Surrealism has been a prominent art form mainly in and around Europe. Coming to the Indian context, surrealism struggles to find an embedded place. Surrealism has been rarely heard of and in some parts of India, it is nonexistent. This might be due to the notion that surrealism is illogical, irrational and is a modern way of thinking which frightened the traditional Indian artists. But there have been instances of surrealism being projected in many art forms in India, even in films. If you could recollect the visuals of the “Boom Boom” song in the film “Boys” you can see four persons dancing who were apparently made out of garbage cans and tins. Surrealistic Instances like these, though unknowingly, has been portrayed in many feature films. Till date, the belief is that Surrealism in India is same as water in Mars. But there is a vague or a faint influence of the almost non-existential movement in many films today in India. Many artists with a surrealistic vision have taken to short films to conceive surrealism. One such short film is Vijay Jeyapal’s “The Surreal”. Though not entirely a surrealistic film, it is loosely based on Surrealism. Vijay Jeyapal has done an excellent work with this film. “The Surreal” was screened at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. The story revolves around a man who is suffering from insomnia. The film categorizes itself under the psychological thriller genre and many of the visuals are surrealistic in nature. To be uncurious about this film would be a mistake and so, we arranged for an interview with Vijay Jeyapal during which he opened up more about his short film and the various aspects of surrealism.
- Surrealism intrigues people and questions their rationalism. It is as we say more of an experience. Vijay, how do you see surrealism and what exactly does Surrealism mean to you?
Surrealism for me is more of an experience, something that one experiences at a very personal level. It is a very subjective thing. I mean, something that is surreal for one person, need not necessarily be surreal for another person.
Also, you cannot define surrealism in a very definitive way. It has many meanings and many manifestations. In the art and literary world though, surrealism has been a very strong cultural movement with well-defined framework and grammar.
- As an art movement, it definitely had its influence in paintings and photography. But when it comes to movies, one might feel that it did not have a big influence. Do you think it is true? If yes, why?
I don’t think so. Surrealism has played and is still playing a very definitive role in filmmaking all over the world. Though it has not been a genre by itself, you could always see a lot of surrealist elements in many movies. Filmmakers like David Lynch have explored this in many of his films.
- You have recently made a movie “The Surreal” which was showcased in International film Festivals including Cannes. How was Surrealism portrayed in the movie?
Honestly speaking, my short film is not based on surrealism. It is a psychological drama about a young man suffering from insomnia. The film showcases a day (or rather) a night in his life, when he confronts a scenario that is surreal in nature. It is about that one personal moment, which turns out to be surreal moment for him. As I said earlier, surrealism is an experience and the film captures that experience from a very personal view point of the protagonist.
4. Do you think our Indian viewers are too much in the realistic frame of mind to accept movies based on Surrealism?
I am not sure whether one can make a film completely based on surrealism. As I said earlier, I don’t see surrealism as a genre by itself, at least in the context of contemporary cinema. Rather we could try making movies which will have scenes that are surreal in nature.
I don’t see a problem in terms of acceptability from the audience, as long as we tell them a story that is interesting, gripping and refreshing in nature.
5. Surrealism is an art movement that expresses love, freedom and poetry. Short film is an excellent platform where you can experiment different art movements and get more artistic. Your thoughts on this?
For me, short films are the most pure form of cinema. Unlike feature films, where you are confined to the boundaries of commercial viability and artistic restrictions, in short films, you have that liberty to do whatever you want to. In that way, short films are very liberating. Most filmmakers around the world had invariably started their careers by making short films. Many of them like Abbas Kiarostami still make short films.
But unfortunately in Tamil Cinema, short films are only treated either as a portfolio by aspiring filmmakers to convince a producer or to be showcased in a TV competition. And also the quality of many of those short films being made here leaves a lot to be desired.
While attending the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, I had the privilege to watch some of the best short films screened from across the globe and they were fascinating! Aspiring filmmakers (and that includes me as well) should watch these short films, so that we will get more inspired to do similar stuff. There is so much that we could do with these medium called short films.