Saturday, 9 December 2017

In The Lime Light: Karthik Shamalan (Part 1)

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The young crop of Malaysian Tamil film directors have been making waves recently and there is one guy who I have looked up highly. He is none other than EVT Fame Karthik Shamalan. Recently I had the luxury of meeting him and picking his brain for an interview

P/S: This is going to very long interview

Post EVT, people know you as a director but as far as I understand you had a different career previously. Tell us what was Karthik Shamalan doing previously and how you became a director. If haven’t you become a director, what would you be today?

“First of all, I come from an accounting background (Master’s in Accounting) and I was working in an accounting firm based in Taiping. I was doing audit checking & taxation. That was my favourite and that’s about it. Basically, I love teaching and I don’t know why. So, I really wanted to teach and while I was studying I decided that I would either be a teacher or director.

I come from a science stream background when I was in school and my parents wanted me to be a doctor and my grades were good enough to be one. It came to the point where they would have to pay for my education and I didn’t want that. In fact, I didn’t like that they would need to take up a loan to make a doctor.

So, without mentioning that to my parents I applied for a course without even knowing what it was. I have no idea about accounts. My friends were applying for accounting so I decided to join with them.

Since I have no idea about being an accountant so I decided that I would finish my degree and become a lecturer. While I was studying, I felt in love with auditing and tax. It was very interesting. Then, one of my lecturer said that most students who works in auditing tend to struggle much because what we study is very much different to what we would be doing as work.

Then I decided, I would work a year as an accountant and know everything about it before I start my career as a lecturer so that I can share to my students how working as auditor in real life is all about.

I joined the firm and voluntarily requested to my boss that I want to be in auditing. He asked me why and I said I want to learn everything about auditing to be a lecturer. He was shocked and asked me that I didn’t want to be an accountant and I said no I want to be a lecturer.

For 1 ½ years I worked as an audit assistant and after covering pretty much about audit, I quit my job as an audit assistant. Then I begin teaching. I became a tutor in Stamford College Melaka. After that I moved to UCSI to be a lecturer in auditing and taxation.

Life was very nice back then and even back then without telling much people I was already doing short films. I had my screen name as Karthik Shamalan. Yes, my actual name is not Karthick Shamalan, that was just my screen name which I wanted to make it into a brand. My actual name is Jagatesh.

So yeah even that time I used to do lots of short films and send for competitions but always failed in winning it. Back when I was in Melaka, I did a handy cam movie titled “Karthik Shamalan” which was 90 minutes and screened it in TAFE College.

It got very good reviews and after only I started thinking about being a full-time director but it was not possible yet financially. I continued doing short films, about 10-12 of them. Then came the BMW Shorties competition. First year Sanjay Anne won for his short film called “Macai”.

We got excited by it and started trying it out the following years. I tried for the 2nd edition but didn’t get. The 3rd year my movie (SRK) got nominated for best actress. I though okay that’s something at least not bad. The following year we tried again with the movie called “Mudhal Naal Indru” and we got 9 nominations. Following up on that, an article came up in the newspaper and only after that all my other lecturers knew that I was Karthik Shamalan and asked me why was my name different.

I told them I wanted two different lives. One was for my passion and the other was for my family. I don’t want to mix them up. Karthik Shamalan was for my passion and Jegathes was for my family. It was now that I decided I wanted to work on MTK but it was hard to concentrate on my script writing while being a lecturer.

So, I took the leap of faith, quit my job and never told my parents about it thinking I could manage it by my own. Despite teaching part time, I couldn’t sustain it and two months later I told them all about it. They gave a year time that I need to prove myself as a director or go back working.

I had 12 months for MTK. I started the film in December and was focused on releasing it by the following December. Thank god by September I released it and my family loved the film and since I was making money out of it and they were okay about it. So that’s how my whole journey to be a director happened.

And if direction & films never worked out anymore, I would go back to lecturing. I love teaching so much and I would be happy to go back to it."

 How do you view the world today?

“I believe in karma in fact I believe in Buddha a lot. I have a different approach about life and still finding about it. I reflect that in my movies where I try to find something in them, like my characters in the film should have a seek and go towards that.

For example, if you take this moment, you were born somewhere, raised somewhere, with your passion and I was born somewhere, raised somewhere, with my passion and both our passions met and today the both of us are sitting and talking here. Your writing is words while mine is visuals, but I don’t know how that it met each other and introduced me to you.

That’s life, so many unique things happens without us knowing and I am always seeking for it. I have always seen that life is a process of learning which begins when another person dies. We learn from someone when they are dead not when they are alive. The people who we look up to as examples are all dead. I wanted to change that a little. I wanted to teach that now and I use to do it in my classes and that’s why I went into lecturing. I wanted to teach people, I wanted to create someone and I wanted to make my students as an example to the society.

There shouldn’t be jealousy or ego and if you notice one thing, the rain that drops from the sky and the water that is at down at the ocean has never felt ego about each other or compete. They both have their own things to do. I was enjoying doing this with my students. I was enjoying my life.

When I left teaching for film making, I thought this world would be even more beautiful because I will be doing something that I love. In the end, I realize that as much as there was good hearted people here, there are some people who didn't seem honest. People were talking about competition and jealousy here. I don’t get it what jealousy should be here. Jealousy is not something that should exist in the entertainment world. I will not say jealousy is all over but some of them, but I should thank many good hearted people who showed me loved and guide me without hesitation.

Example if you were to go for a fun fair there will be many tents and people would go to all of it and they won’t complain that my tent is down while you have a big Ferris Wheel on the top. I thought it was going to be like that in the cinema industry but when I came in I saw something very different.

People were complaining about other people. Seeing all this I begun avoiding myself from them. I don't mingle with many people and I started to remove my self from all those online WhatsApp groups except for a couple of them only"

How supportive are people from the film industry in terms of supporting fellow film makers?

“When EVT was released, I received so much of love from the public. Not only they loved what I did but they appreciated what I did. That’s a big thing, to appreciate another person’s effort. They don’t have to do that and just do their own work. That’s a big thing. They spend their money for you and two hours of their life watching your work and appreciated you. That’s something special.

But if you were to look within the cinema industry, I felt that only those who knew me kept encouraging me. Not all of them shared about my film. I can tell that openly that not everyone in the industry shared about my film.

We have more than 600 people in the industry as the bare minimum, and I think about 150 of them only shared it. I am very thankful and blessed to have them this 150 to 200 people. The question is what happen to the balance 450 people? Why can’t you see this as a family?

If you see this as a family, there can be a big change within us. I really don’t know where to ask this question. Because if I am going to ask this question “why are you not sharing”, I would be labeled as the bad one going against the us in the industry. No, I love you all, that’s why I am asking. Where were you when my movie was released?

Malaysian movie industry is more than 1000 people and if that 1000 people thinks means they can help a film reach out to another 5000 people on Facebook each and that would have made a big difference. About 500,000 people would have known about my movie. Not only my movie but everyone’s movie.

That’s until today I will share about every movie. Be it “Mama Machan”, “RIP” or whatever movie, I will share about it all because they deserve it and we are all one family. You don’t like the movie ah, go straight to them and tell them or you want to post it on Facebook go ahead because it is public opinion. You can do it that’s your choice.

But before the film is released we all should share about the movie and spread it to everyone. Everybody has the rights to stop promoting after the film was released if they don’t like the movie even if it is my movie. Unfortunately, they were already missing before the film was released.” 

Andddd that's a wrap for Part 1 of "In The Limelight: Karthik Shamalan". Stay tuned to this page as we will bring to you Part 2 soon!!

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