Award-winning film director R. Shyamaprasad recently posted on his Facebook page the line-art illustration of a man staring at an apparently unclothed woman. The picture is captioned ‘Pervert.’ In a second illustration, the characters don’t change. However, between the two people, now, sits a canvas and the caption reads, ‘Artist.’
Neither nudity nor voyeurism is the calling card of Shyamaprasad’s films. His source material, with a bare exception here or there, has been literature, mostly acclaimed works in English, Malayalam and Bengali.
The core of his films is a searing emotional intensity that resonates with viewers, cutting across language barriers. As he wraps up his latest film Artist, featuring Fahadh Faasil, Ann Augustine and Siddharth Shiva, only the mise-en-scène has changed. The emotional turmoil remains firmly in place.
In a way, with Artist, Shyamaprasad is placing a canvas into a less discussed trend in Kerala today – live-in relationships. The societal voyeurism, on people who simply choose not to go by conventional ways, thus gets an artistic reboot by the director. And the canvas he places too comes to life because the protagonist here is “a selfish artist.”
The film in his words is about a live-in relationship between the artist and a naïve young woman “who realises that love and fresh air may not be enough.” Artist thus has a fair interplay of individual ambition, creative frustration, fragile egos, misunderstandings and the process of self-discovery, which every artist arguably goes through at some stage in life.
For the first time in his career, Shyamaprasad has two films in a row waiting to reach theatres. He has completed English, a film set in the UK about Malayalis living in the country. With Jayasoorya, Mukesh, Nivin Pauly and Remya Nambeesan in lead roles, the film once again takes the director to his favourite territory – the life of expatriates.
“The UK, however, was not unfamiliar territory for me,” says Shyamaprasad, who did his Masters in Media Productions at Hull University, before working as media researcher and creative contributor for BBC. “I approached English from a very contemporary setting though, through the lives of four people, and their ethical, moral and emotional dilemmas.”
Be it English or Artist, Shymaprasad hopes both films will find acceptance and understanding among a wider audience. “That is not because my films are deliberately tuned for a Western audience. The basic emotions in both the film are universal, only the idiom is Indian.”
During the making of English, Shyamaprasad was particularly struck by what he calls the “reverse colonialisation” that is taking shape. “There is far more confidence in the Indian community,” he says, which obviously spills over into the characters of his movie too.
Perhaps as commonalities go, his two films also unravel the “underbelly of life,” which is neither black or white nor rich or poor. With Artist, Shyamaprasad says he went closer to the “smaller kind of films,” though not that his earlier productions were lavishly mounted.
As in his earlier films, in Artist too the silences between the spoken words, the visual textures, and the rugged and blunt edges in the characters stand to convey more than the obvious.
With Malayalam cinema itself moving towards a more sensitive and socially aware framework, Shyamaprasad could well be the bridge that links hard-earned cinematic experience and the shocking bravado of the new breed of filmmakers.
While the jury is still out, pending the films reaching audiences, Shyamaprasad is relishing in a newfound joy: savouring the “flair and new global sensitivities” in the works of student artists at the Trivandrum Fine Arts College, where he shot Artist.
Published here: http://bit.ly/110AW9m