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'Samskara' was beautifully structured, dramatic: cinematographer Tom Cowan


Press Trust of India Bengaluru
Veteran director-cinematographer Tom Cowan, who worked on 1970 Kannada classic "Samskara", says though the caste practice was foreign to him, he could connect with the characters in the film.

The Pattabhirama Reddy Tikkavarapu-directed film was based on celebrated writer UA Ananthamurthy's novel of the same name and featured Girish Karnad, P Lankesh and Dasharathi Dixit in lead roles.

"Samskara" was a path-breaking movie, which is said to have kick-started the parallel cinema movement in Kannada film industry.

"The characters in 'Samskara' didn't seem foreign to me. They were all very strong and I could understand the basic human desires and problems. The movie was just the translation of something that was highly dramatic and beautifully structured, with a great setting.

"The underlying questioning of the caste wasn't particularly resonant with me. But the characters and their problems were quite clear," Cowan told PTI in an interview on the sidelines of the Bengaluru International Film Festival 2018 here.

The film, which won the National Film Award for best feature film in 1970, was initially banned by the Madras Censor Board as it feared the film's strong anti-caste undertones could spark tensions among the masses.

The celebrated cinematographer delivered Dadasaheb Phalke Award Winner - V K Murthy Memorial Lecture on cinematography yesterday.

When asked whether he had kept tabs on the Indian cinema, Cowan said the industry has progressed in all departments, definitely in cinematography and writing, over time.

"Most Indian films are still basically about entertainment and a lot of them seem to be unconsciously sexist and simplistic. But they have been made well. There are odd films like 'The Lunchbox' and 'Tithi' which were quite entertaining," he said.

He said he fell in the love with the movies as a child who used to go to the theatres on Saturdays, "watching some old Westerns, the Marx Brothers, Charlie Chaplin."

Cowan said cinematographers are inherently shy people, like him, and tend to be all about the job.

"It's a technical job to some extent. The director, the writer and the actors get all the accolades as they are upfront. Cinematographers, like me, are pretty shy. They haven't got their due. We just do our job.

"I've directed six feature films in my career. I'm known more as a director than as a film-maker. That's just the way it is. It depends on the film. Some films are heavily dependent on the DOP, others are on the director," he said.

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First Published: Feb 28 2018 | 1:50 PM IST

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