Saturday, April 18, 2015

Amudhan R.P. Profile

 CURRICULAM VITAE:   Amudhan R.P.

Personal:
Address: 33, Scheme Road, 3rd Cross St, Ellai Amman Colony, Teynampet, Chennai 600086, India
Phone: 91 86952 79353
Date of birth: 16 July 1971

Education:
1994: Certificate course in 20 weeks documentary filmmaking from Centre for Development of Instructional Technology (CENDIT), New Delhi
1994: M.A.  (Development Communication), Madurai Kamaraj University
1991: B.Sc Chemistry, Arul Anandhar College, Madurai

Film Festivals:
1998 : Founded, designed and organised Madurai International Documentary and Short Film Festival in Madurai
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013,2014: Designed and conducted Madurai International Documentary and Short Film Festival in Madurai
2013, 2014, 2015: Founded, designed and conducted Chennai International Documentary and Short Film Festival in Chennai
1999: Designed and conducted International feature film festival in Madurai screening films by Akira Kurosawa, Fedirico Fellini, Jean Luc Godard, Luis Bunuel and Ingmar Bergman
2000: Designed and conducted Retrospective Film Festival of Kryzyztof Kieslowski in Madurai
2002: Designed and conducted Touring film festival in Western districts of Tamilnadu
2002: Designed and conducted One day film festival at St.Joseph College, Tiruchi
2002, 2003,2004: Designed and conducted Yadumahi Film Festival in Tirunelveli
2010: Designed and conducted Summer Film Festival, Chennai
2011: Designed and conducted Open Sesame Film Festival at Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai
2011: Designed and conducted Peenachi – Dalit, Adivasi Film Festival at Sathyamangalam, Tamilnadu
2012: Designed and conducted One day film festival at Government Meenakshi Women’s College, Madurai
2012: Organised a screening tour in Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Delhi
2012: Organized one day film festival on sexuality at Loyola College, Chennai
2013: Oraganized 5 day film festival
2014: Organized 3 day film on social justice at Periyar Thidal, Chennai
2014: Organized 3 day film on democracy at Periyar Thidal, Chennai

Video workshops:
1998: Designed and conducted a video workhop at Chengalpattu
1999, 2000: Designed and conducted a video workhop at CESCI, Madurai
2008, 2009, 2010: Designed and conducted a video workshop at Karisal, Alangulam near Sivakasi, Tamilnadu
2006, 2007: Designed and conducted a video workhop at The American College, Madurai
2004, 2005, 2006, 2010: Designed and conducted a video workshop at Lady Doak College for Women, Madurai
2012: Video workshop at EMMRC as part of Orientation Workshop on Foklore Documentation at Manipur University in association with National Folklore Support Centre

Website:
2001-2003 managed Indymedia’s India page www.indymedia/india by contributing writings, photos, videos as an editor as part of Madurai Collective.

Blogs:

Photo Exhibition:
2004: conducted a one man show of photo exhibition on Manual Scavenging Practices in Coimbatore city on behalf of Aadhi Tamilar Peravai, a non electroral political party working with Arundhatiyars – a caste that considered lowest among lowest in Tamilnadu.

2005: conducted a one man show of photo exhibition on Impact of Tsunami in the coastal districts of Cuddalore, Karikal, Nagaipattinam and Kanyakumari in Tamilnadu.

Essays:
1996: Interview with Anand Patwardhan – CENDIT Newsletter in English
2006: Political Documentaries and the New Wave – VIBGYOR Film Festival Booklet in English
2008: Lifting the Lowest – Tehelka, 29 March 2008 in English
2011: Kalakaran Sarat Chandran – Padapetti, Film Magazine in Tamil
2012: India Aavanapadangalin Pithamagan Anand Patwardahn – Padapetti Film Magazine in Tamil
2012: Karkalai Yerium Dennis O Rourke – Padapetti Film Magazine in Tamil
2012: Patricio Guzman – Chiliyin Thaarmeehakkural – Padapetti Film Magazine in Tamil
2012: Vegu Tholaivu Nattilirunthu Naan Ungaludan Pesugiren – Chris Marker – Padapetti Film Magazine in Tamil
2012: Yenke Poyina Arasiyal Aavanapadangal? – Sunday Indian Weekly 19 Aug 2012 in Tamil
2014: Jean Rouche for Padapetti, Film Magazine in Tamil

Films by Amudhan R.P.

