Before sounds merge with images, before scripts get shot, before songs get sung, before cinema comes to the theatres - the fifth edition of the ongoing October Jam, a twelve-day festival of creative practices brings to fore different strands of cinema. The jam has highlighted off-screen experiences, techniques of cinema, and has explored the relationship of labour and cinema through various interactive sessions.
The jam paid a tribute to the personal histories of workers in the cinema industry such as poets, lyricists, composers, writers who are instrumental in shaping our association with cinema.
In the past few weeks, artistes who work behind the scenes were invited to discuss the impact of digitisation on the production and distribution of cinema.
In light of many single screen theatres shutting down in Bangalore in the last decade, owing to the imposition to upgrade facilities at the theatres by Karnataka Cinemas (Regulation) Act, 1964, the jam delved deeper into the impact it has had on the industry and livelihoods of people.
Two men stood out from the invitee list, who shared their life and how the world of cinema transformed them.
Making a mark
Recently, Devendra, a creative technician and an auto driver was invited to be a part of the festival. After years of struggling as a chai wala and then as a spot boy, Devendra now finally owns his own production company, Lion Grips in Bangalore.
Without any formal training, Devandra tried his hand at almost everything. He assisted people on lights, fixed anything that stopped functioning on the sets and also learnt how to operate the camera.
Devendra has never cried after watching a film as he doesn't connect with them emotionally. When asked of cinema as reality and reality as cinema, he said, "Life is dark and cinema can only reflect that - darkness. There is nothing pleasant about films."
As cynical as that sounds, he also has a sense of humour. He doesn't treat anything emotionally, it's labour and that is all. The job has to be done, and if he is on it, he will do it.
A 30-year-old relationship
The next invitee on the guest list was Ashoka, who has worked as a projectionist for the last 30 years in almost 22 theatres of Bangalore. Even after being so closely associated with films, Ashoka has never once seen a film sitting with his family in the theatre. Only when his favourite actor Rajnikanth is on screen, dancing around trees, Ashoka comes out, whistles a few times and then returns to his room.
He too, like Devendra, looks at cinema as labour. He was crazy about films, but now it has become a mere duty. And finally after all these years Ashoka has bid goodbye to films and has chosen a less 'glamorous' profession - driving.
But there is one thing he is thankful about—the stories collected from the dark alleys, empty corridors and dusty projection rooms. "In Vinayaka theatre there was a girl who committed suicide in the bathroom and her ghost would kick people out of the theatre every night. I was very brave and worked late into the night almost every day," he said.
Another reason that Ashoka left films was the transformation from analog to digital. "The quality of cinema has deteriorated severely and we don't see films like we did when they were on negatives," he added.