Filmmaking is a science

My interest in cinema was strengthened by my interest in film theory during my teenage years. I was amazed at the ways in which cinema is theoretically expanded upon to create ideas of the society in which we live. Most of the essays I read were leftist interpretations of cinema, which enfeebled rather than united different perspectives. I have strongly believed ever since those days that cinema is a powerful visual tool that can move people and bring closure to certain socio-political topics. It is a vehicle of propaganda. Regardless of the ideology to which one subscribes, everyone understands that cinema is also for pleasure. And that makes the experience of watching movies rewarding. Either you like watching them or you do so to grasp the human condition in all its vibrancy.

Cut to my postgraduate years at an esteemed university in London (the School of Oriental and African Studies) where I learnt to deconstruct ethnographic material about tribes, globalisation and religious wars. I was swamped with knowledge about the anthropology of cinema caught in the thickets of the postcolonial imagination. Whatever I was studying at the School was similar to what I had been studying at university in Bangalore — the intellectual complex where caste, class and gender meet. There was nothing new to this wholly Western educational milieu that inspired me to foster an unbridled pathway to rethink the politics of positionality in my quest to reach higher plains of awareness in my academically curious mind.

Since I had reached an entrenchment after graduating from SOAS I began to look for ways to articulate my concerns meaningfully. I am not an activist so I do not believe in waving red flags (I may receive odium for this statement) but I am propelled to envisage a place and time in which there is harmony and compassion towards every human being on the planet. My arrival at the L. V. Prasad Film & TV Institute in Bangalore was therefore perfectly timed. I had the knowledge but I was searching for the truth. It all came to me when our online classes began and I was receiving in spades filmmaking methods rather than the intricate basics of activism that are believed to be ways of empowering those on the margins.

The first learning in my educational journey has been in what I had learnt in the past. But sometimes what is in the past is best forgotten and I would like to leave my undergraduate and postgraduate years in the history books. The second learning has been in what I have been learning at the LVPA: a thorough hands-on approach to filmmaking that does not seek to associate learning with seemingly heartrending theories of saving people from power structures. What compels me to think about these two aspects of the social sciences is the need to know where the most creative parts of our minds lie and the need to add more literature to the area of film studies in India today. While I think critical thinking is a crucial way to slice knowledge, I have never been and will never be bound by it.

The reason I am writing this article is to convey to anyone who is reading this that I was a leftist for a brief while and have since moved on from jaded, outmoded and irrelevant practices. I have reexperienced the power of spirituality in the years following the pandemic and have found my identity in the filmmaking arena. I do believe that cinema is a science because in my learnings at the LVPA I have been taken into a world where there is a possibility to work on cinematic language as a necessary weapon against social injustice and evil forces through the use of the grammar that the great gurus left us. It enables us directors to create narratives that resonate with people who are sincere in their commitment to bringing change to various problems that haunt the contemporary field of politics.

At the LVPA I have been grasping scientific processes that make up filmmaking. These include the operations of the camera, among many, many other things. I am not dwelling on what I have been taught as you will have to join the Institute to find out. But I will say that I am being taught by some of the best faculty that the fraternity has to offer. My professors have been professionals in the industry for a long time. They have mastered film science and created art out of it. Perhaps I ought to suture the humanities education I had received with the practical sides I have been learning all the while. Perhaps I ought to direct a film that can inhere in those stories of struggle that are woven with great skill and understanding of our culture.

I could be prescient when I say that I ought to reinvent our cinema by working on issues that revolve around nationalism at a time when it is a bad word. I could be my former self when I say I would like to chronicle and document various movements led by self-realised masters. I could be a documentary or feature filmmaker one day but I do not know what the future holds. During these challenging times I find solace in thinking about my Guru who had told me to do a course in filmmaking so that I could become a better filmmaker in the future. I am grateful to Him and my parents without whom I would not be here at the LVPA, learning and relearning the practicals of this craft that have pushed me to open up parts of my brain which were once closed. I can now say I am a filmmaker.

Dhruv Ramnath

Student – LVPA Bengaluru

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