For the love of films
With theatres charging more and more for tickets, film clubs are mushrooming around the city. We take a look at three you should know about
Chennai has always had a special relationship with films, and not with just those made here. Among the earliest film societies here was the Madras Film Society (MFS) that was formed in 1957 and had stalwarts like Kamal Haasan and K Balachander as its members. MFS is not active anymore, but the tradition is far from dead. There are more film clubs than ever today. Here’s a look at three popular societies:
Balu Mahendra Film Society
Founded by S Balasubramani, a former student of the Balu Mahendra Institute of Film Technology, BMFS has been active from June 2016. Having been trained in filmmaking by director Balu Mahendra himself, Balasubramani started the society because he wanted to “share film knowledge and also study filmmaking from other legends.” He runs the show singlehandedly—be it selecting the films to be screened or finding sponsors to fund the venue and screening equipment. Screenings are held every Saturday usually at the ICAT Design & Media College in Mylapore, and are free and open to all. The only criterion for attending a screening, according to Balasubramani is “a passion for films and a willingness to participate in the post-screening discussions.”
Next screening: Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves (1996)
Date/Time: October 7, 4 pm
Venue: ICAT Design & Media College, Mylapore
Madras Film Screening Club (MFSC)
Also formed in June 2016, MFSC follows a similar template of the viewers being part of a discussion after each film’s screening. The operations, in this case, are run by a large group of people, none of whom have a film background. Senthil Kumar, one of the founders of the club, tells us that they are a group of 15 working professionals* who were brought together through a WhatsApp group dedicated to films. “We used to talk about films we recently watched, but we realised we needed a place to watch the films together and have informal discussions. That’s how this club was formed,” he says.
MFSC screens films on the first Sunday of every month, with its founders taking turns to pick the films to be screened. They screen films from old masters like Fritz Lang and Luis Buñuel as well as newer anime films like the wildly popular 2016 Japanese film, Your Name. Senthil says, “The only criterion we use for picking films is that it should be one that will have the scope for a good discussion.” The screenings are free and open to all, and happen at the Panuval bookstore in Thiruvanmiyur. In addition to monthly screenings, MFSC also organises movie marathon nights every few months, where they pick a theme and show movies based on it all night. These usually happen on a rooftop of one of the members’ residences, and a nominal fee is charged for the dinner that is a part of the event.
Next screening: Yasujirō Ozu’s Tokyo Story (1953)
Date/Time: October 8, 4:30 pm
Venue: Panuval Book Store, Thiruvanmiyur
Cinema Rendezvous (CR)
This is a film club run by the Not for Profit CRTrust. The founder, Shylaja Chetlur, runs the operations of this club, which has a total membership count of around 100. The club meets once a month, generally on second saturdays at 9 am. Shylaja says, “We call our screenings ‘dates’ to emphasise that this is about our love for cinema.” Each date has a screening followed by an informal discussion, which is moderated by Shylaja. CR’s modus operandi is having a special invitee from the film industry for each date. The film chosen to be screened is based on the invitee, with some invitees also getting to choose the films.
“When we had Nalan Kumarasamy as an invitee, he brought along a Korean film for us to watch. But sometimes, the invitee tells us to pick the film and they’ll just come and watch it.” The club operates with annual and monthly donations from film buffs who come together to facilitate the event. Audience members can choose to get Annual Donor passes for 12 dates at Rs 2500 or single date donor passes for Rs 250. While Shylaja herself is an actress, and some of the annual members are part of the film industry, she tells us that they have a sizeable number of members from the general community who simply want to get together and have healthy discussions about films that will enhance their viewing experience.
Next screening: K Balachander’s 47 Natkal (1981) with writer Sivasankari as the special invitee
Date/Time: October 14, 9:30 am
Venue: 146, Radhakrishnan Salai 6th Street, Krishnapuram, Mylapore
*The 15 organisers of MFSC are: Lokesh, Naren, Prabhakaran, Narayanan, Karthik Babu, Chandru, Naveen Adhithya, Sai Mahalingam, Guru, Hari Selvam, Sandeep, Raja, Sakthi, Srihari and Senthil