It was a moment of joy and pride for a group of youngsters on Saturday when their 26-odd-minute film was received with a loud cheer and applause. “We didn’t expect it. We had to do a double screening and still there were a number of people watching while standing,” shares Vishvak Khanderao, director of the movie Samyuktham that was screened at LV Prasad Labs. And the person who made the screening possible, along with co-operation and support from a few youngsters, is Shyam, founder of Shadow Puppet.
The lesser-known genre
A software employee, Shyam enjoys good films just like many of his peers and was under the impression that “artistic” films come only from countries like Korea, Germany, France and the likes. But after he watched Malayalam film, Adaminte Makan Abu, he consciously began to explore lesser-known Indian films.
“There is a brilliant film called The Good Road. But what nobody knows about it is that it’s actually a Gujarati film. In fact, not even people from their own community are aware of this film. There is another, a Marathi film called Jogwa. Again, not many people know about it and Jogwa was quite popular,” says Shyam.
The fact that films like these were going unnoticed and were not seeing the light of theatres, pushed Shyam to start Shadow Puppetry in April this year. The aim is to bridge the gap and bring attention to meaningful and engaging movies.
“I then stumbled upon this film, The Catalyst directed by a Vaishnavi Sundar. A simple story, but powerfully narrated, I wanted people to know about it and talk about it,” Shyam tells us. That is how The Catalyst became the first film to be screened by Shadow Puppet. Besides screening the film, Shyam was also keen on bringing the storyteller to the fore. “Vaishnavi was kind enough to come down and interact with the people. It was an instant hit. We screened it at Lamakaan and Our Sacred Space and around 100 people turned up in both the places,” he recalls.
That is where Shyam met the director of Samyuktham, Vishvak Khanderao and the rest followed. He collaborated with the team of the film who are also part of a media house, The Indie Street. “Aditya Javvadi, the cinematographer, Ravi Teja Girijala, the editor, Prashanth V Ramesh, the music director and Koila Konda Rakesh, the assistant director of the film liked my initiative. They form the team of The Indie Street along with Avinash Pothu. Our perception of alternative cinema and the need to promote it were the common factors leading to our collaboration,” explains Shyam.They collectively promoted Samyuktham and finally screened it on Saturday to a packed audience.
While the idea of Shadow Puppet favours alternative films and filmmakers, enjoying films is subjective. Shyam agrees and says, “We do not want to compromise on the quality of films that we screen. For that, we make sure that we will watch the film before screening. We consider the story, its capacity to engage us, if it is moving us in any way – sad, happy etc and also if we can identify with the characters,” he lists out and adds, “The reason we screened The Catalyst was because the central character in the film is a rickshaw puller, but the emotions and the dilemma he goes through is something we all go through. That’s the kind of films we are looking at.”
The elated Samyuktham team and The Indie Street are keen on continuing their collaboration with Shadow Puppet. “We know what it takes to make a film. We cannot make a film and keep it in the closet. It needs to be seen to be judged. And we want to work towards providing that space for good filmmakers,” says Aditya Javvadi.