1) Dollar City
Dir: Amudhan R.P.
80 min; Tamil with English subtitles; 2015; Documentary
Produced by Raj Kajendra
Synopsis:
Tirupur, a small town in south India is well known for its thousands of export oriented garment hosiery units and millions of migrant workers from both within and outside the state of Tamilnadu.  Once a small village now a city, Tirupur provides a development model where the state machinery, exporters, small and big entrepreneurs, commission agents, trade unionists and workers converge at a point where export, and welfare of the industry are the priority by sidelining, marginalizing and eventually breaking the laws that protect environment and workers’ rights.
The film provides an inside view of a successful economical system where there is connivance and consensus between the masters, mediators and the workers, where the ambitions and loyalties collapse, where the rights become a privilege, where duty becomes an opportunity and where one’s desperation is another’s prospect.
The fact that there has not been a workers’ strike in Tirupur in the past 20 years as proudly expressed by an exporter in the film can be a classical example for the Gramscian idea of manufacture of consent.

2) Radiation Stories Part 3: KOODANKULAM
80 min; 2012; Tamil with English subtitles; documentary
The people’s movement against Koodankulam nuclear plant is a 20 plus years old story. Post Fukushima saw the movement gaining momentum in and around Koodankulam and Idinthakarai villages thanks to the test run conducted by nuclear authorities of Koodankulam which brought in the inland farmers, workers, small traders and lower middle salaried class to the struggle along with the fishing community.
When the Government of India and its embedded media are trying hard to malign, harass and corner the people’s struggle which is local, indigenous, independent, non violent and democratic, the film tries to capture few moments of the struggle that can give us a perspective which reflects the movement’s point of view. Some may say it is one sided, so be it.

3) Radiation Stories Part II: Kalpakkam
28 min; 2012; Tami with English subtitles; Documentary
Dr.Pugalendi, a brave warrior against nuclear energy has been fighting a battle against nuclear establishment of Kalpakkam for the past 20 years. When the famous scientists of this country are claiming that nuclear energy is safe, Dr.Pugalendi’s argument can give us the suppressed version of the story.

4) Thodarum Neethi Kolaihal (Continuing Judicial Murder)
124 min; Tamil; 2011; Documentary
Part:1 Capital punishment is a murder in the name of law and justice. India is one of the few countries in the world that have not abolished capital punishment along with United States and China. 20 odd mercy petitions are waiting on the table of the President of India.
Part :2 Rajiv Gandhi's assassination case is one of the most controversial cases in the independent India where still the plot has not been solved yet. But still the Government of India is to keen to hang the 3 Tamils prematurely as part of its revenge acts beside the Srilankan war where more than a lakh Tamils were killed in pursuit of LTTE.

5)  Mercury in the Mist
16 min; Tamil with English subtitles; 2011
Ex-workers of a thermometer factory owned and run by Hindustan Lever Limited in Kodaikanal, a hill station in south India suffer from mercury contamination. 30 persons have died so far due to various diseases. The ex-workers of the factory continue their fight against the multinational company which refuses to take the responsibility.

6) Farewell to Mr.Gandhi
28 min; Tamil with English subtitles; 2011

3 villages near Madurai in south India loose 1500 acres of fertile lands to Special Economical Zone (SEZ) a chain of no-tax zones to promote industrialisation promoted by Government of India across the country. People are being forced to leave the lands that were part of their lives for generations.

7) Broken Voices
20 min; Tamil; Documentary 2010

Victims of caste atrocities from different parts of the state of Tamilnadu share their violations in the hands of police, caste Hindus and men. Some of the stories are brutal, some are subtle and some are psychological and all are violent.

8) RADIATION STORIES Part I: Manavalakurichi
54 min; Tamil with English subtitles; 2010

Lush green ambiance of Kanyakumari district, in southern India conceals the artificially created radioactive sand dunes and large number of radiation related illness and deaths. Trucks carry around radioactive sand across villages and towns throughout the day and night .Ponds, rivers, plants, trees, our crew and shooting equipment all can be possibly radioactive. Even this documentary can be radioactive. Some call it natural radiation. Some call it man-made radiation. But there is radiation; for sure.

9) Night Life
5 minutes; English (No dialogue); 2008

I sleep on the middle of the road even during the midnight. While the fast moving vehicles flood light on me, the people with selective blindness cannot notice me. This is my concrete bed and I cannot afford to turn towards either direction. But who is not insane anyway?

10) The Road
10 minutes; Tamil with English subtitles; 2008

Who owns the highways? When foreign direct investment and multinational Indian companies take over the road with heavy funding for construction and expansion who owns them finally? Do the villagers who were robbed off their lands own it? What about the school children? When the houses and trees are bulldozed along with the deities, Hitler’s dream can also be implemented in India.

