Mohan Das Vadakara is a freelance photographer and videographer.
So 'free' that he does not mind shooting an engaging Thamizh street play in Saidapet at length or clicking pictures of a wandering minstrel in George Towne.
So 'free' that he may shoot a performance you assigned him but not bother to hand it over to you even if you wanted to pay him!
Working out of Triplicane, known as the city's 'market of mansions' for bachelors, Vadakara is perhaps the city's chronicler of cultural events.
He has footage nobody possibly has.Every now and then we team up to work together.
So, during the 2006 Chennai Corporation elections we worked on a documentary film which focussed on a single day's campaign of a local woman candidate, who used to be a councillor of a ward in Mylapore.
As it turned out, the day's campaign was through a slum colony called Lala Thotam and through Pelathope, a single-street colony, once the most important address in Madras because it was home and office to the city's leading lawyers.
Though we are amateurs in film making, Vadakara and I edited the film and screened it at the 'Madras Day' docu-films fest which was held last weekend ( http://www.themadrasday.in/ has all the details).
And the feedback we received was educative.
How do we engage with a local councillor on local issues?
Where is the space to discuss such issues?
How do we ensure that a councillor does not nod his or her head for projects that really do not mean much to the neighbourhood?
How do we work together with our local rep and ensure better civic management?
At our newspapers, we have tried our best to report on the meetings of local councillors and report on local projects.
But the task isn't easy.Recently, a senior officer of Zone 10 of Chennai Corporation asked us rather curtly, why we were very keen to get copies of the minutes of the monthly meeting of the councillors and why we went about publishing all the major projects which they had proposed.
'And why should you publish the costs of each project?,' he asked.
The media can play one role.
The community has to play another.