Remember the scene in Mani Ratnam’s Thalapathy where Arjun (Aravind Swamy) confronts Deva (Mammooty) and Suriya (Rajinikanth) to stop their illegal activities and tries to intimidate them into submission? “If I had to make a video based on the movie, it had to be on this scene,” says Kishor Lakshminarayanan, a Tamil movie buff based out of the US. And thus was born Kishor’s tryst with video essays on his Youtube channel called Moving Images.
Two years and 24 videos later, he is on an ambitious project of making a series of video essays on Kamal Haasan’s movies. The channel gives the movie buffs something that they would not get in movie theatres - capsule movie analysis.
Releasing at least one video every month, Kishor analyses the storyline, the character and narrative arc, picks one small aspect of a movie and breaks it down into simpler ideas to the audience - all in 8 to 10 minutes.
Kishor elucidates his modus operandi. The channel, on Monday, released the first look of its upcoming video essay on a Kamal Haasan movie. It cryptically read ‘Somma’, which set the audience on a guessing game. However, it did not take long for the fans to guess the reference to the film Virumaandi.
In the upcoming video essay, Kishor has cherry-picked and underscored the Rashomon effect - the art of making contradictory interpretations of the same event by different individuals involved in the event - used to narrate Virumaandi.
“As a film analyst, the Rashomon effect, which derives its usage from Japanese director Akira Kurosawa's 1950 film by the same name, provides a lot of opportunities to question one’s beliefs and judgments about a story,” he says.
“For example, there can be two versions to the Virumaandi story. Obviously, we believe the hero Virumaandi's version, or more precisely, Kamal's version of the story. Now imagine the central character Virumaandi is played by Pasupathy and Kothala, the villain in the movie is played by Kamal. Which side would you take then? This is something I talk about in the video essay,” he adds.
Choosing concepts and ideas
In an era where Youtube is flooded with channels that specialise in reviews of movies, teasers, trailers, posters and whatnot, Moving Images doesn’t touch upon any of these. In fact, over the two years since its launch, the channel has managed to carve a niche for itself and is firmly backed by an audience that loves to discover a new concept or angle in the movies that they have watched. So was it a conscious decision to shape the channel to what it is today, or was it a happy coincidence?
“It was a conscious decision from day 1,” he says. “I wanted my channel to be about film appreciation and an antithesis to the ‘review’ channels. I put the word ‘review’ in quotes because back in 2016, movie reviews actually meant bashing a movie unfairly, which generated a false notion among our audience that Tamil films are bad and unworthy. That was the climate back then, which inspired me to start this channel,” he says.
Skimming through the Moving Images page shows the genre of movies Kishor selects to make his video essays. Some films get extra content in the channel, especially the movies that were underrated or underappreciated when they were released, but eventually went on to become a favourite among movie-lovers over time. Examples include Aaranya Kaandam, Aayutha Ezhuthu, Aalavandhan and Hey Ram.
Conceptualising and producing a video takes around 100 hours, spread over three to four weeks.
What inspires a video essay - a movie or a concept? “Sometimes a film inspires a video idea and sometimes I get an idea and find a film that matches it. While choosing films, I either choose them myself or go with my audience request. Even if I analyse a cliched movie again, I would try to find a concept that has not been parsed or talked about yet. So the film selection process is not set in stone,” he says.
For instance, the Aayutha Ezhuthu series on the channel was born after Kishor watched the movie, while Soodhu Kavvum was picked to fit into an idea he visualised.
At a time when a crop of Tamil films are exploring caste-based atrocities and are being well received by the audience, Moving Images gets on board to analyse such angles.
“I have talked about caste-based identity and oppression in my video essay on Madras. The movie focusses on the political conflicts in north Chennai, but I used the caste reference in the storyline as the central theme for my analysis. Similarly, if I plan to analyse another film with strong caste and political themes in the future, then, of course, I would prefer to talk about caste. Pariyerum Perumal has recently caught my attention,” he says.
What started off as a one-man show in 2016 has a few more hands now to add flavour to the end product. With music rendered by Vignesh Vijayakumar and video output ideas by Sameer Z, the team has grown. Moving Images now has a dedicated person for its subtitles in Shri Vaishali Venkatesan.
“Vignesh and I did our Masters in Engineering together. I met Sameer, Vaishali and other team members through social media. This channel has brought a lot of new people in my life. The strange bit is, I haven't met anyone in my team in person, save Vignesh,” Kishor laughs.
A movie-packed childhood
Though born in Chennai, Kishor spent most of his childhood in Cuddalore, where he developed his passion for movies.
“Though I lived right behind Kamala theatre in Vadapalani, Chennai, there were only a handful of films I have watched there, thanks to the high ticket prices. Moving to Cuddalore was one of the best things to have happened to me as watching movies was no longer a luxury. The tickets cost only Rs 10 and so I began watching every film that released,” he says.
Then came the era of DVDs, which turned out to be a boon to Kishor since Puducherry, which was a few kilometres from Cuddalore, was a major hub for DVDs. He stacked up on foreign movie DVDs.
“Even in school, movies and cartoons were all I talked about while my friends discussed cricket. I can talk for hours about films and I guess Moving Images is a way for me to still do that, but to a wider audience,” he adds.
For Kishor, his father is his ‘movie-watching partner’, who introduced him to good movies of his time.
Reminiscing his days spent in the quiet streets of Cuddalore with his parents, Kishor says, “We would watch English movies on Star Movies on Friday nights when I was a child. We would choose a movie every week and watch it over the weekend. This would continue till I left India for my Masters. Although my mother encourages me in all my endeavours, my dad is the first person to like and share all my videos.”