Telling stories of change

Telling stories of change

Filmmaking is my hobby and I have no intentions of making it my career as it would kill the creative instinct, Jerrin Chandan tells JISHA KRISHNAN

By profession, Jerrin Chandan is a lecturer with the Department of English at St Joseph’s Evening College in Bengaluru. By passion, he is a short film maker, whose work has been applauded at international film festivals across the globe.

“I do not want to approach filmmaking as a career… it kills the creative and critical instinct. I want to support filmmaking as a hobby,” says the 32-year-old teacher of British Literature, feminist criticism and postcolonial studies. What drives Jerrin is the desire to tell stories — that are not heard, that promote sensitivity in diversity, that inspire a celebration of life.

Powerful platform

Paarivala, his first short film, dealt with ideas of freedom of speech and expression, while his second film Tea addressed the issue of honour killing and religious harmony. “Cinema is a powerful platform to talk about alternative perspectives, a different way of perceiving reality. The stories that we communicate through cinema should basically enlarge one’s worldview and thus transform one’s personality,” maintains the filmmaker who holds master’s degrees in Philosophy and English Literature.

Jerrin doesn’t believe in ‘entertainment for entertainment’s sake’. A finalist at the Bangalore International Short Film Festival 2018 and semi-finalist at the Newark Short Film Festival 2018 held in the US, Paarivala questioned the idea of culture as a carrier of the patriarchal mindset. Tea, the official selection at Inshort short film festival 2018 held in Nigeria, and semi-finalist at Chennai International Short Film Festival 2019, on the other hand, tapped into the power of metaphors and memories to drive home an important social message.

Rats, his third short film, is setting the stage for an outstanding confrontation between the margin and the mainstream. A suspense thriller, the shooting for the film on the lives of street boys is currently underway. There is also a feature film in the offing. And in the long run, a production house that promotes alternative filmmaking, free from the constraints of commercial cinema.

Choice of language

In a postcolonial world, Jerrin avers, it was a political choice to make movies in Kannada with English subtitles. As political beings, he believes, everything we do and say has political implications. “Not in terms of party politics, but power relationship. It’s just that some of us are conscious of it and a majority of us are not,” reasons the man who has served as the assistant director of Radio Sarang, a community radio of St Aloysius College in Mangaluru.

While Jerrin is all for embracing one’s native language, he also wants the story to reach a wider audience. “One needs to find this balance of being rooted in one’s culture and at the same time branching out to different places,” he says. Thanks to film festivals and Internet penetration, films today can travel beyond the boundaries of nation, language and culture. The universal appeal of cinema, Jerrin notes, lies in the fact that the emotions and struggles of human beings at the deepest level, despite differences of race, nationality, class and caste, are the same.

Art of storytelling

Born and brought up in a small village called Silvepura, on the outskirts of Bengaluru, Jerrin admits that he had his inhibitions and fears about making films. His father was a carpenter and mother a school teacher.

Not too long ago, filmmaking was considered the privilege of the rich. Digitisation of the camera, though, has paved the way for many more storytellers to share their stories. The budget of his first film, Jerrin confides, was just Rs 10,000. Yet he was able to tell his story and be heard – not just in India, but at film festivals in Italy, Nigeria and the US. “We are able to access stories from across the world because of technology. There is a lot of experimentation with theme and style. Technology has democratised the discourse,” says the lecturer, who loves to watch films in Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam, Korean, Spanish, French, Iranian, German and English. “We need to change the way people read and perceive cinema,” says Jerrin. “Cinema needs to be used as a tool to entertain and to bring about social change.” For that to happen, good films need to travel beyond film festivals, into wider public arenas,” he adds.