by Cyril Alex
An advanced society is one wherein art and culture finds prime place. Those communities that just survive out of physical labor alone are considered less advanced than the others. These are great times for Art in our society. Within few years after Tamil cinemas beginnings we produced a Chandrababu. When several sections of our society were unable to read and write we had several poets and writers. Valampuri John and Joe De Cruz have enriched our language. In this series comes a young man whom we are very proud of. Madonne Ashwin from Puthanthurai has won the national award for his Short film. Also his film has been screened in the world famous Canes film festival.
Ashwin is one of the rare talents that emerged from the famous ‘Nalaya Iyakunar’ from Kalaingar TV. This is a conversation with him.
Me: Hi Ashwin. Congrats on the National Award.
Ashwin: Hi. Thanks.
Me: Cinema is considered a stigma in our society.How did you come into this? Did you dream of it early on?
Ashwin: No. I did not have any dreams or interest early on. I became a film enthusiast during college days, by watching lots of movies with friends. When I was working in Bangalore I had attended a course in ‘Film Camp’. This was a three month course. Sanjay Nambiar was my teacher who taught the basics of film making. Then I jumped into short film making for ‘Nalaya Iyakunnar(NI)’ show. I struggled a lot initially since I did not know anything about the industry. NI made us produce the film as well. So I did not quit my job, since I needed the money (from software job). I used my salary and money from a few friends who sponsored to produce my movies. I came to Chennai during weekends, shoot and move back to Bangalore for work. This is how it started.
Me: What was the reaction from your parents and relatives?
Ashwin: My parents were totally against the idea. Now (after the national award) it has come down a bit. Some of my relatives were vehemently against me getting into films. Only my sister stood by me and supported.
Me: are your experiences from young age, from your village and surroundings help in film making?
Ashwin: Certainly. Characters in my films emerge from the various people I’ve met and seen.
Me: About the National award…
Ashwin: I got the award for my short film ‘Dharmam’ which I produced and directed for NI. It was an unforgettable experience getting the award in front of such great film personalities and achievers from across India. I felt as if I’ve been given more responsibility.
Me: What is ‘Dharmam’ about?
Ashwin: A boy reluctantly prepares for a fancy dress competition. In a parallel story a young traffic cop refuses to get bribe. Both realize the meaning of ‘Dharmam’ when they chance upon a beggar. It was named ‘Kaavalthurai’ for NI.
Me: How did you submit your film for the award?
Ashwin: Anyone can submit their film. The jury decides the best once. The name of the jury is kept secret till awards are announced. They do not reveal the name of the people who recommended the film.
Me: Has Dharmam received other awards?
Ashwin: It was shown in the 2013 Cannes film festival. It won the best film award in ‘Chennai Shorts Global Film Festival’ also won the film of the season in NI.
Me: What are your other important works?
Ashwin: ‘Inbox’ is a short film without any dialogues. So far more than 2,300,000 people have seen this in the Internet. Also I have directed writer Nanjil Naadan’s short story ‘Oru innaattu Mannar’ (a king of this nation). The film was called ‘Ward No. 325’. The actors were all from my village (Puthanthurai) I used live-recording to capture the colloquial language of southern fishermen.
Me: To whom would you like to dedicate this award.
Ashwin: To my friends and to my master Sanjay Nambiar.
Me: Would you encourage our youngsters to get into film making?
Ashwin: Most certainly.. yes.
Me: what should they do to enter films.. and what are the risks in it?
Ashwin: The attitude towards the film industry should change. People think that if you do not have a steady job get into cinema industry. Those who come in with this kind of ambitions or looking for short-cuts never make it. People should view this as an art form and should have the inclination and commitment to learn the art. And that alone is sufficient. It has got a lot of financial risks. That is the only major risk. People should have the right financial backing.
Me: What do you make of the films that have portrayed fishermen or fisher villages so far?
Ashwin: I have no criticisms. But I feel deeply that none have portrayed them right.
Me: do you intend to make a film on fisher folks?
Ashwin: Yes. Most certainly. I am preparing myself for the same. I first need to learn a lot about our history and background.
Me: The obvious question… what’s next?
Ashwin: I’m readying up for a full length film. Hoping to shoot very soon.
Me: Well.. All the best.
Ashwin: Thank you Cyril.