The fate of innocent minorities caught in the vortex of majoritarian violence had prompted filmmaker Arun Karthick to narrate the story of Nasir, which won the NETPAC Award at the International Film Festival of Rotterdam last year. A passionate movie buff who started making short films at the age of 17, Karthick represents the growing number of independent directors in Tamil. In a candid chat on the sidelines of IFFK, he shares his concerns on the curbs on expression and the hurdles before new voices.
The challenges of an independent filmmaker under a majoritarian rule
The emerging censorship now even in the digital domain, including OTT platforms, shows that things are not changing for a filmmaker. Of course, I can still make the films that I want. But, the government is trying to curb your expressions even in the digital space. I am frustrated by these kinds of actions. You would believe the government and other organisations would support an independent filmmaker. The government is saying make any kind of films, but do not try to talk about us or religion, same-sex issues, etc. The government itself finds it uncomfortable and seems to be on the offensive against you, which is the least that an independent filmmaker would like to face.
There is an emerging hope, a kind of independent filmmakers emerging in Tamil. What we now need is that this needs to be nurtured by independent producers. That’s still in a nascent stage. Most of the new films that earned appreciation in the festival circuit have not yet reached the cinemas. In fact, Nasir was released in the Netherlands in 22 theatres and was also released in Brazil, Norway. The Tamil film industry needs to grow to be tolerant to different kinds of expression.
They were interested in having different kinds of films in their catalogue in the initial years of the OTT platforms. But now they are behaving like producers and distributors in the industry, who ask for a known face or asking for themes popular with the larger audience. With people ready to shift from the theatres to the digital platform, they are also thinking why can’t we give them what they used to get in theatres. This is shrinking the space for independent filmmakers.
The pandemic has helped me turn inward and ask questions about the kind of films that I am making and what I should actually make. I am still in the early stage. Nasir taught me that you have to invest time to evoke life on screen.