January 22, 2012

Malaysian Cinema ; seeking friends in Chennai

Decorate a traffic island with festoons, string every lamp post with banners, hire a band to play film music and get the word around that film stars will be streaming by and you are guaranteed a huge, milling crowd.
A fortnight ago, I let myself into such a milling crowd and waded into a convention hall of a star hotel in Theagaraya Nagar to be greeted by a dozen film stars, everybody 50 years plus.

I was not here to meet the stars.

I was trying to meet up with a few young film makers from Malaysia.

Prior to this gala, a city-based film society had screened a series of independent Thamizh films which were made and produced in Malaysia.

The screenings had a bigger purpose.

How could the greater Thamizh film industry based in Chennai be of help to a fledging body of creative people in a neighbouring country?

It was by chance that I got talking to a young man who calls himself Krishna. Krishna is the managing director of his entertainment company and he also produces and directs films.

His business covers everything from TV and radio, animation and advertising to event management and New Media.

Thamizh cinema in Malaysia has a small but firm following but the budgets do not allow the space and freedom for young film makers to make films that can rival the ones made in our city.

Despite the constraints, the young filmmakers who once used to primarily produce content for the VCD and the cable channel markets are pushing themselves to make feature films.

Krishna says that the time has come for the Chennai-based community to help collaborate.

"It is but fair that your industry which makes tons of money by selling films rights in the Near East region must think of giving back to film makers like us," suggested Krishna.

This is easily said than done.

The Thamizh film industry is hugely politicized and often polarized too. So country-to-country collaboration will not be easy.

Getting our TV channels to air the films made by Malaysian film makers will not be an easy deal.

Krishna says that when he took the DVD of his recent documentary on Thamizh heritage and customs to a TV channel here, the executives told him they would air it if he gave it for free.

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