India — 05/02/2012 12:24 AM

“Documentaries find audience now” (Times of India)

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BANGALORE: As Mumbai’s rat killers carry carcasses of rodents every morning to earn a living, multiplexes across the country have audiences cuing into the topic.

By Nirmala Govindarajan

The Times of India, Apr 26, 2012

What awakened Bangalore-bred Miriam Chandy Menacherry’s attention to the issue was a small article in a Mumbai newspaper. ” It said the municipality was holding auditions for rat killers and 2,000 candidates had applied. I was intrigued,” she says.

When Miriam met the rat killers and learnt that some were studying engineering, others were post-graduates and their supervisor an aspiring dancer for Bollywood films she found in it a bigger narrative. ” It told me of people coming to the city in search of dreams and their struggle to earn a livelihood. The rat then became a vehicle for me to portray issues of livelihood, sanitation and development through the stories of people who have to kill these rodents,” she explains.

This story went on to captivate the Cannes international jury in 2010 and had three sold-out shows in Amsterdam (2011), where it premiered at IDFA, one of the biggest international documentary festivals. With this boost, the film is being shown commercially at multiplex theatres like PVR and Big Cinemas in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore.

Miriam, after seeing the movie strike a chord at Cannes and in Amsterdam felt it important to take it to multiplexes across India, to reach out to a fresh wave of audiences wizening to documentaries.

“Across the world, documentaries are bringing a lot of fresh energy and perspective. Theatre chains are recognizing there is an audience for this kind of content, and are hence willing to take the risk,” explains Miriam.

The risk seems well calculated with ‘The Rat Race’ selling out in Amsterdam.

“At the International Documentary Festival of Amsterdam, it was only one among hundreds of documentaries that theatre-goers there paid to see,” says Miriam.

“I was amazed that people were paying 21 euro for my premiere show, I wanted to take photos of the ticket. I was even more amazed by the kind of films playing there. It was humbling to see movies like ‘Five Broken Cameras’ the story of a Palestinian father using a home-video camera bought at the time of his son’s birth, to document Israeli occupation of his village. The story is only about footage got from each of his cameras before they broke. It is the most powerful cinema anyone can experience and can only leave you changed.”

Influenced by realism, Miriam’s film is creating an enduring impact in India. “Everyone who goes to see the film has been inspired. Documentary is breaking ground even if it is slow. In fact, Bangalore as a market has shown the strongest response with an over 50% turnout as on Monday” she smiles.

Even so, India is only yet flirting with the documentary genre. “But I am sure we will embrace this culture very fast as a nation which is hooked to breaking news,” she says.

SOURCE: Times of India (26/04/12 )

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