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Tamizh Talkies: All hail the anthology- Cinema express

Thamizh Talkies: All hail the anthology

The writer is a content producer and art curator

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Published: 08th August 2021
A still from Navarasa

Stories have to be curated—like art. They must be selected with great care and attention to how one may feel when exposed to them. We are all narrating stories to one another all the time—be it about what we dreamt about or what we ate or what happened in a job interview... The question, “How was your day?”, always leads to a story. We are all storytellers. Some of us find our larger audience when we take to the arts, when we communicate our imagination or experience in the form of music and lyrics, or canvas and painting, or script and the movies. I’m a fan of short stories. Any ‘collection’ of stories gets me hooked because I get to be in so many different worlds in one read. An anthology is the cinematic version of it.

There will be a variety of responses to any anthology as a variety of stories hits us. Kerala Café (2009) was one of the earliest anthologies which came out as a movie, and some of the finest filmmakers we celebrate today in Malayalam have had their debuts or watershed moment in this anthology. With the advent of OTT viewing in our post Covid world, anthologies have become the go-to format for quick shoots and bringing short narratives on screen made by some of our best talents. Somehow, the success of this anthology format seems to rest only in Hindi (Bombay Talkies, Love Stories, Lust Stories, and more recently, Ray). The South has till now seen its fair share of anthologies: Putham Pudhu Kaalai, Paava Kadhaigal (in Tamil and Telugu so far). Addham (which we produced in Telugu), and now, Navarasa.

I see an immense resistance to absorb this anthology format of storytelling. With the variety of stories and the varying styles of filmmaking, which is an eventual result of having different directors, the lack of uniformity in narrative is bound to be unsettling, but it can be the differentiator as well. One theme, many stories, many filmmakers, is the most dynamic and interesting aspect of the anthology format.

Anecdotes are stories in themselves. Romance is as fleeting as it’s deep. Conversations are random in life, so, why not on film? Darker emotions do bring out the worst and toxic emotions do lead one astray. Where else will you see a young girl take the lead in love and be the ‘alpha partner’ with a guy who looks like Suriya? It was so cool to see him play Kamal. Where else will you get to see a Djinn story from Keezhakarai (such an implausible premise and trippy filmmaking), or a 1965 Brahmin agrahaaram (Payasam has an outstanding Delhi Ganesh)? How else can a film industry come together and weave an initiative to try and do something that will bring some revenue/eyeballs to the film industry at large that is still trying to claw their way out of Covid?

We see new movies on OTT made a year and half ago which were awaiting release, and we think all is well with the film folk. It’s not so. Like all non-essential industries, entertainment has suffered too. While the form (the stories or the filming) can come in for our criticism, the format (anthology) is a throbbing, thriving and engaging one. The rules that apply for cinema apply for OTT as well. Irrespective of the duration, we should be able to ‘just make a good film".

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