Her first poetry was on myna, a bird she fell in love with during her school days. “Pune had lots of mynas. A friend presented me a baby myna and we named her Ritu. She would follow me around every day as if to know the progress of my little work. Then when I was 14, we shifted to Bhagdad and that was a period when Saddam Hussein had a huge influence on the people of Iraq. We were among the few Indians there and my experiments with writing became more evident but with censorship rampant, there were few avenues to get oneself published,” says Meena Das Narayan, a creative soul with varied roots.
When City Express caught up with her to get an insight into her latest film on Yakshagana – Darkness of Night – Meena was busy with her post-production work. “Yakshagana is an art form that has been always close to my heart, like Kathakali. The story of Darkness of Night hovers around three youngsters; two IT professionals and an artist. Both techies fall in love with the artist and the girl is attracted to one and finally gets married to the other. The film brings out their conflicts, passion, pain and fury,” says the Dubai based film-maker.
Meena says that the film aims to revive the fortunes of Yakshagana by capturing the imagination of youngsters. “There's no future to any art form if we do not inspire youngsters. During my constant interactions with youngsters, I realised that most of them were unaware of the nuances of Yakshagana. They knew it as an art form of Karnataka. And, they knew it was dying. The idea of Darkness of Night took birth with the sole hope of reviving Yakshagana and I did this with the help of living legend Keremane Shivananda Hegde,”says Meena.
The hero of the film is the son of a famous Yakshagana artist and all the lead actors have striking features, making the job of the director easy. “We shot the movie in Bangalore and a part of Nandi Hills. The movie is being made in English, Kannada and Malayalam and all the three were shot at one go. Playing the lead role in Darkness of Night are Kiran, Padam and Sneha, while Adil is the music director and Joshua Ronaldo, the cinematographer,” she said. Darkness of Night is scheduled for a September release.
Her maiden work – Making of Maestro – a tribute to Kathakali legend Kalamandalam Gopi – won the Kerala State Film Award (2010) for the best documentary. The film is being screened at the Bulgarian Film Festival in October, along with 13 other films, selected from across the world. When asked about her decision to make a movie on Yakshagana soon after Kathakali, Meena said that both art forms had very striking features. “To create something innovative and to make it appealing is a challenge I have always enjoyed. Be it writing, painting or directing – you have to be watchful of the quality bar all through, come what may. I want each and every frame of mine to be like a painting. Kathakali and Yakshagana give you lots of options to play around with your creativity,” says Meena.
If film-making is one passion Meena has been chasing of late, her paintings on oil christened – Four Seasons in Haveli – have already created a stir among art connoisseurs in Mumbai, Bangalore and Dubai.
“Painting is a very skillful art and we definitely miss the likes of Raja Ravi Varma. The more layers there are, the more realistic the art becomes. In India, people appreciate it, but it's not fashionable to buy it. Some paintings do take a month to get the finish that I am looking for. I mix my paintings with Swarovski crystals so that they shine like diamonds,” Meena said.
She is all set to launch a new collection of her paintings featuring the five elements. “I want to portray their power through portraits of women from different parts of the world. It will be special,” she said, confidently.