Discussion: ‘Nasir’ helmer Arun Karthick on cinema galas, digital mediums, and beyond

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Panchajanyam International Film Festival: A Crucible for Emerging Filmmakers

The 14th edition of Panchajanyam International Film Festival is slated to open on February 2 at Kairali-Sree Theatre in Chittoor, Palakkad. Although the event may not be the largest film gathering, or packed with celebrity guests and international filmmakers, its small-scale nature serves as an essential growth catalyst for filmmaking enthusiasts. It is no surprise that Kerala boasts of such grassroots events given its consistent production of critically acclaimed mainstream cinema. Coimbatore-based filmmaker Arun Karthick, accoladed for his award-winning independent Tamil film Nasir, gives such credit to the film environment fostered by the region. Karthick, who will undertake the curating responsibility for the Indian Experimental Cinema section at Panchajanyam, shares his views on the festival and its effect on cinema and culture.

The Heart of Film Festivals in Contemporary Cinema Culture

In Karthick’s perspective, the role of film festivals is integral to promoting film and its culture in a world where online access has improved reach but diluted the experience. He points out that his relationship with cinema has been negatively impacted by viewing films on laptops and televisions. The pull of film festivals lies in the chance to enjoy films on large screens, allowing for uninterrupted and immersive engagement with the cinematic narrative. This festival experience, coupled with opportunities to interact with diverse filmmakers, turns film festivals into melting pots of culture. According to Karthick, the curatorial aspects of such festivals provide the audience with deeper insights into the cinematic history, delivering a context-rich understanding of film evolution across various periods.

Shifting Impact of Online Streaming Platforms on Indian Cinema

Arun believes that the once-promising scenario of streaming platforms has undergone a disappointing change in recent years. The filming industry sees these platforms more as a space for internet television, given the abundance of average-quality films they showcase. The disappointing priority given to quantity over quality is apparent with scant prominence awarded to genuinely intriguing and novel narratives. The screenwriter flags concern over the lack of room for growth of novel feature channels due to the near-monopolistic operation of mainstream platforms that primarily align with government and censor-board preferences.

Declining Scope for Experimental Films

Karthick asserts that even the scope for experimental films is showing signs of regression on OTT platforms. He mentions his struggles with OTT screening of Nasir as an example of such an unfavourable situation. Film-making, a potentially potent form of dissent, is being neutralised by the cautious and conformist approach of OTT platforms that lean towards safe content guidelines.

Reflection of Indian Diversity in Cinema

The filmmaker voices optimism regarding the role of Indian cinema. Each year sees a fascinating array of films that address various cultural, political, and rebellious themes through documentary and independent fiction. However, the distribution bottleneck challenges the reach of these films to a wider audience. Lesser-known yet vibrant cinematic approach often remains overshadowed by mainstream media, another reason film festivals like Panchajanyam hold such high relevance. The current edition plans a special feature on experimental short films, especially those that have dared to challenge the status quo.

Blurry Line between Mainstream and Arthouse Cinemas

Karthick challenges the mainstream and arthouse cinema division, asserting that these categorical stamps imposed by distributors and journalists often lose sight of dynamic artistic perspectives. According to him, the classification seems even more superficial when commercial successes of so-called ‘art films’ and the failures of ‘mainstream’ films are factored in. He emphasises the fluidity of each film’s unique identity that resists being caged within traditional categorisations.

Is Independent Film-making Becoming More Accessible or More Challenging?

Karthick admits that the advent of advanced technology has democratised film-making to an extent, but challenges within distribution and marketing domains seem to thicken. Even though various cameras with 4K capabilities have brought different storytelling methods within reach of independent films, the need for funds is still an imposing factor.

In his view, the distribution and marketing aspect relies heavily on the producer’s role. Increased emphasis should be laid on innovative producers who can scrutinise distribution models strategically and holistically. This strategy could otherwise empower independent creators to make influential contributions to the film culture.


Sonny, a prolific Bollywood author, weaves enchanting tales that mirror the vibrant tapestry of Indian cinema. With an innate ability to capture the essence of Bollywood glamour and drama, Sonny's literary creations transport readers into the heart of the film industry. Immerse yourself in the magic of Bollywood through Sonny's evocative storytelling on ReaderWall.