By Sukant Deepak
November 18, 2023 (IANSlife) Currently busy setting up and reviving film clubs across multiple locations in Maharashtra, and also Karnataka, filmmaker Umesh Kulkarni, whose debut feature film ‘Deool’ won the National Award for Best Film (2011), feels it is paramount to establish a wide network of such clubs in order to expose people, and not just from tier-1 cities, to cinema from across the country and beyond which will provide them a platform for richer debates around the art form.
“Many films are being made, but people are missing out on watching them collectively in a proper setting. Ever since the OTT revolution, cinema has sadly become a very individual viewing experience. This has led to fewer debates and ultimately a decline in movie culture. Film clubs are bound to ignite a spark and push people towards theatres -- something that will help the film ecosystem. Precisely why I insist that every city -- big and small -- must have a film club.”
Currently working on a feature film in Marathi, which has been in his mind for the past decade, the director, who was at the recently concluded Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF) adds that Shorts need to be an integral part of film clubs and must find a place at film festivals. Stressing that not only do they give the filmmaker complete freedom to directors to tell their story but also challenges them to convey more with less, he says, “One can experiment more in short films, break norms, and find his/her style. You do not need high-end equipment. So many fantastic Shorts have been made with phone cameras, thus they are accessible to a large number of those wishing to tell their story,” says Kulkarni has to his credit Shorts like 'Divine Sight' (2003) and 'Girni' (2004).
While he may have received a lot of offers to make web-series post his successful docu-series ‘Murder in a Courtroom’, that is being streamed on Netflix as part of ‘Indian Predator’, the director of films including 'Valu' (2008), 'Vihir' (2009) which have been screened at prestigious venues across the world, says while he has been approached for web-series, there is always the possibility that one might not have enough to say in that format. “I took up ‘Murder in the Courtroom’ as it was challenging and allowed me to experiment. There is was this interesting scope of fiction and documentary formats coming together in this.”
Stressing on the need for intimate film festivals across the country, and not just restricted to metros, he feels they offer the rare opportunity to see diverse cinema from across the world, and the kind that would never be released. “I make it a point to visit as many as possible to acquaint myself with the kinds of experiments people are doing.”
Talk to him about the resurgence of Marathi cinema in the 2000s, when several directors trained at film institutes and mass communication centers entered the field, and he says they boasted of a certain rigor to tell original stories in their own language, and were willing to experiment. “Also, film festivals played a major role. Slowly, the audiences began acknowledging that there was a world beyond conventional Hindi cinema. The government subsidies too had a role to play.”
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