Calling the shots comes naturally to Revathy Sureshkumar. After all she hails from a family of filmmakers and actresses. However the 26-year-old is on her toes for a different reason. The budding dancer and research student of dance is busy giving shape to her father G. Suresh Kumar’s dream of a film academy in Thiruvananthapuram. As vice-chairperson of the Revathy Kalamandir Film Academy at Kinfra Film and Video Park in Kazhakkuttom, she is learning from award-wining senior filmmakers and leading the team at the same time.
Light and shadow play games on the sprawling campus even as nature creates a scenic backdrop. The perfect location for a film. Naturally, films are made here but, more importantly, filmmakers are now made here. Sixteen aspiring filmmakers are learning the idiom and grammar of cinema from veterans like cinematographer Sunny Joseph (director), thespian Raghoottaman (head of acting), film editor Ranjith Shankaran (dean) and audiographer N. Harikumar (honorary faculty member).
Incubated by producer Suresh Kumar, Revathy Kalamandir Film Academy hopes to open the doors of the film industry to a future generation of filmmakers and actors who have been thoroughly trained in the medium.
“Changes come with newbies. And right from my first film, I have always encouraged new talent. I feel that the only way forward for the film industry in general and the Malayalam film industry in particular is to introduce debutants before and behind the camera. So what was begun as a post-production centre metamorphosised into this film school,” says Suresh, chairperson of the Academy.
The two-acre campus is reverberating with chants, roars and murmurs as budding actors go through a series of vocal exercises. The tawny mud and tile building basking in the sun, a delightful creation of mud architect Eugene Pandala, is humming with activities, all under the watchful eyes of the greats of Malayalam and Indian cinema whose portraits adorn the walls of the building. While a group learns the intricacies of editing, yet another group is all ears in a class on direction. Shooting floors with props, sound studios, edit suites and a viewing room are just some of the facilities of the Academy.
Walking me through the campus and its facilities is Revathy, the eldest daughter of Suresh Kumar and Menaka. Bustling with ideas, the youngster has big dreams for the Academy. “At present, there are six courses that we offer. But for the one-year acting course, the other courses are of two years duration. Our biggest strength is our staff members and our students. Innovative competitions and contests are on the anvil,” she explains animatedly.
Although sceptics debate the efficacy of a film school on account of the many greats who have made their name without the help of such institutions, Sunny avers that such a streamlined course telescopes the wisdom gleaned through years of hands-on experience. As a seasoned teacher, Sunny feels that trained filmmakers do have an advantage. In fact, his son is one of the students in the Academy. “The kind of inputs provided here is valuable and, in addition, experienced technicians and actors interact with the students on a regular basis,” adds Sunny.
Menaka who is also involved in the working of the Academy admits that while she earned her acting spurs on the sets, she feels that she was lucky to begin her career with some of the greats of cinema, a stroke of luck that all actors might not benefit from. “When I see the students here, I wish we had had this kind of training; it would have made things so easier for our directors,” she adds with a smile.
In addition to viewing and discussing of world cinema, the faculty members have introduced a novel method to motivate the students to read. “Every week, they have to do a presentation about something that they read; it could be a play, a poem, an excerpt from a novel, a newspaper article… just about anything. The endeavour is to help them open their eyes to the world around them and appreciate the literary bedrock of cinema,” explains Ranjith.
To make the students push the envelope and explore the scope of cinema, the faculty members have devised a number of exercises to hone their skills in scripting, directing and acting. “For instance, one such exercise involves scripting a film revolving around seemingly conflicting themes and props. We are also in the process of designing a whole lot of online contests that will be open to all aspiring filmmakers in Kerala. One of the contests is called 24-hour cinema, which will have contestants making a movie in one day – right from scripting to filming, sound mixing, editing and screening,” explains Ranjith.
Revathy chips in to add that she hopes to arrange a theatrical release for the diploma films made by the students.
Seated beneath a huge portrait of her parents, Revathy says with a smile that 10 years down the line, she would want the first batch of students in the Academy to return to their alma mater to take master classes.
Revathy Kalamandir Film Academy is conducting a series of contests that is open to all. Results of the photography contest, the theme of which was ‘Woman at work’ will be announced on April 13. Rules of the different contests, prize money, and stipulations for entries are available on the Faceboook page of Revathy Kalamandir Film Academy or the website of the Academy.
An ongoing contest invites participants to make a one-minute video on the city. The theme is Your City. Registration is open till April 19. The last date for entries is April 20.
The result of the video contest will be announced on April 27. In addition there are some innovative contests for script writing, editing and so on. All the winners will be given certificates and cash prizes on May 17.
The most interesting of the contests is the 24 Hour Film Rush (from May 23 to May 24), a five-minute film contest where the teams will have to script, direct, shoot, edit, mix, and submit the final short film within 24 hours from the time the concept/theme of the short film is announced. The team/ crew registering should comprise minimum six people.