Meet Mr. Kamalakannan, film maker to understand things needed to become a filmmaker

Filmmaker Kamalakanna

I, Karthi Easwaramoorthy, did sit with the fast growing and very talented filmmaker and director, Mr. Kamalakannan, who directed critically acclaimed “Madhupanakadai” and another film produced by Dream warriors having Sibi Sathyraj and Andrea in lead roles to be released soon for a conversation. We did have our conversation early morning from 7AM to 9AM as he was busy with his work and travel. Learned a lot about film making. I am sure it would interest you also. Here you go.

Personal life of Mr. Kamalakannan

Kamalakannan, director of the Tamil film, “Madhubana Kadai”, was born in Erode, whose parents were Government workers. But until he was four, he grew up in his grandparents’ house in a village. From his childhood, he learnt and wondered about the cultural differences between his parents’ house and the village he lived – city versus village.

Until his 12th grade he studied in Erode. For his undergraduate degree, he went to Vasavi College, Erode where he did his Bachelors in Science in Chemistry. But eventually he learnt that this was not his cup of tea and discontinued after a year. He said, “I couldn’t bring myself to learn about Chemistry or stay amidst the chemicals or adjust with labs and science”. That’s when he decided to take up a degree in VISCOM.

When asked on how the roots of filmmaking was sown into him, he dated back to 1960s, when his grandfather and uncle owned theatres. He said, “I knew to operate pictures in theatres when I was young. Most often, my neighbours would take me to watch films even if they weren’t my family. I used to watch at least five films every week. In fact, my brother and I used to have our own little game with the satellite channels in our TV, where we’d change channels randomly, and when it stops, we’d be able to tell the name of the film”. With the seeds of cinema being sown by his grandfather and uncle, his parents also played a major part in this. They were people with lots of creativity, both of them being intellects in Tamil literature. But to be specific, Kamalakannan decided to become a filmmaker in his 11th grade. He gained interest after watching the films, “Hey Ram” and “Mudhalvan”.

After discontinuing from Vasavi College, he studied BSc. VISCOM in Hindustan College, Coimbatore. He said, “VISCOM is not a creative course. It is a basic course where we learn about visuals and audio from scratch. It gives us more time, than others, to read, travel and learn more about things in life. In the end cinema is more about experiences, isn’t it?”. After this he worked in a film with Mr. Seenu Ramasamy in Chennai for about a year. Unfortunately, this year was the one that made him lose hope in cinema and filmmaking, and without a second thought, he left to Coimbatore.

To learn more, or say change perspectives, he joined Hindustan College, Coimbatore for his degree in Mass Communication. In the forenoon, he’d study and, in the afternoon and evenings, he would work for radio advertisements and marriage videography. In a while, the idea of starting a film society in Coimbatore struck him. He said, “The one year I spent in Chennai, I learnt about film clubs and other global cinema film societies. This made me wonder about starting a film society in Coimbatore. Eventually, with a group of boys from Mass Communication Department, I started a film society in Coimbatore, where students can watch films from around the world, and discuss about them”.

After some years, he also started a company called “Montage” through which he made advertisements and videography. This phase let him learn about the advanced technologies involved in filmmaking. With this interest and knowledge, he made the Tamil film “Madhubana Kadai” with just a DSLR camera and lens. He said “We made the film and expected it to run good, but didn’t expect the fame and respect we got for it. It was surprising and overwhelming for the whole team”.

Mr. Kamalakannan’s Take on Filmmaking

“The art of filmmaking involves team spirit” said Mr. Kamalakannan. He also added, “It involves a lot of people, and the opportunity to meet them comes when we enter institutes. These institutes provide a large ground for networking.

He feels that art is all about individuality. The basics to filmmaking, according to him, are reading books and traveling and interacting with different types of people to understand the different perspectives of life, culture and thoughts. He feels money is just one of the many things required in filmmaking. He said, “More than money, trust is what is important in filmmaking. If I tell someone a story and they like it, they might come forward to help me in any way they can, and not just financially”. This seems to be true after what he said about the process involved behind his film “Madhubana Kadai”. While his core team members were only ten, he had about a hundred people helping him with his film. It has surely happened only with the trust of all the hundred people and many more.

