With over 250 young aspiring film makers, television achors, news readers and all other available professions in media, the chennai version of Footprints 2004 was a roaring success, yesterday. Usually in such day-long seminars, either just one session would be the highlight or every other program is as boring as the other. But the dudes at Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communication did bring in the variety at the seminar which made the whole day whiz past us in minutes.
K Balachander, who inaugrated the seminar said, did come with a written speech something our present day film makers lack. Though it was a short speech and he had to leave, he did give a good start by defining creativity and it’s spread. It would been a pleasure to listen to him, more.
Krishnan Menon from the advertising giant Ogilvy and Mather, started off the first session named Does creativity in advertising kill or build brands ? He started off with the Simon says game and did get to the crux of the issue soon. He was probably the one who stuck to the topic thoroughly. Attribute it to the industry he comes from, Krishnan, was able to get the attention of the crowds so easily. His presentation had more ads than slides which probably made it seem so lively. Who doesn’t love ads. It was with groups of such ads he distinguished between the good idea and bad idea, the strong idea and the weaker ones. Using the Hutch [Dog and The Kid] campaign, that O & M handled, he explained how a strong idea helps boost the brands. And finally, he did play a audio clip of clients abuse them in advertising through which he communicated, think before you jump. But jokes apart it was a session so gripping just like the ads.
James Vasanthan, the famous TV anchor, was there to talk on Creative Promotion of Regional Television Programmes. Being in the industry from the first day of Sun TV, he carries loads of expertise and his experience in handling large crowds. He did get the pulse of the crowd within minutes by asking them to represent the univerisity or the organisation which they come from. That ice breaker was probably the best on the day and the crowd became too interactive then that there were paralell shouts around.
But James was throwing stones from being inside the glass house. He was attacking every other mega serial and fiction work done on regional satellite channels [read sun, vijay, raj televisions]. While he was amazing detailing the practical issues of a mega serial prodcuer/director and thus explained there was no creativity in them. I, for once didn’t go with his statement. He was advocating good fiction work or abolish fiction from these channels. Like it or not, we at Tamil Nadu have more channels than any other language and it would impossible now to control the pace. So the best way out is to appreciate the best and leave the rest. Instead abolish fiction work itself is a universal resolution. No country would be able to do it. It would be like controlling the entertainment values of the state. So I did rise up and did tell him that anything that’s slightly exaggerated, becomes fiction. From News to Documentaries to his speech , if they are exaggerated, it can be classified as fiction. It’s tough to non-fictitious always. He wasn’t convinced. Neither was I, by his speech.
I did like when he said, educated guys should come to the media. Many school drop-outs think that their only way out it cinema and they chose to barge in a tea boy and they slowly rise up to directors. While this thing could be a personal success, it kills the arts. Because the one who specialises in that art goes to some back-end technical job in the media and these school drop outs rule the media. I stand by it.
Gautam Menon, the director of Kakkha Kakkha and Minnale, did come in to talk about the Surging Wave of Creativity in Tamil Cinema. There came the dramatisation with him. I had no clue why they sensationalised his entry. The song Uyirin Uyire was played and he entered the hall among whistles and applauses. He was probably shocked to see the huge crowd awiting his entry and must have felt a little tensed because of the huge build-up given for his arrival.
He started off by talking about creativity and how in the existing scenario of movies, a director is pressurized to make movies that may not be his choice. Still, how he managed off to be creative enough in both his films. He also hinted about the Kamal’s movie that he is going to do and asked for suggestions from the crowd. A suggestion for Kamal Hassan script. Here you go and there came tons of suggestions but not even one was useless. The crowd was amazing enough to not utter a stupid suggestion. I had my share of two cents by saying that Kamal’s breadth and width as an actor is enormous and one must keep into account his age, the kind of sober movies like Mahanadhi and Anbe Sivam that weren’t big hits even though they were appreciated by the critics. And with the kind of slick programming that Gautam can do to his films, a movie of Kamal & Gautam should contain the best of both these aspects. Personally when I met him after the show, I did tell him about the phone calls I got because of Surya pronouncing a cell phone number that was six digits short of mine. I also told him how an aspiring director was sending me SMS, wishing me good mornings and nights. He laughed briefly and said, Wish him back.
Some one asked him, if the haircut was influenced by Anbu Selvan’s haricut in Kakkha Kakkha and he responded well by saying Anbu Selvan was inspired by this haircut. However, he was tight lipped and only nodded head many a time.
The highlight was the panel discussion on Does Creativity Curb Creativity. And it was the best panel one could ask for. The SUN News fame Anuradha Ananth being the moderator, the panel had Cartoonist Madan, Writer Siva Shankari, Director Janaki Vishwanath and Krishnaswamy of Krishnaswamy associates. It was certainly a sensitive topic and I was expecting fireworks alongway.
Krishnaswamy started off and took long time that what was expected. Neverthless, it was with his wealth of experience he was able to historically track the censor board’s good and bad by way of his personal experiences. I think, though he took a longer time, he shared the best of his experiences. He described how his team were the first to enter the Golden Temple during the last minute of Operation Bluestar. The last bullets were still being shot and his team was inside the amristar temple taking videos of the legs, arms and bodies strewn around because of the fight. He said this documetary was admitted by the Censor while the previous one called Indus Valley to Indira Gandhi had several cuts. Six thousand copies of this documentary was later bought by the government to showcase the world that what they had did was perfectly right.
Writer Sivashankari was requesting a censorship from all the media including the television. She remarked while the creativity of the creators of cinema is being censored, the television is let loose to have the F and M tvs. Janaki Vishwanath was saying though she didn’t believe in censorship, her films, Kutty and Kanavu Meipada Vendum weren’t cut much by the censors. She was sounding a little feministic at times. Madan was probably the liveliest of the lot. With his experience in Ananda Vikatan, he shared how censor ship was sometimes taken in hand by the government and how Ananda Vikatan’s editor was arrested for a joke which was published in the book. He explained how the Stalin in Russia used cartoons to throw out the Czars and how he abolished cartoons when he came to power, fearing the power of cartoons.
My point there was to avoid censor board from giving cuts to a film rather it could follow the rating system, like in the US. This would not stop any creator from taking movies of his likings. The panel did agree that it’s high time rating system was in. Who would tie the bell, was the question. Imagine if Mani Ratnam wanted the Inba Sekhar of Aayitha Ezhuthu to talk foul language because he was brought up in a slum. He wouldn’t be able to do it because the censors don’t allow BAD WORDS. Bad words, huh!!. So if rating come into picture, Inba could as much as fould language as the character demands but probably it would be rated R. If that’s what Mani Ratnam wants he can go ahead. What say ?
The entire organising team did a great job of organising this seminar. Aishwarya Rao who was leading the team was exceptional in controlling the crowds and welcoming the guests. She also did a favor by keeping aside a ticket for me, a complete stranger. The crowd loved the show, the only issue, not many such nice seminars happen often.