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Films that Made Me: Gautham Ramachandran - Spielberg is one of my role models- Cinema express

Films that Made Me: Gautham Ramachandran - Spielberg is one of my role models

A biweekly column exploring the films that inspired, influenced and shaped the cinematic sensibilities of contemporary filmmakers

Published: 16th August 2022

The Gargi filmmaker reveals the list of films that inspired him the most:

‘My brother is a hardcore cinephile and he introduced me to a world of films beyond the ones we used to watch on Doordarshan. I vividly remember watching the kidnap scene from Joel Coen’s Fargo (1996) on TV and if you see it as a standalone sequence, you would just laugh at it. I, however, didn’t laugh at the scene and it left a weird impact on me. Fargo, with its unique visual style, encouraged me to watch more variety of films. I can point the genesis of my fascination with films to Fargo. It also spoke about the importance of geography to the story and proved that a slow-paced screenplay can leave still the audience begging for more.

Likewise, Steven Speilberg’s The Terminal (2004) is a film I keep going back to for its entertainment value. There can’t be a more perfect entertainer. Spielberg’s Catch Me if You Can (2002) is another favourite. I watched it in a packed theatre in Bangalore and remember the audience cheering and clapping for all the humorous scenes. That is when I realised that Spielberg had mastered the cinematic language like no other. He is one of my role models.

Back home, Shankar Nag was an important filmmaker whose work I got exposed to through Doordarshan. His Minchina Ota (1981, Golden Run) is about a group of convicts who escape from prison and its climax blew me away; I couldn’t get it out of my mind for days together. Accident (1985), on the other hand, is an investigative thriller about the eponymous accident caused by a politician’s son; it is brilliantly shot. The reason Shankar Nag stood out is that he is one of the first mainstream filmmakers to integrate social commentary in his films, and it was done tastefully. In a similar vein, I feel Vasanth Sai sir’s films are sometimes poetry on screen. I feel darkness lurks more in his films; not really villains, but human psyches. I feel Satham Podathey (2007), for instance, is a deep film. He uses calmness effectively and you never know when a character will explode. That’s something I tried in Gargi.

Moving on, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) is extremely grammatical in terms of structure but it moves from one point to the other seamlessly. The biggest takeaway for me was when Ben Stiller’s face is revealed on the cover of the magazine in the end. It is a strong metaphor and there is no better way to announce a hero’s arrival. I had goosebumps when I watched it on the big screen. I am hugely inspired by it and someday, I will definitely make something like it.

Also, if I look back at Indrans from Gargi, I feel it is an ode to Joe Pesci from My Cousin Vinny (1992), a film that I keep going back to very often and leaves me in awe every time. Perhaps this is the film I have recommended the most to people around me. Not a single shot is wrong in the film. The best scene has to be the one where Vinny’s cousin, the convict, convinces his apprehensive friend that Vinny is capable of representing them in court, despite lacking experience. I think there is no better way to communicate a character’s backstory. It is brilliantly done with simple dialogues. I might even rip this scene off and use it in one of my films!”

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