Shaji Neelakantan Karun is an Indian film director and cinematographer. His debut film Piravi won the Caméra d’Or – Mention d’honneur at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival. He was the chief guest for the closing ceremony of second edition of Guwahati International Film Festival.
Q: This is your second time at the Guwahati International Film Festival. What are the differences you find between last year and this year?
Shaji: More people are coming to be a part of the Guwahati International Film Festival this year…that’s one beauty of GIFF. The film festival is gradually getting attention. When I started Kerala Film Festival in 1989, not many people participated in it…but it gradually became one of the most well received festivals. Within 10 years, the festival went on to become one of the finest film fest in the country. Nowadays, it’s not festival alone, but it is the people you meet here holds importance. The social contact will get stronger along with the cinema as we meet newer people. Creating that platform to meet each other and share ideas will help a lot in the near future. GIFF is gradually evolving. Last year it just started and now the focus is gradually becoming more clear and crisp.
Q. You have been to many other film festivals. How would you compare GIFF with others?
Shaji: The most important thing is the humble beginning with the clarity of the people. As the festival becomes bigger, the clarity also grows.
Q. There are lots of young directors making movies. How you look into this?
Shaji: Nowadays, everything is easily accessible to the professionals. They can make films, but only thing important is that what they want to tell. It’s like you can write same thing with a pen of Rs 2000 and a simple fountain pen. But, the content remains the same. The most important thing is the content. As they say, the content is the king. And that needs intelligence. Intelligent films come from intelligent people. Discovering them is more important.
Q. The quality of Bengali films went down recently. So how is the situation of cinema in Kerala now?
Shaji: Bengali filmmakers realized it soon and they are coming back. This realization is also important. Many people like Tagore, Satyajit Ray came from there. But in between suddenly they lost the story-telling path. Gradually they are coming back.
Q. What are the improvements you want to suggest for GIFF?
Shaji: All these arrangements – the selection of films and everything should be done a little earlier so that the film lovers get time to organize their calendar. Because, nowadays people are engaged with many things, it is really important that the schedule is published well ahead of the festival. Especially, for getting the maximum attention of the general people, it is very important to plan things a bit ahead. Also, it will then be easier to get more people coming in from outside Assam. And we should try to get as many films from other North-East states as possible.