  1. Importance of Reading in Filmmaking

Kamalakannan implied that it is important that creators of art read books of different genre. It helps build a wide range of ideas as a base for their art – be it any form. He said, “Poetry paves way to creativity and stories to logics. One should be able to connect ideas easily. For example, if I tell someone 70 scenes of a film, I must have known 1000 scenes already. If I speak of 20 characters, I must have had 200 characters already in the process”.

According to him, a political standpoint is always present for a filmmaker, in bits and pieces or as a major idea, and it must be put into questioning often. In his experience, books have always given a standpoint for the creation of his art. This standpoint is that factor that is necessary to develop ideologies and philosophies. “Only with these, can creations be made” he said. He also added, “We often start one way and end up doing something completely different. My grandfather who was a pure theist in the beginning, started following Periyar and Marx’s ideas and beliefs, which my father was following already. So, where we are in the end, will require validation. For this, knowledge from books is necessary”.

One of the books that inspired him a lot was “100 Years of Solitude”. He had actually got his hands on this book after 15 years of trying. Another book that he loved reading was “5 C’s of Cinematography”. There was only one copy of the book and it was available in an institute in Pune. Eventually someone had photocopied the entire book, and there were hundreds of photocopying after that, even after which Kamalakannan was not able to get his hands on it. He said, “When I finally had the opportunity to read the book, my friends and I took notes of the entire book, including pictures. We drew the pictures as given in the book, and in fact we were recreating the book on our own, which was much better than spending thousands for the book”.

  1. Importance of Traveling in Filmmaking

Traveling, according to Kamalakannan, was not about riding a bike with a backpack, to different parts of the world. He said, “Traveling is about meeting new people, experiencing new cultures and being aware of the differences around us. It’s basically leaving our comfort zones. While it could simply be going out of your house to the next street or town, it still makes a great impact on your thoughts and perspectives”. When the question on meeting normal people or people from the industry arose, he said, “Story is always first, so traveling is about meeting normal people first”

2. Effect of Over-the-top (OTT) Platforms on Big Screens

“Big screens or theatres were affected by Television, even before the arrival of OTT” said Kamalakannan. He also said, “Once upon a time, there were 3000 screens in Tamilnadu alone. Now there are only about 850 of them actively running across the State. Most of the screens were shut during 1988 to 1993, when Dhoordharshan was telecasting movies on Sundays. But on the other hand, large theatres have multiplied their screens”.

He said that, on the contrary, the stand of Cinema in the future will be changed only by Netflix or Amazon Prime. While this is true for himself, he quoted an example, “I watched the Tamil film, Super Deluxe already in theatres. But with the OTT platforms, I started watching sequences of the film with my headphones every day. I was able to listen to the minor details in music, which was truly amazing. I had definitely missed many details the first time. While this is true, it has only made me want to watch the film again in theatre”. But he couldn’t because it is not screened anymore. With this being said, he added that the crowd or company in theatre while watching films is important too. He said, “I always watch star or mass hit films in Kasi Theatre, Chennai, just for the crowd. To mention, I loved how the crowd there, received the film M. S. Dhoni, while it was made in Hindi and dubbed in Tamil”.

3. Few Words by Kamalakannan to Aspiring Filmmakers

“All that I’ve said now is the basics of filmmaking. But if one aspires to become a professional, institutes can make way for this. Say, a group of boys from an area join together to make a short film. This might just be pure talent and they might have known the basics. But if this is about a career’s choice, then upgradation is a must”. He implied from his experiences, that, as much as becoming a filmmaker is important and huge, sustaining in the industry is more important, and is a much bigger task.

All the best to Mr. Kamalakannan for his up coming projects and big thanks for sharing his thoughts to help aspiring filmmakers.

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