Chennai’s relationship with cinema is unique. On the one hand films and stars are worshipped with actors seen as demi-gods, while on the other, world cinema is exceptionally acclaimed and relished with crowds wanting more films and better ones.
The crowd maybe as mixed as different in their interests, but film gatherings across the city bring them together in eclectic bonding. Chennai knows its cinema but there are some unheard cinema clubs - the underdogs that provide cinema to Chennai with a twist.
The concept of summer film screenings is a raging phenomenon in many countries. This led Ganesh APP and his friends to start their own edition of the Rooftop Film Festival (RTFF) in the city in 2007. The immediate reason was a Cricket World Cup match heading south.
Since then, the club has had its good and bumpy moments and it was most active between 2013-2014 when they held over 15 sessions.
RTFF now holds monthly film marathons where different genres are chosen and later analysed during the course of the night. Beginning at sundown and closing curtains by sunrise, it is basically a 6 to 6 affair where a group of people get together and enjoy films. Films are picked on the basis of discussions they can provoke and curators are selected for each screening. Romantic comedies and drama are replaced by quirky themes ranging from war comedies to modern romances.
“Since most of us at the club were cinema lovers, we started bringing in people from the industry talk to us and discuss the films in a more personal way rather than basing our discussions on the many internet trivia,” says Javeeth, an organiser of the club.
Directors Gautham Vasudev Menon and Balaji Mohan are some of the few who have been invited to the screenings. The past year has been difficult though mainly because venues for such screenings are few and far between.
Zoetrope is another such venture in the city with yet more of a twist. Started by three friends Rohit Koliyot, Krishna Bezawada and Sharan Reddy, Zoetrope couples the cinema experience with the grandeur of mystery.
Themes are not revealed until time of screening and film people are invited to dress up for the film evening according to clues that come their way. “Closer to the event, we give out a few clues regarding the night’s film. Everyone loves a secret and that somehow ended up being our USP,” laughs Sharan. Zoetrope arranges at least one screening every year in the city. The club saw the screening of Birdcage with the eighties’ quirky old theme in 2014, while Death at a funeral was screened last year, the night being a Halloween affair. With this year’s screening on its way, people will be in the dark till the clues roll out.
If RTFF and Zoetrope are high on critical acclaim and magnificent drama, Cinema Rendezvous is a simple cinema abode. Founded by actor Shylaja Chetlur in 2012, it is a monthly affair that takes place on second Saturdays at the Savera Hotel in Chennai. “It is an extension of friends wanting to watch a film and later dissecting it,” Shylaja explains.
Calling every movie screening a ‘date’, with romancing the cinema, being the motto of the club, the screenings are followed by interactive lectures where the movie is thoroughly discussed. “Cinema Rendezvous provides an interesting mix of alternate and mainstream cinema, where just about any film is watched, which is then followed by people from the industry talking about the technicalities of the film,” says Chetlur.