Southern Lights: Hello From This Side Of The Vindhyas, Film Companion

When Anupama Chopra approached me to be part of Film Companion – last February, at the Berlin Film Festival – I was tempted. But I took a rain check. And another. And another. I was still undecided when the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival with Star came around, in October. I think of myself as someone who writes about films. In print. Maybe on the web, too – on my blog. But basically, someone who expresses himself through writing. And now, images? Video?

And then, this: the prospect of leaving a legacy media house – one of the biggest, one of the most reputed, a veritable institution – for a small digital start-up.

There was a lot to wrap the head around.

But there’s no denying that digital is where you find an increasing number of people. There are statistics out there. Big, fat, impressive numbers. Maybe there was something here. Maybe there was a way to get videoing while not entirely giving up writing.

What clinched was something else Anupama said. “We hear of an SS Rajamouli only when a Karan Johar presents Baahubali as a big, splashy event movie. We want someone who can take us beyond Bollywood.”

There is a lot of video content out there about cinema in the four southern languages, a humongous amount in fact – but a lot of reviews and shows are in those four languages. Which, in a way, ghettoises these films. It is never going to be easy to convince the casual Hindi-film watcher to make time for a “South” film, with subtitles – but there are movie lovers out there who keep wanting to watch Aadukalam because Anurag Kashyap can’t stop talking about it. So what about the films Anurag Kashyap doesn’t find the time to see, talk about?

That’s when it all began to make sense.

The fact that we could do a high-end show on Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam cinema in English.

The fact that we didn’t have to review every single release, like a chore, but instead talk about only the big films, the important films, the worthy films.

The fact that we could, freed from the spatial and topical constraints of legacy media, treat interviews differently, not necessarily talking to people just before their big release (and thus simply plugging the product), but branching out into themes, careers, events, milestones.

The fact that we could conceive a video interview the way a print person would, the way it would appear in a magazine.

At a time films like Visaranai and Thithi are making news on the international scene, surely there are people out there who’d like such a show! This seemed not just something I could do but something that I wanted to do, something that needed to be done. It seemed like a big idea, big enough to change my life around for.

Hence, Film Companion – South. I am happy to be here.

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