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18. The Interview


The quaint ways of the upper caste, male-dominated household in the Kerala of yesteryears has held a fascination for artists and writers. Prominent among them was the late Lalithambika Antherjanam. We have with us a young man who quit his job at Doordarshan (the state run television channel) and decided to bring Lalithambika's 'Agnisakshi' to celluloid. The film was enthusiastically received by viewers in Kerala who recognized the coming of a fresh talent. Meet Shyamaprasad, director of Agnisakshi.

On coming into films

I was just like any other kid in school; you know the type that participates in youth festivals, competitions. Didn't have any exceptional achievements back then . . . but even way back then, I was more into the setting up, the organizing than in the actual 'performing'. When you know, most children just want to perform out there, on stage. When in Xth standard, I wrote a play and staged it - got a real kick out of doing it all, you know the costumes, collecting music pieces . . . I really agonized over these (tape recorders were pretty rare those days). And that's what I really enjoy most - setting up a performance, which is what I'm doing now.

In college I continued in the same vein. But more as writer/director, than actor. After my Pre-degree, this seemed to be a natural course to take . . . what with the Film Institute, the NID* all opening up as avenues. It was around then that Drama School was started by the Calicut University (for the first time in Kerala). I simply headed there.

It was at Drama School that the world of theatre opened up to me - it was an in-depth study of the medium; its history & techniques as they evolved over the years. And when you're so much into something (it was an intense 3 year course) - in touch with so many artistes, like-minded people; some of them the leading lights of their time, such as G Sankara Pillai, S Ramanujan - they were our teachers then; there was a galaxy of writers, directors, designers, actors, at both national and international level - it all really gave one a perspective, a profound consciousness on theatre.

So that's how I came to be in such a medium. Looking back I hadn't really set out on becoming an artiste; I mean, I never had such a wish early on. On completing the course, I wasn't too inclined to pursue theatre as an 'occupation'. Then, it was rather difficult to earn a living as a theatre person ... it still is.

Fortuitously, it was then that a medium like television picked up. Trivandrum Doordarshan got started then. And so again, it seemed the best thing to do next. I could adapt the lessons I'd learnt in theatre to a medium like the television. It was while in television that the stint at Film & Television Institute happened. And then on, to England where I did my Masters in Media Production & Film making. Over time I developed a finer taste for the medium of film-making . . . I'd like to think that it was all a period of 'experimentation'. And you know, when you see the results of your efforts bear fruit - it gives you confidence, and the guts to take off.

So, quite naturally, I came into films.

*National Film Institute, Ahmedabad INDIA

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