Thamizh Talkies: The monotony of lockdown cinema
The writer is a former journalist who has worked in the film industry for several years and is passionate about movies, music and everything related to entertainment
One of Netflix’s upcoming releases is an anthology, a bunch of lockdown films made in the last three months by an eclectic list of filmmakers from across the world. With no crew, no budget, films self-ie styled, perhaps this is the way forward? My first reaction to the trailer of this film was it looked good for a lockdown film but if I didn’t know that, it perhaps would have passed on as one more film I would select to see but never actually see it. Why would I not watch it? Because life can’t just be a one-dimensional narrative.
Cinema is a mirror to our lives. Why must we forever keep showing only one or two people at work or at home or talking to the camera? Somewhere, this scenario will have to alter its viewpoints, like how we will have to alter our realities. While physical isolation or distancing is the need of the hour, mental distancing will be catastrophic for us as a species. Our art or cinema also will also have to reflect on this need. One-actor movies will get tiresome, like in real life. Introspection is a personal inward journey which perhaps one movie can take up as a theme, but what about all the other stories waiting to be told? What about ‘love in the time of corona’? What about ‘crime in the time of corona’? Of which we seem to have plenty in Tamil Nadu! How is cinema going to depict emotions beyond the corona filter of isolated existence?
Filmmakers and creative minds have to come up with out-of-the-box answers for how cinema can still be the mirror of society, like all art should be. They will have to invent techniques which will allow for good filmmaking standards that will aid a great story. If 35 people on a set is a burden, perhaps this is the time to evaluate those specifics and union rules that make a film set crowded, especially in the context of an Indian production. If we can take four hands less, and the job can still be done, such options should be explored. Line Producers, Executive Producers and Film Producers should draw up a new list of dos and dont’s for a film crew that will enable good storytelling to be filmed in similar ways as before. A film shooting in the times of a killer virus literally on our faces cannot have a large number of people on set. It also cannot have elaborate ‘production food’ served like a buffet spread (no matter how much some of us will miss it), serving to invite the virus. Such areas need to be relooked at. Independent filmmaking styles have to be heard and maybe what works for one director may not work for another but safe and secure workspaces, which will allow for good filmmaking, must be arrived at.
I am tired of the phrase, ‘lockdown film’, tired of having to live with no proper storytelling on celluloid. The screen size has reduced, yes, but it doesn’t mean the quality of filmmaking or the content of the story or acting itself has to be smaller in standard. This is the time for restructuring film shoots. It is the time for a unified work process to evolve in Tamil and other film industries to bring together the creative and production sides to give us engaging content. Digital platforms are waiting. Are the producers and directors ready?