That Tamil cinema is going through a sea change is evident from the kind of recent films that have been releasing. Films like Merkku Thodarchi Malai and Pariyerum Perumal have opened up wide opportunities for film enthusiasts to hold discussions around cinema and its role in the society.
While Chennai has an active cinema appreciation community with groups like Arun Mo's Tamizh Studio, Indo Cine Appreciation Foundation (ICAF), Madras FSC, Balumahendra Film Society and Koogai regularly organising screenings and other such events, the latest group to initiate a community-driven activity around films goes by the name Padapetti Thiraipada Iyakkam.
Envisioned by a ten-member crew that includes names like publisher Parisal Senthilnathan, documentary filmmakers and activists like Amudhan, Kotravai and RR Srinivasan, Padapetti was started with an intent of organising Indian film screenings, especially for ones that did not have a proper run at the movie theatres.
Writer and director Anand Kumarasen, one of the core members of Padapetti, shares that the idea is to allow the general public to interact with filmmakers. â€śUsually, weâ€™ve seen film students and other film enthusiasts participate in such discussions with filmmakers. Ideally, art is for the masses and Padapetti will function as a bridge between people and filmmakers,â€ť he explains.
True to its cause, the first film to be screened at Padapetti was Lenin Bharathiâ€™s Merkku Thodarchi Malai. This film was screened thrice - on 18, 21 and 28 October at MM Theatre in Kodambakkam. Contributions are accepted for these screenings which go towards organising these screenings.
â€śFor a single person to watch a film in Chennai, it comes close to Rs 300, including snacks and parking. We try to provide the same experience for a lesser amount. The money goes for organising the event,â€ť explains Anand.
The idea for this initiative traces its roots to Parisal Senthilnathanâ€™s Makkal Thiraipada Iyakkam. Senthil has organised film screenings at a hotel near Spence Plaza in Chennai since the early 2000s. â€śHe used to clear out the tables and play movies on TV for those interested. It was a small community,â€ť he adds.
Following three successful screenings of MTM in October, the group has planned for Malayalam director Sanal Kumar Sasidharanâ€™s Ozhivudivasathe Kali on November 11.
â€śWe will have two screenings of the film, one at 10.30 am followed by another at 3.30 pm. People can interact with the director after the film and these films are played without an interval. Weâ€™ve noticed 95% of those who come stay back to discuss with the director. It is an encouraging sign,â€ť says Anand.
This time, Padapetti is also organising a tete-a-tete with the director later that evening with select participants of around 30 to 40 in number, aimed at encouraging young, aspiring filmmakers.
â€śSanal is seen as a symbol of independent filmmaking in India and we are thrilled that heâ€™s coming. Although Sanal operates his own film society in Kerala, Kazhcha Film Forum (KFF), he was very enthusiastic when he heard about ours and immediately agreed to come. The dinner, therefore, will be a limited-participants-only event. Weâ€™ve already got our slots full. This dinner-discussion also has a contribution of Rs 1000 each,â€ť he tells us.
Adding that the scene in Chennai is very nurturing, Anand explains that the communities support each other. â€śA space like Koogai is one of the best things that has happened in recent times. When I was a student, a little more than a decade back, I struggled to find the right kind of books in libraries. Koogai has changed all that. And even though Koogai organises its own film screenings, they support ours as well. Tickets to Padapetti shows and our posters are put up at Koogai as well. In that sense, Iâ€™d say the scene is very promising and encouraging in Chennai,â€ť he finishes.
Padapetti has plans to screen films like Madhubana Kadai and Manto very soon. You can follow their Facebook page here for regular updates.