‘IFFK is the terrain where cinema dreams come to life’: Anoop Menon

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 17: For Anoop Menon, the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) is central to his “film nostalgia”. From standing in the queues to debating a film’s merits, his memories of the IFFK are as vivid as they are many.

“To sit on the steps, interact with people, have the coffee from Arya Nivas opposite Kairali theatre (one of the venues), the arguments and finally the sense of loss that accompany the closure of the festival,” he says wistfully. “I would love to be the nomadic guy I used to be eight years ago who would stand in the queues, search for a delegate pass and participate actively in the open forums.”

The film star, being unable to attend the IFFK the past three years owing to work commitments, has had to make do with sepia musings. “I long to be back. In fact, I had allocated some dates for this (the fast-approaching 20th edition of the IFFK). But something has come up at the last minute.”

“So many talents congregated at the venues. The IFFK was where I met Shankar Ramakrishnan, Murali Gopy, and several others, all of whom are in films right now. It was the terrain where all our dreams about cinema came to life.”

Without the IFFK, Menon says, “I wouldn’t have known about filmmakers like Wajda, Godard, and Bunuel. I can still recollect the awe of watching Bunuel’s Illusion Travels by Streetcar and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.”

“I was initiated to Kim ki-Duk there and met stalwarts like Uberto Pasolini and Samira Makhmalbaf. Theirs were films we would have never seen if not for the IFFK. When I come upon a script now, these great films are in the back of my mind.”

There are more names and titles. They don’t immediately come to mind. The “feelings associated with the viewing of the film” do though.

“It is such a visceral feel. It can’t be explained with words. It is hidden in our subconscious. It is something we carry with us.”

He offers as evidence, an anecdote from a trip to Russia “When I heard Russian, I felt like I knew this language from somewhere.” From watching Battleship Potemkin in the dark silence of the cinema hall, and though “glued to the subtitles on screen, there is this thing in our brain that records the language being spoken”.

‘The world as I would like it to be’

What lingers longest, though, is the “memory of the whole environment and ambience created by the festival”.

“More than the academic part of the festival, there was this lively interaction that was happening outside the cinema hall. On the theatre steps, in the corridors, in the hotel rooms after the screenings…”

“I’ve found the festival to be a condensed version of the world as I would like it to be. No artificial barriers like language and religion. Just a gathering of people who are divided by nothing else other than their taste for cinema.

“Sense, not scripture; taste, not texts, should move you forward. The IFFK is an area where all our created divisions dissolve. Even if it is just for a short span of seven days, it is where people forget what their tenets are. They are all into one religion: taste for visuals, taste for stories.”

‘A logical corollary’

Though he’s seen his name and face on the same screens he’d once been transfixed by, Menon says he was unaffected by it. “Yes, fine. Once I was a spectator dumbfounded by the visuals and now I am part of them. But I wasn’t in awe. It was simply the logical corollary.”

A career trajectory that he hopes one day comes full circle

“It has a dream of mine for some time now to attend the IFFK just as a normal delegate again. Forget about being part of the selection committees or jury, I want to stand in the queues for a pass, sit on the steps of the theatres, sip on that coffee and discuss. That’s what I want.”

IFFK 2015, Kerala’s premier film festival, runs from December 4-11.

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