11) Seruppu (Footwear)
64 minutes; Tamil with English subtitles; 2006

This film portrays the life and struggle of the inhabitants of an old slum in Tiruchirappalli with the combination of ethnographic and point of view style.

The protagonists are dalits/untouchables/harijans involved in making footwear for their livelihood, which is their traditional caste based occupation. They are also Catholics and that religious identity “officially prohibits” them from getting benefits such as reservation/quota in education and jobs, scholarship for students, and other measures that are otherwise available for fellow “Hindu” dalits under the same Indian constitution.

Besides the external trouble, they also face discrimination within the church as their fellow Catholics who happened to be “upper castes” practice untouchability and hegemony over the lower caste Christians. Also the entry of multinational companies because of globalization and privatization deprive them the market share, apart from the apathy shown by both the state and central governments who are in the process of slowly stopping all the support mechanism that has been guaranteed to the small scale and cottage industries in India.

12) Senthamil Nadenum Pothinile : 5 minutes; music video; Tamil; 2005

Bharathi’s famous song “Senthamil Nadenum Pothinile “sung by M.S.Subbulakshi is used here to juxtapose the shit reality of Tamilnadu with the images of manual scavenging. The song boasts that the Tamil culture, land and language as supreme. But the images show poor sanitary workers of Tamilnadu cleaning filthy toilets.

13) Vandhe Mataram – A shit version
6 minutes; music video; Hindi; 2005

A.R.Rahman, a famous Indian music director produced a music video “remixing” the national patriotic song ‘Vandhe Mataram’ in the lines of “India Shining” propaganda campaign by the BJP led NDA government at the centre in early years of millennium.

This music video uses the same audio to juxtapose with manual scavenging activities that are still prevalent in India amidst the false euphoria of “India Shining” wave.

14) Mayana Kurippugal (Notes from the Crematorium)
25 min; Tamil with English subtitles; 2005

The film is an existential journey into the life and experiences of undertakers of Madurai central crematorium who despite facing untouchablity and caste violence from the rest of the society because of the occupation, continue to look life with hope and wisdom.

Cremation is considered to be a holy ritual in India which involves the upper caste priests, the close ones of the deceased, the undertakers and of course the corpse. Although the cremation cannot take place without the active participation of the undertakers, the caste system in India does not give due respect and recognition to them. The central crematorium here in Madurai is run by the government where the workers are forced to work under inhuman conditions without salary, security and safety working environment. Apart from getting occasional beating from the relatives of the deceased they are also abused and insulted regularly, while doing the job.

But the death becomes the leveler which presumably gives belated wisdom to the deceased, only after the death. And those who are alive continue to fail to achieve that.

15) Pee (Shit): 26 min; Tamil with English subtitles; 2003
Mariyammal, a sanitary worker with Madurai Municipal Corporation shares her frustration and anger with the filmmaker while cleaning a street near by a temple in Madurai which is full of shit.
Manual scavenging is officially prohibited in India since 1996. But lakhs of such men and women are made to clean night soil in the cities, towns and villages here. Most of them do not even get proper salary as it is considered to be their traditional occupation under the Indian caste system. They continue to live in a precarious condition for generations without any hope for change as their children are also indirectly forced to continue the tradition.

The film became a proof for all the insensitivity of the society towards such workers and triggered a chain of actions in Tamilnadu which includes the mass movements and direct actions against manual scavenging and of course the protagonist, Mariammal has been shifted out to a little better job, the street that is shown in the film has been shut down by the government and the toilets are better managed now with better equipment and better working conditions in Madurai.

16) Kaviri Padugai (Cauvery Delta): 45 min; Tamil with English subtitles; 2002

16 farmers died within a period of a month either by hanging themselves, or consuming pesticide, or by heart attack as they faced acute drought and debt in Tanjore district, otherwise called ‘rice bowl’ of Tamilnadu in 2002. The film visits some of their families to register their side of the story which got deliberately hidden by the government and mass media.
Although “green revolution” in agriculture seems to have created enough food to save the starving stomachs of India, it has also alienated the farmers from their cultivation and land as the scientists and industries started dictating the methods and inputs. Farmers lost control over their crops after becoming completely dependent on canal irrigation, diesel and electric motors, hybrid seeds, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides. As their cost of inputs keep increasing every year, any small derailment in the plan will prove to be fatal.

17) Thodarum Thisavazhi (Direction to go): 40 min; Tamil; Hi 8; 2001
Students of Government run colleges in Tamilnadu went for a state wide protest in response to the privatization of higher education started by the state government. The film captures the experiences of students of two colleges of Madurai.

