Wednesday, May 17, 2006

campus films from kerala

Where are the girls, the bikes and the mobiles?
Our campus films – Some Random Notes

‘Never in history has there been such a glaring contrast between what could be and what actually exists.”
- “The Joy of Revolution,” from Public Secrets: Collected Skirmishes of Ken Knabb (1997).

Recently, I had the opportunity to watch a cross section of video films made in Kerala campuses in some campus film festivals. And the immediate feeling I had was that barring a few exceptions, they all seem to occupy spaces that are faraway and cut off from the everyday life at the campus or our lived-in environs.

It seems the ghost of ‘art films’ of the 70’s is haunting our campus films. They obsessively and adamantly want to be ‘serious’, ponderous, and angst-ridden and are terribly anti-body in their worldview and approach. They abhor local dialects, any kind of humour and all kinds of fun. In their search for the serious and the high, they dread simplicity and directness, life and liveliness.

Leave alone their slavery to the printed word, most of them are obsessed with mind and memory, something baffling from ‘young’ image-makers from the campus. In film after film, you see various forms of reminiscing that try to capture something already lost. For, why should the youth apparently living an ‘adi-poli’ life (as was evident from the student delegates who attended these festivals) compulsively hark back to ‘remembrance’ and be nostalgic for a past that never was, or is yet to be? Why this desire to dwell upon the mind, rather than body, and the happenings around and here & now. Why this compulsion to hark back to memories/thought rather than depicting or dwelling upon surface, body, life and world And all signs of contemporariness, like dating, cell phone, bikes etc are barred from the films. (Or, is it that only those who are averse to such things want to engage in such ‘serious’ activities like filmmaking?). Most dangerously, most of the films hold very conventional notions about man-woman relationship. You invariably find the condescending ‘intellectual-man’ and the demure, follower-female’ in campus films too where it seems to be the dominant pattern (The thinking male and blabbering female!) Many of the films drown within the closed world of the male protagonist’s mind

Another feature that stands out is the almost total surrender to technology and non-linear editing. Whatever is shot seem to be placed at the foot of the editor who uses all kinds of NLE techniques according to his sweet will and pleasure. This penchant for push-button methods reflects upon the end product, in which techniques stands out, and one is forced to feel that effects are used just for effects’ sake, just because such effects are available..

In almost all films, there is an utter lack of sensitiveness to the use of sound. Very rarely is music used with any ‘insight’. Lack of politics is another significant feature that stands out.. There is an evident lack of ‘something to say of one’s own’. The young filmmakers are not against any aesthetic/dominant form of life, politics or art. So, naturally there is no revolt in form or content, and the treatment tends to be wholly driven by technology and editing. All of them are looking UP to the existing modes of narration and treatment rather than looking BEYOND and against

Everyone seems to want to make a FILM rather than use the possibilities of VIDEO. Everyone seems to be dreaming of becoming a Maniratnam. It is ‘video vainly dreaming of being a feature film’. And what we get are ‘campus films that are nostalgic about ‘campus’?!!


Blogger SArath said...

Somehow we always confuse "intellectual" postures with art. And in our campuses intellectualism is automatically associated to the spring of the 70s. May be this explains the "nostalgia".
As for the gender caricatures, they are just following the norms of the Kerala society. And to think that more than a decade back, long before Nalini Jameela, Padmarajan made Thoovanathubikal!! Ah, now thats making me nostalgic!

1:14 AM  

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