An evening of art and conversations with Thinnai Talkies

Simra Sadaf

I like to believe I was born with art coursing through my veins. I am fascinated by everything about it. From Van Gogh’s impressions and Frida Kahlo’s self-portraits to Wordsworth’s linguistic magic and Homer’s grounding of it. The depth, ache, the esoteric and multilayered nature of it, the heart-rending and spiritual awakening of it.

I had a gnawing feeling I had been consuming less of art in the past couple of months, and when I thought my Saturday evening was going to be just another trip to the mall or a quick run to the grocery store, my editor called me to see if I would be interested in going to a documentary screening presented by Chennai’s Thinnai Talkies.

I had no idea what the documentary was going to be about except that it was going to be something very interesting. I went in unbeknownst to what Thinnai Talkies is or did. All I had was a tiny assumption that the evening could be centered around art lovers, for otherwise my editor wouldn’t have reached out to me.

After the pandemic broke out, this was their first event since 2019. I was given a plus one. I took someone who is an on-the-surface kind of a person, someone who doesn’t know the I in Independent films or has any kind of knowledge or liking towards the right side of the brain.

At the event

Two filter coffees down, we reached Studio A, a compact space with aesthetic pictures framed on one side of the wall and monochrome photographs on the other. As the onlookers stuttered around, there was live music being played by visually impaired members of Hope Foundation.

The event by Thinnai Talkies for the first time was hosted by a gracious transwoman, Nila, who runs Pharm Foundation, and spoke confidently about her accomplishments. 

Refugees and their longing for Home

Directed by Arun Siddarth, Caged is about a refugee girdled by problems followed by his own actions. It asks the audience a very important question. Are refugees ever free? Even if they escape their previously menacing lives, they are trapped in the memories of their wrongdoings and mishaps.

The movie indicates the shattering of a happy family due to global politics and war crime. The beauty of the movie however lies in its subtle yet impactful writing. Nothing is explicitly shown or said yet it conveys its message without any complication or hesitation.

Meaningful symbolism is seen throughout the short film that is sure to keep the audience engaged. From the director’s words —Home means Freedom, where one can be free of all shackles, the society’s and his own. The background score by Tenma is hauntingly beautiful. It sits well with the intense screenplay and grim scenes. 

Capping off the art-rich affair 

The real affair happened after the screening of the movie. Refreshments were being provided by Hope Foundation. Ratheesh, one of the core members of Thinnai Talkies, introduced a handful of human interest stories for us to discover and get to know in-depth, of which one really struck a chord with me. A young couple in love.

If I were in a crowd and my gaze caught a boy and a girl holding hands, I wouldn’t find anything unusual about them. But when I interacted with them, I learned the young woman has had a sex reassignment surgery.

It was certainly a niche event for people who love to amass human interest stories of various kinds, and for a writer like me who is always on the lookout for such independent films and stories, it was an enriching experience.