Government run colleges are the only source of higher education and hope for the students who come from economically and socially backward sections in India. These colleges are heavily subsidized by both the state and central governments to enable the students from all backgrounds to get quality education. But after the advent of liberalization and globalization policies, the governments are trying to give away the responsibility of universal higher education in India. The film tries to question this whole idea.

18) Theeviravaghigal (Terrorists): 56 min; Tamil with English sub-titles; VHS; 1997
A socio-cultural documentary about the life and struggle of peasants of Gundupatti near Kodaikanal, who had to face brutal and violent assault from police and local politicians as they decided to boycott a parliament election in response to lack of basic facilities such as road, hospital and school. The film brings out the inhuman character vulgarly exhibited by the state police when a community tries to fight for its right in India, particularly if they are dalits/harijans/untouchables.
The peasants are the repatriates from southern Sri Lanka who were brought back to India under the Srimavo-Shastri accord and made to settle on the hills of Kodaikanal, a famous hill station near Madurai. Most of them left India for Sri Lanka for a better life with security and dignity without having to face untouchability, some hundred years back.

19) Leelavathi: 55 min; Tamil; VHS; 1996
An investigative documentary on the murder of an activist turned politician Mrs. Leelavathi as she fought against water mafia and tried to get tap water facility for the people of Villapuram, a working class settlement in Madurai. Coming from a simple and traditional weaving community, Mrs. Leelavthi became a hardworking activist of All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) and later CPI (M) and finally died as a councilor of Madurai Municipal Corporation representing Villapuram. Her end also brought out the danger, the women local body members face in the hands of traditional power holding fellow politicians who happened to be men.

Festivals/ awards
Notes from the Crematorium:
River to River, Florence Indian Film Festival 2006 -Italy,
Gottingen Documentary Film Festival 2006 – Germany,
Doc-Aviv 2006 – Israel,
Signs 2006 – Trivandrum
3 Screens 2006 – ISF, New Delhi
Peace Film Festival 2006 – Mumbai
Film South Asia 2007, Katmandu

Shit:
Tirupur video festival, Tamilnadu 2004(awards shared)
Sivagangai video competion, Tamilnadu 2004 (awards shared)
Jeevika 2004, New Delhi
One Billion Eyes – Indian Documentary Festival, Chennai 2005 (best film award)
Guangzhou International Documentary Film Festival 2005, China
Mumbai International Film Festival 2006 (National Jury Award)
VIBGYOR Documentary and Short Film Festival 2006 (Best Documentary Film)

Seruppu:
Jeevika 2007, New Delhi – 3rd Prize
WSF Film Festival 2007, Kenya
One Billion Eyes Film Festival 2007, Chennai
International Video Festival of Kerala 2008, Trivandrum

Recent Screening Tours:2012 June: Screening Tour in Maharahstra showing my Trilogy on Radiation (10 shows); 2012 July: Screening Tour in Kerala showing my Trilogies on Caste as well as Nuclear Radiation (12 shows); 2012 August: Screening Tour in Andhra Pradesh showing my films (8 shows); 2012 September: Screening tour in Delhi showing my films (6 shows).
Retrospective: 2010 in Bangalore organized by Vikalp, 2011 in Chennai organized by University of Madras, 2014 in Calicut organized by Youth Spring Film Festival

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Jeeva: a non brahmin discourse with a feudal touch!

