was freely littered with cuss words and every time he mentioned a word that can’t be reproduced here, there was much cheering from the audience. “This is not Parliament. I can get away with saying unparliamentary words. And, you will all go to sleep if I drone on here on stage. I want you to listen to what I am saying. And, I am obliged to make sure you are not distracted,” he said.

Giving an example from his own experience at the sets of Nandalala, he said he had written 22 scenes for his opening sequence in the film. But he was constrained at the set because someone had failed to get the required permission to shoot the sequence. “Shooting the whole sequence would have taken me at least a day. I thought for a few minutes and then decided to just restrict the whole sequence to just one shot. As a crowd rushes out of a school, I got the boy (who plays a central role in the film) to look into the camera,” he said, explaining how the film-making process can be made both economical and powerful.

“There are just three shots in film-making: Longshot, mid-shot and close-up. If you are wondering about god-shot and mise-en-scene as your begin your film-making process, well, hard luck, you may not complete your film,” he said.

Mysskin began his journey with 2006’s Chithiram Pesuthadi. Many of his films including Anjathe and Onayum Aatukuttiyum went on to achieve considerable commercial success and critical acclaim.

Jackie – Inside the White House

Saw Jackie, the movie on the former First Lady of the US, and want to write my thoughts on it. Natalie Portman portrays Jacqueline Kennedy as a widow, who has the inner reserves to make a difference in the crucial days following the assassination of her husband John F Kennedy.

The lead performance is towering and played with endless compassion by Portman as the camera swoops into many close-ups including the one that begins the movie. She is unlucky to have not won the Oscar this year, seeing as it were that she was up against Emma Stone’s enormously popular performance in La La Land.

The movie essays back and forth as if travelling in Jackie’s memory. The tour of the White House, flawlessly reconstructed with Jackie playing the charming hostess, was broadcast and seen by millions of viewers. This film, along with sYousuf-Karsh-John-and-Jackie-Kennedy-1957-1644x1960imilarly captured moments, form important parts of the movie. Jackie’s conversation with a priest, played by John Hurt before his death, also plays out as a riveting piece of the action, especially when the priest recounts the parable of Jesus and the blind man. The movie is also a throwback to the days when Jackie shared a close bond with Robert F Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard), who bitterly complains about the family legacy that had gone wrong with the death of the president.

Jackie is also shown as wandering through the elegant and well-kept rooms of the White House in a daze. She is also shown self-medicating herself along with large swigs of vodka. She is also seen chain smoking through an interview with an unnamed journalist portrayed by Billy Crudup. But the show must go on, and it does.

The Oscar-nominated music by Mica Levi is haunting and provides perfect thrust at many of the movie’s dramatic moments. I thought the movie should have ended better; the ballroom sequence seemed a bit tacky. The movie is directed by Pablo Larrain and written by Noah Oppenheim.