Jeeva, one of the recent popular Tamil feature films is about an aspiring young cricketer. The film deals with his ambition, struggle and the support he gets from his family, friends, coach and many others. He falls in love too. When his time comes he is selected for Tamilnadu Ranji team. But he is rarely given a place in the playing XI. He carries drinks mostly. Brahmin lobby of TN cricket sidelines him. Finally he gets opportunity in CPL, kind of an IPL.
The film has come out in a time when the non brahmins of TN have lost the plot by betraying Periyar, by becoming brutally anti dalit, by continuing to be feudal, by being anti women, by becoming shamelessly corrupt and by eventually becoming part of hindutva forces.
The film's narrative portrays these typical characteristics of the feudal non brahmin male mindset of TN. The film unfairly takes a dig at women in the name of romance and comedy. The hero typicaly drinks at Tasmac bar after the love 'failure'. The film has item numbers which are sexist and vulgar.
Well known Tamil film maker Suseenthiran Nallu who has directed this film "Jeeva" has the way to touch the audience emotionally. There are many interesting sequences. The film is nicely cut. The flow or transition between the sequences is smooth. The director maintains the tempo and curiosity. He has a sense of humor. He seems to have a craft as he has shown in his previous films which are very different from each other. 'Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu, Azhagarsamyin Kuthirai and Naan Mahaan Alla' are some of his famous films.
In his previous film 'Aathalinal Kaathal Seiveer' the director moralistically ridiculed the way youngsters fall in love when TN was warming up to 'honor killings'. This film 'Jeeva' too carries that insecure feeling of small town men towards upward moving urban women. Being anti women and feudal will not help the cause as it has not helped the non brahmin politics in Taminadu.
I am a cricket lover. I am a non brahmin. I agree with many things the film depicts. Indian cricket especially TN cricket is a brahmin spectacle where others are mere spectators. The film has a brave way of showing people's identities. A Muslim shop owner who sells sports goods help the protaganist. A catholic priest advises the teenage lovers to settle down first as they are too young. One Murugan, a typical non brahmin Tamil man argues for the protagonist during a team selection meeting. Irfan, a Muslim cricketer from Rajasthan finally helps the hero. These are important aspects too.
The highlight is when Ranjit, the friend and opening partner of the hero who eventually kills himself out of frustration argues with Parthasarathy, President of TN cricket about the injustice faced by non brahmin cricketers of Tamilnadu in the hands of ruthless brahmin lobby.
IPL kind of a cricket is shown as a positive choice for many youngsters from small towns, which is in a way true. But how do we understand the blatant commericalisation of IPL? Can we say it is better than total brahminazation of Indian cricket? I am not asking this to the director. These questions came to me while watching the film.
I watched the film in Coimbatore which has a considerable support for Hindutva forces. Audience booed when the Catholic priest advised the lovers. They also enjoyed the sexist jokes. They clapped when the film ended.
Can I say some of the audience question brahmin domination; but they are communal and sexist?
Or should I say popular cinema will always have complications?


MADRAS, a film from north Madras!

I support and salute the Tamil feature film "MADRAS" by Ranjit, an young filmmaker who had previously made an excellent film "ATTA KATHI".
I hear a maligning campaign going on against MADRAS. I fully disapprove that. Let us not be cynical. Let us not be castist too. Let us wake up to the new cinema.
MADRAS is a Dalit cinema. It is a political cinema. One can clearly feel the sensitivity and pride of the director towards the characters and their lives. One hardly finds a politically wrong shot, a line or an expression in the film. The screenplay of the second half may not match the first half; because the first half is too good.
I like the characters, the setting, the love, the action, the humor, the innocence, the anger, the dignity, the persistence, the aspiration and the hope the film brings out. It is also a film that celebrates the lives of urban poor. It does not demand pity. It does not provoke hatred. It pins you down and forces you to open up to the stories of black people of Chennai who have their language, culture, food, customs, rituals, aesthetics and a way of life.
Chennai is not just coffee, cricket, karnatic music, bharathanatyam and idli. It is also about beef, fish curry,rap dance, tappattam and football. The film MADRAS talks about the “other” Madras which hardly gets represented in the popular Tamil film or any other media with respect and joy.
The film is about a huge wall located in a Dalit settlement in Chennai through which the local political leaders want to dominate the inhabitants of the locality. The film brings out the struggle of the Dalit youngsters who want to become independent from the clutches of the party politics which always looks at them as a vote bank or a mob.
There are strong women characters, who are not glamor queens or item numbers or weak crying babies. They are thinking individuals who have their opinions, the will power and fun. There is so much love in the film between friends, lovers, married people, parents and among the community. There is a rap dance group which represents the dance culture of north Madras.
There have been plenty of Tamil films made by "star" directors which insult, betray, hurt and type cast women, children, elderly people, workers, poor, mentally and physically challenged and other marginalized people. MADRAS is particularly excellent as it takes one step ahead in portraying the original inhabitants of Madras!
I also appreciate Karthi, the actor who has done the role of Kali, the protagonist for acting in the film as it has increased the production value and reach of the film MADRAS. You can see the film had a valid financial support while making as well as in promotion.
After a series of "new wave" Tamil films showing youngsters as irresponsible, violent, machismo and alcoholic, MADRAS for a change shows youngsters who want to take care of their family, who care about the society, who want to come up in the lives and who want to have decent and calm life.
Interestingly most of the recent machismo films were based on young men from backward caste background. They were also made by the directors from those backgrounds as well. MADRAS is about Dalit young men. It is also made by a Dalit filmmaker, if I am not wrong.
No wonder PMK leaders and other backward (!) caste leaders worry about Dalit boys in jeans and sun glasses!